The Unethical Humiliation of Sister Rita X

Among conservative radio talk show hosts, Sean Hannity holds a special niche. He is not as entertaining or audacious as Rush Limbaugh, nor as erudite and apoplectic as Mark Levin, nor as funny and acerbic as Laura Ingraham. Hannity is nice, or appears to be. His act (though it seems sincere), is to be reasonable and pleasant, even when under attack. Recently, however, he has been giving excessive air time to a middle-aged African-American caller who goes by the name of “Sister Rita X.” She is a strong, liberal supporter of President Obama, but more importantly, she is bats. Sister Rita not only sings the praises of  Rev. Farrakhan, but believes that God has created a giant flying war machine that is designed to destroy the United States if it doesn’t change its ways.

Hannity seems to think it is amusing to his listeners for him to allow this opinionated, loud and deluded woman rant on in response to his goading. He also thinks, apparently, this it is a powerful indictment of progressive cant to have an advocate of sorts sound just as deranged as conservatives like Hannity believe all liberals really are. Hannity is using Sister Rita, mocking her while he features her, and encouraging her to be as bizarre as possible. “So tell me about this mother ship, or whatever it is, that is going to get us,” he asks. And she does.

This is nothing but cruelty.  Sister Rita is on the air voluntarily and appears to be having a wonderful time, but that doesn’t alter the fact that she is embarrassing herself in furtherance of Hannity’s agenda. Yes, I know that Howard Dean and Sarah Palin embarrass themselves too, but they are amply rewarded for it, and they have sufficient experience to be completely responsible for their own conduct. They are also public figures: they get ample compensation for looking and sounding silly. Sister Rita, in contrast, thinks she is being respectfully treated, when it is obvious that behind the faux respect are contempt and sneers. In this she is like a political version of William Hung, the atrocious American Idol contestant (“She Bangs”) who was booked into events and concerts so people could laugh at him.  As I wrote about him six years ago in “William Hung and the Ethics of Ridicule”

“When we pay people to unwittingly surrender their dignity, we are deceiving them. Hong believes he is being rewarded because people like to hear him sing. He is really being rewarded because people want to use him as an object of ridicule. He hasn’t, to our knowledge, consented to that. Without his informed consent, Hung is being mistreated. Even if Hung does fully understand what he is selling, this is ethical thin ice…Paying people to surrender their dignity presumes that dignity destruction is an ethically defensible activity, and it is not. It is not even when those whose dignity is being destroyed gleefully, smilingly, or perhaps desperately, aid and abet the process.”

Using people this way—sad people, unhinged people, old people, dumb people, strange people—isn’t fair, and it certainly isn’t nice. And Sister Rita X isn’t even being paid for it.

Sean Hannity should let his call screeners apply the same standards to he that he does to other, and stop making her the William Hung of political debate. If he doesn’t, he’s not as nice as he pretends to be.

16 thoughts on “The Unethical Humiliation of Sister Rita X

  1. I heard the show that day.
    Sean was not cruel.
    Sean asked her questions and let her speak.
    She spewed vile hate and complete lunacy.

    Sister Rita X will be a topic of conversation on Hannity’s radio show.

    A Jewish woman who is very knoledgable about Farrakhan and his followers will be on.

    These people are seriously dangerous- and Sean did a great job at showing just that.

    • Yeah, he was. It’s hard to feel sorry for the abuse of someone you have no sympathy with, but she’s one of millions of ignorant, not so bright, well-meaning people who never are allowed to make fools of themselves on radio shows for more than 30 second, unless the host has an ulterior motive. He could put schizophrenics and dementia patients on too, with the same effect. Sister Rita X isn’t dangerous to anyone but herself. Don’t be silly.

      • Hey Jack

        I heard the show….if she wants to call in….that is her choice…its call freedom….I think you should call in and debate this with him….please let me no if you get brave enough
        to do so….but then again you wrote this instead…. Martha

        • I didn’t criticize her for calling in. I criticized Hannity for humiliating her. I would be happy to debate it with Hannity; of course, he wouldn’t want to do that, because he would know I’m right, I suspect. I didn’t mention it, but he actually used the upcoming call from Rita as a tease, telling listeners to say tuned because she was going to be on the line. Translation: this nutcase is going to be on next segment—she’s hilarious, and I’ll have fun with her. I said this wasn’t nice, which it isn’t. You think it is? Stay away from me then.

  2. She said she believes all white people are devils- for just one nutty thing.
    If she is a danger to herself she could also be a danger to others.
    Maybe radio show call screeners should be able to make the call to get the butterfly nets out!

  3. Unethical?? Did the person who wrote this article actually listen to what this woman was saying??? She said that all white people are devils?? Okay . . . . . .If this isn’t enough–the mother plane?? He was more respectful than most people I know would have been!! She is spouting pure ignorance and allowing her to do so is what I think is unethical.

