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Sean Hannity vs. Rep. Keith Ellison: Who won epic argument?

Fox News host Sean Hannity and his guest, Rep. Keith Ellison, exchange insults in one of the most 'contentious' TV interviews in recent history. Is it another sign of what's wrong with cable news?

By Staff Writer / February 27, 2013

Fox News host Sean Hannity speaks in Salt Lake City. Mr. Hannity and guest Rep. Keith Ellison got into a heated debate n his show Tuesday over who to blame for the sequester, which led to the two exchanging personal insults.

Douglas C. Pizac/AP/File

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Washington

Is Sean Hannity the “worst excuse for a journalist” in the US? Or is Rep. Keith Ellison (D) of Minnesota “a total waste of time” as a television guest?

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Yes, that’s the edifying discussion the Fox News host and Representative Ellison had on Mr. Hannity’s show Tuesday night. Politico is calling it “one of the most explosive and contentious arguments between an anchor and a politician in recent history.” We don’t know about that, but we’re pretty sure nobody who saw it thought they’d tuned in to “Downton Abbey” by mistake.

To us, it represented everything wrong about cable shows. Plus, everything that’s watchable, unfortunately. We’ll call it nacho dip TV – you know it’s bad for you but you just can’t stop consuming it.

Here’s the background: The conservative Hannity had just played a segment in which he appeared to place the blame for the sequester on President Obama. It included clips of Mr. Obama giving two similar speeches on the question, set to the lyric song “O Fortuna,” which is the kind of thing they use as background music in “Game of Thrones.”

Ellison, a Muslim, and Hannity have clashed in the past over intemperate remarks the former had made about the Bush administration and its handling of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. So the lawmaker was already in the blocks, so to speak. As Hannity threw the show to him he’d already thought of the point he wanted to make in the show, no matter the question.

“Quite frankly you are the worst excuse for a journalist I have ever seen,” Ellison said.

Hannity then gets a half-smile on his face. It could be pleasure that he’s baited his guest into a showdown. It could be covering nervousness, as if he didn’t quite believe his ears.

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