Tonight at 9 p.m., Christine O’Donnell will become the latest controversial Republican nominee to launder her past in an interview with Sean Hannity. Like Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin — just to name three — before her, Delaware’s Republican nominee for Senate will dodge the mainstream media spotlight in the midst of uncomfortable questions and make a beeline for the Cheers of primetime cable news, the show where everyone knows your name and they’re always glad you came (if you’re a conservative Republican, that is.)
The script that leads O’Donnell to her Hannity interview tonight is nearly identical to the one that led Paul and Palin to him after their somewhat botched national roll-outs. In each case, the candidate took a preliminary step onto the national stage, got singed by their own past, and ran back to the safe and comforting arms of Hannity.
Let’s start with Palin. Back in September 2008, Palin — still a fresh face on the political scene — was flailing after her first national TV interview as the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee. Palin had been badly burned in her sit-down with ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson, and it became clear that tough interviews were not going be a central (or successful) part of Palin’s media strategy. But, critics howled, how could Palin avoid the press all together and maintain even a shred of credibility?
Enter Hannity, a shred of credibility if ever there was one. As the wreckage of her Gibson appearance still smoldered, Palin announced she was headed for Hannity country to cool out for awhile.
Here’s what that sounded like:
HANNITY: Is Senator Obama then using what happened on Wall Street this week? Is he using it for political gain? Is there a danger of a presidential candidate is saying to the world that America’s situation of economic crisis is the worst that we’ve seen in decades — which was words that he was using yesterday — is there a danger in terms of the world hearing that?
PALIN: Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we’re talking about today. And that’s something that John McCain too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must surpassed to deal with an issue like this.
It is that profound and that important an issue that we work together on this and not just let one party try to kind of grab it all or capture it all and pretend like they have all the answers. It’s going to take everybody working together on this.
Other Republicans in hot water got the message, and in 2010 Hannity was host to virtually every candidate for whom the mainstream media spotlight had grown to bright. That’s certainly how it went down with Kentucky’s Republican nominee for Senate, Rand Paul, who burst out of the gates after his primary win in May with a slew of mainstream media appearances that culminated — disastrously in the minds of just about everyone — in his infamous appearance on MSNBC’s Maddow.
HANNITY: I looked at your statement. When I first saw the news coverage, I said, what? He doesn’t support the Civil Rights Act? That’s how it was portrayed. And you clearly laid out just the opposite. And it was very clear.
In Nevada a few weeks later, Sharron Angle skipped the pretense of mainstream media access entirely after she won the Republican nod for Senate, preferring to make a beeline for Fox News, as well as stopping off for a visit with the Seanster himself.
Angle had a lot of, well, uncomfortable truths in her past that maybe made her wary about sitting down with tough interviewers. Hannity, it seemed, was a reliably comfortable spot for the Republican.
And that brings us to O’Donnell, whose own skeletons are numerous and potentially quite embarrassing. That’s probably why she bailed on the Sunday shows this week. But no matter. Like Paul, Angle and Palin before her, O’Donnell, it seems, has figured out what to do when surrounded by media criticism and tough questions she’d prefer go unanswered — just call Sean Hannity.