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VIDEO & transcript: ABC and the Case of the DC Madame… WIMN’s Jennifer Pozner vs TownHall’s Hugh Hewitt on Fox’s Hannity & Colmes

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

May 1st, 2007

As I blogged yesterday, I was on Fox News’s “Hannity & Colmes” last night, debating conservative radio host and TownHall.com blogger Hugh Hewitt, about what I keep thinking of as “ABC and the Case of the DC Madame.” (Don’t know why I’ve glommed onto that B-movie-sounding title — maybe because it’s just so hilarious how incredibly stupid these horny, entitled misogynists are — DC politicians who legislate against, lobby against and moralize against safe sex, STD prevention programs and prostitution using their real names when they hire call girls for… er, “massages”? Like Liza Sabater says, “Cash and aliases, people, cash and aliases!”)

See yesterday’s blog post for my initial thoughts about the relative news value of this story. There’s more I wish I’d had the chance to say last night. For example, there was no time to rebut Hewitt’s contention that it’s “cruel” to expose these clients’ names because it will “ruin their lives” by saying that these men, who think they are entitled to purchase women sexually (illegally or legally) yet have legislative power over women’s sexual health and rights — they are themselves responsible for ruining their own lives. If politicians and public policy officials choose to purchase prostitutes or, wink wink, nudge nudge, “legal sexual and erotic services,” they also have to know that in DC, that might come back to bite their randy butts. I didn’t get to say that, but such is live TV.

In any case, here’s the video of last night’s show. It wasn’t my finest media moment ever — I tripped over my tongue a few times, inexplicably, and there are a few places where Sean Hannity talks over me while B-roll of the Madame runs instead of my face, so you can’t really hear or even lip read some of my best zingers — but, I was able to discuss fact that the story is only “selectively newsworthy” in the cases of public officials who legislate or moralize against behavior that they engage in, cases where there are public policy implications for sexual health care, safe sex education and STD prevention, reproductive and sexual freedom, etc. And, I got to laughingly say that no one in America doesn’t know what “massage” is code for. Check out what you think for yourself:

Check out the video from last night’s H&C - transcript is below:

Thoughts about the segment? Share your comments below. And, all the better, send your feedback to Hannity & Colmes, by emailing hannity@foxnews.com and colmes@foxnews.com – remember, letters are taken more seriously when you maintain a polite and firm tone. (Meaning, don’t use profanity, blatant insults, etc.) Please forward or blind copy your letters to

The following is a transcript of last night’s Hannity & Colmes, from Nexis. [Note: there are a couple of errors and a couple of places where Nexis notes only “cross-talk” but leaves out some of my comments and some of Hewitt’s comments — I’ve corrected those areas to reflect as close to word-for-word transcript of the show I can.]

Fox News Network
April 30, 2007 Monday
Interview With Hugh Hewitt, Jennifer Pozner

BYLINE: Sean Hannity, Alan Colmes
GUESTS: Hugh Hewitt, Jennifer Pozner
LENGTH: 1778 words

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Welcome to “Hannity & Colmes.” I’m Alan Colmes.
[Plug for upcoming segments snipped]

COLMES: First our top story tonight, the names of people who used the services of the alleged D.C. madam are about to be exposed. That’s because Deborah Palfrey’s attorney has provided ABC News with her records that include names and phone numbers of her clients. According to reports, ABC is set to air a report this Friday during a May sweeps edition of “20/20.” But this raises an important question about a news organization. Should they be outing her clients at all?

Now, keeping in mind that nobody has been convicted of anything, and Palfrey continues to deny running a prostitution ring, should the personal lives of those people alleged to be involved with her services be destroyed as part of a ratings stunt? Joining us now, radio talk show host, the author of “A Mormon in the White House,” Hugh Hewitt. And Jennifer Pozner, executive director of Women In Media & News.

Jennifer, what do you say about ABC and what they did, in terms of coming forth with this information?