    • You weren’t listening. Hannity was mocking her, and for unethical purposes—to unfairly equate her extreme beliefs with mainstream liberals,a nd mostly to parade her as a freak. Nothing in her statements justified leaving her on the air so long—Hannity cuts off articulate and reasonable critics in a tenth of the time he gave to her. She’s also been on the show before—why did he put her on again? To make her look foolish, that’s all. Yup, she’s ignorant, and quite possibly deranged. Let her be that way in private. The bottom line is that Hannity was cruel.

  4. Again, I respectfully disagree.
    Hannity gave her time to speak, yes-But he also asked her SPECIFIC questions, given the crazy crap she was spewing.

    She is a “follower” of Screwy Louie Farrakhan- who spouts this self-same delusional drivel. That’s why his followers spew the same idiocy. Hannity has another called named Levy- who is also a follower of Screwy Louie. He comes across as much more “sane” because he doesn’t scream and yell- but he holds the same tenets as Farrakhan- the Mother ship, all White people are devils and yadda yadda.

    So yeah- let the crazy callers get on the air!
    Let them have their say.

  5. She’s not a public figure, or a spokesperson of the good Rev. F, or anyone whose opinion is informative, provocative or productive, except as an object of derision. He shouldn’t use Levy that way, either, though I haven’t heard him. This is Jerry Springer stuff…a freak show.

    I’m cutting all your stuff about Obama’s supposed radical pals. It’s off topic, and a mixture of fact, rumor, hyperbole and speculation. Farrakhan, by the way, has been critical of the President recently.

    Keep the comments to ethics, please, not conspiracy theories.

  6. Typical lib.
    Cut off debate.

    It’s not off topic.
    Sister Rita X is a nutjob follower of ” Rev F”- don’t you know how to spell Farrakhan?

    Sean doesn’t “use” Levy either.
    It’s called Freedom of Speech- The First Amendment- heard of it?
    Or do you just want to shut EVERYONE UP?

    You want to keep this discussion to ETHICS?
    Sean Hannity’s?
    Mark Levin’s?
    Barack Hussein Obama’s or YOURS?

    “Supposed” Radical pals?
    What planet have you been on? Bill Ayres, The RIGHT Rev Wright-
    Did you read Obama’s books?
    He named his radical pals.
    His mentors.
    Frank Marshall Davis was one of his mentors- might even be his daddy.
    But who knows?
    Hey- maybe YOU have the birf certificate.
    Where are his college records?
    Did he get aid to a foreign student?
    He DOES hold dual citizenship from the UK and Pock-E-Stan-dontcha know?
    Why does he have 30-something social security numbers attached to his name?
    Copy of his and Moochelle’s law degrees, please.

    And BTW- I’d be interested to know why you characterized the Constitutional attorney, President, Founder and CEO of The Landmark Legal Foundation and best-selling author, Mark R. Levin- as “apoplectic?”
    (And it’s Mark with a K- BTW- not a C.)

    Got lots more questions- and this is not at all OFF TOPIC- Sean Hannity brought all of this up BEFORE the election.
    Where were you?

    Again- I don’t expect you to respond- because you already said you would cut this conversation off.
    Again- typical lib.
    And I have facts.
    What have you got besides a hollow ideology and kool aid?

  7. 1) It is off topic. Obama’s supposed connections to the people you mention have nothing to do with Sean Hannity ridiculing a mentally deficient caller.
    2) You don’t know what the First Amendment says. Hint: It doesn’t mean that I can’t criticize stupid, mean or unethical comments that radio hosts have the right to make, but shouldn’t make. It also doesn’t obligate me to publish all the silly rants of uncivil, ideological fanatics, even if they can spell “Farrakhan.”
    3)Mark Levin is the definition of apoplectic: he screams, he sputters, he has fits on the air. Do you ever listen to him? He’s entertaining with all this, but it’s apoplectic.
    4) Thanks for the correction on his name.
    5) NOW I know what you’re doing! You’re doing an imitation of Sister Rita by making just as crazy a rant as she did, and trying to get me to let you keep doing it to show how the worst of Right Wing crazies are as bad as the Sister Rita’s, with their conspiracy theories and their certainty that things that aren’t true are. That’s really clever! I almost fell for it! Then you could say I did exactly what Sean did! Ha! Brilliant!
    6) But I’m on to you. So I’ll leave this self-revealing post up so there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind why I truncated your last rant, and promise you that the next one won’t make it with one word unless you stick to the topic, which is ethics, my field, not politics, demagoguery, and simple-minded nostrums, which is the specialty of Mark, Sean, et al.

