When the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy (CSP) holds its annual Freedom Flame Award Dinner in New York City later this year, they will be giving this year’s “Freedom Flame” award to right-wing media personality Sean Hannity.
(Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the change of date of the Center for Security Policy’s award dinner. The article had stated the original date of June 14. We updated the article to state the dinner will be later this year. The new date for the CSP dinner is December 3. CSP rescheduled the event because Hannity was assigned to cover the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore.)
Hannity’s decision to accept an award from CSP is one of the latest examples of the prime-time Fox News host abetting anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists like Frank Gaffney, the think tank’s founder and president.
The Freedom Flame award, according to an advertisement for the event, “recognizes individuals who have exemplified the ideals of freedom, democracy, economic opportunity and international strength to which the Center for Security Policy is committed.” The 2006 recipient was John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security advisor. Last week, Bolton named longtime CSP staffer Fred Fleitz as his new executive secretary and chief of staff of the National Security Council. Another individual in the Trump administration, U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions, also received an award from CSP in 2015.
Hannity has used his cable and radio programs to promote anti-Muslim conspiracies and give a platform to hate group leaders.
Hannity has repeatedly promoted the debunked myth of Muslim-only “no-go zones” in Europe, even after Fox issued an apology in 2015 after one of its guests, Steve Emerson, claimed that the city of Birmingham was “totally Muslim" in an attempt to say that these areas have been established in England. He has stoked fear that sharia law is nefariously taking root in the United States and entertained the idea of shutting down some American mosques. Following the 2015 Paris terrorist attack, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump told Hannity that the U.S. would “have no choice” but to close down some Muslim houses of worship in response to what happened in France. Gaffney and Hannity have also seen eye-to-eye on the racist “birther” conspiracy theory about former President Barack Obama.
Hannity continues to give anti-Muslim hate groups access to his wide audience. With 3 million reported viewers, Hannity is the second-most-watched cable news host, according to Forbes.
One of Hannity’s regular guests is Brigitte Gabriel, head of the anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America. In 2014, he hosted Gabriel on “Hannity” in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. During the segment, Gabriel claimed the attack was ultimately the result of Europe admitting Muslim migrant workers post-World War II. She lamented these workers and their families “started multiplying” and refused to “assimilate.”
“Europe made a mistake and Europe today is paying the price,” she said, “because when Europe ignored the cancer growing within its body when it was at stage two. Today, Europe and its cancer is at stage four and it’s very difficult to control.”
In 2015, Hannity hosted an outlandish debate between anti-Muslim firebrand Pamela Geller and UK-based, pro-ISIS extremist Anjem Choudary. As expected, the segment descended into a shouting match. In 2011, he facilitated a similar debate between Gaffney and Choudary.
The following year, Hannity hosted and moderated a panel on Fox titled “Radical Islam Rising.” The panel featured a plethora of far-right and anti-Muslim figures such as Geller, Robert Spencer, and Ryan Mauro of the hate group Clarion Project. During the event, panelists took turns bashing Islam and its adherents.
During a 2011 episode of Hannity’s radio show, he hosted Gaffney and longtime anti-Muslim figurehead David Horowitz to gang up on established conservative figure Suhail Khan, falsely accusing him of being a Muslim Brotherhood operative who has infiltrated the conservative movement.
One of Hannity’s biggest fans over the years has been the current president of the United States. Trump repeatedly appeared on Hannity’s show during the campaign. Hannity also showed up in a promotional video for Trump during his presidential run. Trump and the Fox host’s relationship did not end after the election. They remain close and regularly talk on the phone.
There have been other ties between Trump and the anti-Muslim figures who have appeared on Hannity’s programs over the years. In 2015, Trump cited a shoddy poll commissioned by Gaffney’s group in his first official call for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Last year Gabriel was granted a meeting at the White House to deliver a letter in support of the Muslim ban. Trump has also been previously photographed with Gabriel at Mar-a-Lago in 2015 while she was there giving a “national security briefing.”
Hannity has been one of the anti-Muslim movement’s most reliable media allies, regularly giving them and their ideas a platform. It appears he is now being officially recognized for it.