JENNIFER POZNER, WOMEN IN MEDIA AND NEWS: Well, Alan, the big question is, is this newsworthy? And I would say it’s selectively newsworthy. As a ratings stunt, it’s kind of prurient, everybody likes to — you know, sex sales. It’s titillation. But it’s only really relevant when there are public officials, public legislators, administration officials and public advocates who have in their day-to-day jobs the position of power to discuss HIV-AIDS prevention, to legislate and moralize against prostitution.

For example, one of this madam’s clients was Randall Tobias. He had been the head of USAID. He made billions of dollars in global AIDS prevention relief contingent upon these countries swearing off prostitution and talking about abstinence-only until marriage. So in those kinds of cases, it is newsworthy. In Joe Schmoe cases, it’s not newsworthy.

COLMES: Well, we’ve got to decide who Joe Schmoe is or isn’t.

Hugh Hewitt, I think any news organization — I know ABC will come under attack for this. People will say, “How dare they do this?” I don’t know of any news organization that wouldn’t go or come forward with this information if they had it, and she gave to ABC, for her own reasons, this information, and they are coming forth with it, like I believe any news organization would. You disagree?

HUGH HEWITT, AUTHOR: Very much so, Alan. My news organization wouldn’t do it. It’s cruel, it’s unreliable, and it’s subject to manipulation. I’ll take them in reverse order.

We don’t know the rules that ABC News are applying to this list. Are they going to include anyone from media, for example? Are those going to be a public figures? I know a lot of news organizations that keep their dirty laundry deep in the basement, though it’s very newsworthy about public figures. I’m sure you do, as well.

It’s unreliable because of that huge list. I think there are something like 12,000 phone numbers. There have got to be at least a few people who are innocent of any charge that would be leveled against them. And it’s cruel, because the toll of this publication of these stories is going to be devastating, and it’s like the “Scarlet Letter” is back. They’re doing a McCarthyism in reverse, it’s a broadside against…

COLMES: In many respects, I agree with you, because I think…

HEWITT: … all these people, that’s a bad thing.

COLMES: What adults do between themselves should be their own business. But does Jennifer Pozner have a point when she points out — and ABC — we don’t know how many of the names will be released and who will be released. But if on a selective basis, people like this Tobias person, who had a public policy position, who advocated for abstinence, who opposed prostitution, would not grant people money unless they took an oath that they oppose prostitution, that level of hypocrisy, if it exists here, is that not newsworthy? And should that not be pointed out to the American public?

HEWITT: The first thing I’d want to know — I’d want to know, what are ABC’s rules? And are they applying them only to Republicans or conservatives? Are they applying them to all public officials? Number two, how do they define a public official? Let’s get the standards out there.

Number three, will ABC News executives, if they’re on this list, be included? You see, I think — my trust in these organizations is very low. And I do not trust them to be fair, and I do not trust them not to be manipulated, as this pimp — they’re pimping the pimp.

HANNITY: Hugh, I can’t agree with you more. You are right on the money here. And there’s got to be some moral outrage. I’m a little shocked by your comments here. First of all, maybe Alan called one of the escort services.

COLMES: As a matter of fact, I have not, but thank you for asking.

HANNITY: I’m kidding. A little joke.

I don’t know anything about them. But what if somebody called just because they wanted company and they were lonely? Now, that may sound like — all right, I’m being laughed at. It may sound naive, but we don’t know what happened here.

POZNER: We don’t, but here’s the thing…

HANNITY: We don’t. And it’s not illegal to have an escort service.

POZNER: No, it’s not. But here’s what this madam advertised her services as: “High-end adult fantasy firm offering legal sexual and erotic services across the spectrum of adult sexual behavior.” You don’t call that kind of service for a massage.

HANNITY: But wait a minute.

POZNER: You call a licensed massage therapist for a massage.

HANNITY: Look, I think there’s a lesson here for people that they should lead moral lives and stay away from escort services, and I encourage everybody. But I also am against the smearing of innocent people.

