In the famed TV show The Wire, the cops show deference for officers they respect by calling them real PO-lice—and in that sense, Ted Koppel is a real JOURN-alist. Sean Hannity is the diametric opposite of that, and the contrast could not have been clearer yesterday morning when Ted Koppel confirmed what anyone with half a brain already knew: that Sean Hannity and his ilk on both sides of the aisle are a scourge upon American politics.
Because this interview is just too much fun, here is my liveblog of the greatest 47 seconds in Sunday morning show history.
0:04 — Sean Hannity wants to give credit to the American people for being “somewhat intelligent” enough to tell the difference between an opinion show and a news show despite the fact that he presents his opinion as unadulterated fact. I’ve got an idea Sean. How about we remove the word “news” from your network’s logo every time your hackery comes on?
0:07 — Koppel responds with the nicest, most glib way of calling bullshit that I’ve ever seen.
0:11 — Hannity charges Koppel with being cynical in a moment of projection that will be taught in psychology courses across the globe for centuries to come.
0:13 — In a moment that perfectly encapsulates Koppel’s argument, Hannity interrupts his explanation for why he’s not the thing Hannity just accused him of being, and then sets Koppel up to create the soundbite that’s spread across the internet like the Zika virus.
“You think we’re bad for America? You think I’m bad for America?” Koppel calmly replies “yeah” twice as Hannity continues to talk over him while flagellating himself with the sound of his own voice.
0:19 — As Koppel is explaining the long-term ramifications of Hannity’s actions, Sean jumps back in and interrupts him to pontificate about how sad Ted is. It’s like he’s trying to prove Koppel’s point.
0:23 — Koppel tells Hannity that he’s good at what he does, and Hannity finally shuts up for a few seconds. I can only assume that he’s either self-flagellating again, or thinking about how he can incorporate that soundbite into his next show without providing any other context to Koppel’s backhanded compliment.
0:30 — Hannity has gone a full ten seconds without talking, so his cable infotainment training kicks in and he proceeds to scold the veteran newsman sitting across from him for “selling the American people short” (any time someone uses the phrase “the American people,” you can be almost certain that they’re full of shit).
0:33 — Koppel has had enough of this nonsense and calmly, but tersely tells Hannity “let me finish the sentence before you do” in a way that evokes a grandfather scolding his grandchildren for trying to draw on the walls.
0:36 — In what seems to be a rare moment of clarity for Fox News’ favorite hairpiece, Hannity realizes that he may have gone a step too far, and you can see the journalist that used to inhabit a portion of his body in a previous life meekly squeal “with all due respect” through the layers of makeup and bullshit that is the current iteration of Sean Hannity. You can just feel the self-doubt and insecurity pulsating through his face as he says it.
0:39 — If this were professional wrestling, Koppel ends the clip with a finishing move that no one can kick out of, as he tells Hannity that “you have attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts.”
This is not Koppel’s first attempt to slap some sense into Fox News’ punditocracy, as he told Bill O’Reilly last year that it is “irrelevant” as to how he would interview Donald Trump because guys like O’Reilly made it that way, saying:
You have changed the television landscape over the past 20 years. You took it from being objective and dull to being subjective and entertaining. And in this current climate, it doesn’t matter what the interviewer asks him, Mr. Trump is going to say whatever he wants to say, as outrageous as it may be—and the fact of the matter is his audience as much as anything, is not even a television audience. It’s an audience on Twitter. They deal in messages of 140 characters or less which keeps it nice and simple.
Ted Koppel is a national treasure, and if we could find a way to harvest his journalistic integrity and disseminate it amongst the mainstream media, perhaps we wouldn’t be dealing with our current national nightmare that is President Donald Trump.
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.