Hannity Urges Fellow Broadcasters to ‘Protect Freedom of Speech’ by Opposing Politicized Boycotts

By Fred Lucas | June 8, 2012 | 5:10am EDT

New York (CNSNews.com) - Sean Hannity on Thursday warned his fellow radio talk-show hosts about the perils of politically motivated advertising boycotts launched in response to a host’s controversial comments.

“In many ways, because of competitive reasons, we may all become our worst enemy,” Hannity told a gathering of talk radio industry insiders gathered in New York. “We get to a situation where we don’t like what so-and-so says on the radio, and we call for boycotts, and we have these special interest groups monitoring and taping every minute of every show, and they’re trying to silence one group of people -- well then, at some point it’s going to be the other group of people.

“We have got to unite as an industry, and we have got to protect freedom of speech -- whether we agree with it or whether we don’t agree with it -- because in the process, what we have done is we’ve watered down content that I think the audience wants and the audience is adult enough to handle.”

Hannity was addressing the 2012 Talkers Magazine New Media Seminar. Talkers Magazine is considered the bible of the talk radio industry.

Hannity specifically mentioned advertising boycotts aimed at Rush Limbaugh for his disparaging comments directed at Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke, who is pressing her Catholic school to include birth control in its student health plan. He also mentioned advertising boycotts against Glenn Beck and Don Imus.

“Glenn Beck lost his advertisers. Most recently Rush Limbaugh, here it is, this icon that saved AM radio, that has been saying controversial things since the first time he did a caller abortion on the air -- now under fire,” Hannity said. “And you’ve got NBC News on a nightly basis proudly boasting how many advertisers – which by the way turns out not to be true, they made them up, advertisers that have never advertised on Rush’s show – proudly boasting, we got another advertiser (to drop) Rush.”

Hannity stressed that he does not want to see liberals punished for saying outrageous things, either.

“Bill Maher used the c-word against Sarah Palin, the b-word against Sarah Palin. Even though I can’t stand him, I’m not giving up HBO because I have the ability to change the dial and I don’t have to watch his show,” Hannity said.

“It’s really that simple. If we don’t unite as an industry and defend everybody’s speech, then I’m going to tell you, one of two things is going to happen. One by one, we’re going to be picked off and they’re just going to go after this host and put all their energies into that host.

“If it’s left vs. right, then the left is going to be targeted, and they’re going to be kicked off the air,” Hannity continued. “And the scariest situation is that advertisers aren’t going to want to be part of this: ‘We don’t want our customers engaged in controversial talk radio.’ And as a result, all of us will lose, because in case many of you have forgotten, this is a business. There are people counting on us that work for us. There are sales people who work for us. They have mortgages, they have homes. They have payments that need to go out.”

Hannity’s presentation included some of the controversial audio clips that have prompted calls for boycotts.

“Think of what happened. Imus was fired. Glenn Beck was boycotted. They attempted but failed to get Rush. Howard Stern moved to satellite radio,” Hannity said. “Is radio better off with or without Howard Stern? I would argue we’re not better off. Howard Stern in the morning, you would build a station around Howard Stern. We build stations around Rush Limbaugh.”

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