Devil in the Details

With millions of Americans on the Atkins Diet, nobody would disagree that it's a big year for eggs. But who knew that so many would be headed straight for FOX News? Certainly not FOX viewers -- who, admittedly, have already proven themselves vulnerable to misinformation, and who were led to believe that, by this point, Iraq weapons of mass destruction skeptics far and wide would be protein-covered and apologizing profusely.

When we find those weapons, "[A] lot of people are going to have a lot of egg on their face," warned Sean Hannity of Hannity & Colmes last February 7 -- and February 19, and March 18, and July 18, and August 1.

But, as former chief weapons inspector David Kay and the woman on My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance will tell you, things don't always work out as planned. In fact, much to the dismay of this administration, Kay's long-awaited and recently released report showed nary a weapon of mass destruction but, instead, a big, fat egg. From the channel that's taken reality TV to new heights (or depths), viewers should expect nothing less than a televised interoffice food fight, in which Hannity and his conservative cohorts pelt one another with their due yolks. Or an apology.

Americans were promised at least that much last March, when (on the same day as Hannity's aforementioned egg warning) FOX's Bill O'Reilly told Good Morning America, "[I]f the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again." A Web site, www.oreilly-sucks.com, kept an upwardly ticking day-hour-minute-second counter, waiting for the glorious day.

Well, lo and behold! On February 10 -- just six days after the Prospect called FOX to inquire about it! Hmmm -- O'Reilly actually apologized. Appearing on Good Morning America, 328 days after his pledge, O'Reilly came clean: "I was wrong. I am not pleased about it at all. And I think all Americans should be concerned about this."

Of course, his remorse was far from overwhelming. At one point, feeling badgered by his Good Morning America interlocutor (what kind of television host would treat a guest that way?), he sniffed, "What do you want me to do, go over and kiss the camera?" He also tried to deflect some blame from George W. Bush and toss it in the direction of CIA Director George Tenet.

But still, it was the menschy thing to do. Now maybe he can apologize for calling the American Civil Liberties Union a "fascist organization that used lawyers instead of Panzers," or for going on the Today show and bragging that he sold more books than Al Franken the week Franken's mother died.

Which brings us back to Hannity, who clearly considers a change of heart among the highest of offenses. While Hannity hasn't yet attacked O'Reilly's about-face or just admitted he was wrong, he's recently ditched the egg routine for a new hobby (wise move). The current strategy seems to be trying to widen the circle of wrongness, mostly by harping on John Kerry's 2002 Iraq vote. "Why did [Kerry] vote to authorize that war?," Hannity asked Democratic strategist Ellis Hennican on January 30. He continued, "Now he's flip-flopped because there's no core values and principles." Just stunned that Kerry could criticize the war, Hannity calls the senator's "biggest vulnerability" his "flip-flopping and wavering positions on issues even like Iraq."

Hannity, you see, is a model of "core values." He shows no sign of wavering -- he'd rather be wrong.

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