And here’s the point. You don’t know what happened. There’s been no evidence here. They’ve never had a chance to defend themselves. Now, all of a sudden, they may find that their name is in the news media just because some woman had it. And the news media is going to leak this because they want big ratings. Isn’t that what’s happening?

POZNER: Well, OK. What I do agree with you, Sean, is that, as a ratings stunt, if they willy-nilly release all these names, there’s not any evidence, then that’s a problem, right? But are you going to tell me, really, does anybody in America not know what “massage” is code for? Oh, come on —

[NOTE: In the official transcript, the following is written as “cross talk” - and on the show, Sean spoke over this line, so it’s difficult to hear. But, the actual comment was as follows]

HANNITY: Wait a minute —

POZNER: The only time “happy ending” is innocuous is when you’re buying pancakes, not women…

HANNITY: I’ve got to be honest. Whatever happened to you liberals, you know, believing in the idea that — do you believe somebody’s innocent until proven guilty?

POZNER: Of course I do.

HANNITY: Obviously you don’t.

POZNER: Of course I do.

HANNITY: You assume, because they called an escort service, that there was something illegal.

POZNER: No, I assume that, if you are somebody who has made it contingent upon — who has made billions of dollars in global HIV prevention funds contingent on abstinence-only prevention, and then you are doing things that — OK, Tobias’s lawyer, his lawyer…

HANNITY: Hang on. Hang on. But, Hugh, you can hear in Jennifer’s comments here that this really is about an agenda here. Now, I don’t want to be seen as defending escort services. I really don’t. But I want to stand on the principle, which is the most important, is that people are innocent until they’re proven guilty, Hugh Hewitt, and that seems to be pushed aside for a political agenda here and the search for ratings, no?

HEWITT: Let me make this very clear, Sean. If there’s a Democratic senior party operative on there, I don’t think their name should be released, either. It’s not a partisan thing. We’re not cold people.

HANNITY: I agree with you.

HEWITT: We ought not to be cold people. We ought not to be using this for ratings. We do not know — and it’s possible. I’m with you. We’ll get laughed at this. It’s possible someone from this service shows up at someone’s home, and they’ve had a second thought, and they say, “Go away.”

[Laughing from Pozner]

HEWITT: And that will never get out. I just think abstinent — see, people don’t know human nature very well.

HANNITY: Why are you laughing? What’s that not — you know something…

HEWITT: Out of 14,000 phone calls.

POZNER: If they say, “Go away?” Nobody pays for an escort and then says, “Oh, I’m sorry, go away.”

HANNITY: There are lonely people in this world that literally will call just to have company. And you’re just assuming that there was some sexual activity going on. And probably there is. But you know what? You don’t know that. And you ought to give people the benefit of the doubt. And you ought not smear them with this campaign to release their names before they ever get to defend themselves.

POZNER: OK, do you know who I think shouldn’t be smeared and who I think should be given the benefit of the doubt? Adult consensual — people who engage in adult consensual sexual behavior…

HANNITY: Listen, whatever you liberals want, I don’t care.

POZNER: … that does not involve finances should be allowed to have access to sexual education, should be allowed to have access to STD prevention.

COLMES: And look, if a Democrat got in the way of somebody getting funds because they’re taking a strong moral stance and then did the opposite way he preaches for the people, that would be just as bad…

POZNER: Oh, I would be, I would be absolutely –

HANNITY: You don’t know that that happened here. He said he never broke the law.

COLMES: I’m saying, the same standards should apply. It’s not a Democratic-Republican issue.

POZNER: Nobody ever says they broke the law, Sean.

COLMES: Jennifer, thank you very much.

HANNITY: Well, I just thank God we have you to tell us he did.

COLMES: Coming up next, conservatives are poking holes in George Tenet’s new book and his insider account of the war on terror. A Bush insider will give us his view on whether Tenet’s book is fact or fiction.

And he’s Barack Obama’s minister, but he also says that America is to blame for the 9/11 attack. We’ll show you part of our interview with him and tell you what the senator is saying about him right now, coming up on “Hannity & Colmes.”

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