  8. Your topic is ethics.
    Your argument is that radio talk show host Sean Hannitu gave a follower of the Reverand Louis Farrakhan too much time to talk-thus humiliating herself.
    You indicate that this poor woman is some sort of mental defective and should have been kept off the air?
    Ethically, I put forth that had Mr. Hannity’s call screener had not gien her the freedom to speak- you would have declared that her rights had been trampled upon- truncated- as you have so ignobally admitted that you have done with MY comments.
    But your blog, your space, your so-called ethics.
    Should I perceive your forthcoming reponse to this post worthy-i will publish the transcript of the phone call between Sister Rita X and Sean Hannity-so that your countless number of reade
    Rs can decide upon Sean Hannity’s ethics and your own. I would again call into question your comments about Mark Levin. As your characterization of him is quite certainly unfounded and UNETHICAL. TStaying on topic as per your request)

    • You are on topic. Congratulations.

      I did not write that she was given “too much time.” That is Hannity’s choice. The problem is that she was, without her realizing it, being held up for ridicule by Hannity, with him and his more rational listeners in on the “joke.” We know that, because he does not give equivilent air time to other extremists, and when he is debating them legitimately, he does not do so with fake interest, artificial politeness and sarcasm as he did with Sister Rita. He treated her atypically, to exploit her sad delusions for entertainment value. She clearly did not know she was being exploited, and even if she did, it was wrong for Hannity to humilate her.

      Because I have read the First Amendment, I would never say that Hannity’s screener has no right to screen her out, of that Hannity had no right to stop her from spewing nonsense on the radio. Because you didn’t bother to read the conditions posted for commenters, you think that my editing out your political rant is “ignoble”. Learn the rules before you play. Virtually everyone else here does. If you go off on rants and tangents about politics, I am likely to refuse to post that segment of your post. Read “About Ethics Alarms.” I did nothing I didn’t warn you about. It is rude—unethical—to visit a website and not follow the rules.

      And your comments were idiotic. Sorry. I didn’t want to embarrass you.

      An example of this would be your claim that Mark Levin is unfairly described here as “apoplectic.” (Elsewhere on the blog, he is described as a screamer, the radio equivalent of John Belushi when he used to rant himself onto the floor on SNL, and an Ethics Dunce, twice. That’s his style; it works for him, and I don’t have to listen if I don’t like it. But if you actually listen to the show and can’t recognize that apoplectic describes his behavior about 25% of the time, you don’t know what the word means.

  9. When nut-cases on the right make ludicrous claims, no one from the liberal media points out that they are imbalanced. In fact, they are held up as the spokespersons for all conservative thought. The only difference is that they are treated with derision rather than courtesy.

  10. I never heard about this until Jack’s new Ethics Alarms Retrospective (EAR) pointed it out so I’m commenting nearly 9 years after the fact; however it’s still quite relevant today.

    For what it’s worth, I just looked up Sister Rita X and found enough information to show me that her extremism has completely consumed her and it’s driven her to delusional thinking and she’s probably irretrievably broken with reality.

    Although I didn’t hear the Sister Rita X call-in interview, I think Jack is spot on about Hannity being unethical.

    I never liked any of the talk radio shows, most seem to be on the verge of ethics slippery slopes or already sliding down at break-neck speeds. It seems like radio hosts will say just about anything and resort to all sorts of unethical behavior, some of them seem a lot like internet trolls.

    It’s way too common in today’s media world that questions asked by interviewers are trying to intentionally steer the interviewee off a cliff or trap them in some kind of “gotcha”. Is this cruel, nope; is it unethical, yes. Hannity’s condescension is obvious and he does this to imply that he’s the adult in the room and the interviewee is an idiot, immature, stupid, etc. He does this so he can extrapolate the results to absurdity i.e. Hannity’s side is right about everything and the other side is wrong about everything; it’s a shtick, he’s good at it, I don’t like the shtick and I don’t watch him because of it.

    As for this particular call-in phone interview; based on this blog and the followup comments, it appears that Hannity literally gave a known extremist the soap box she desired and he allowed that extremist to use his syndicated radio show to spread her ideological extremism to a MUCH larger audience than she could have obtained on their own just so he could mock her, promote himself as the adult in the room and promote his show. I’m absolutely certain that Sister Rita X knew exactly what Hannity was doing and she knew that she could appeal to his shtick and sucker him into spreading her extremism. An extremist really doesn’t care how they spread their ideology as long as the word gets out and Hannity was a sucker that did exactly what the extremist wanted. Based on what I know about Hannity’s adult in the room shtick, I’m wondering if he would have willingly allowed Osama bin Laden, Pol Pot, or Hitler to spread their extremism on his show simply to promote himself.

    Allowing a known extremist on the fringes of reality to use your show to spread their extremism simply to promote yourself or your show is both unethical and immoral.

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