On his syndicated radio program Wednesday, Fox News personality Sean Hannity bemoaned the fact that retailers like Walmart were pulling merchandise emblazoned with the Confederate flag from their shelves -- and wondered whether companies would do the same with items he finds offensive, like rap music.
"I have a question," he said, "can you still buy a Jay Z CD at Walmart? Does the music department at Sears have any Ludacris albums?"
Putting aside the fact that he just demonstrated he's never actually been inside a Sears, the real question for Hannity was not the hypothetical one about whether he could download tracks by 50 Cent Snoop Dogg on Amazon or eBay -- it's whether retailers should be allowed, freely and of their own volition, to remove items from the shelves just because they don't want particular messages associated with their brand.
On the one hand, Hannity could hardly have chosen a worse example, as Walmart is notorious for requiring record companies to self-censor the content and cover art of their product if they want the retailer to stock it. On the other, he is technically correct that "a lot of the music by those artists is chock-full of the ‘N word,’ and the ‘B-word,’ and the ‘H-word,’ and racist, misogynist, sexist anti-woman slurs none of those retail executives would be caught dead using."
However, he neglected to mention that those words don't actually appear on the albums that are sold by Walmart, as that would be beside his point.
"If you're going to ban the Confederate flag," he said -- clearly a little fuzzy on the difference between a company willingly pulling an item from its shelves and the government making the public display of a particular symbol illegal, as the Nazi flag is in Germany -- "why not ban sales of music that gratuitously uses the N-word?"
He suggested that one possible reason is that President Barack Obama has invited Jay Z, Beyonce, and Prince to the White House on numerous occasions. Which is a perfectly rational belief to hold -- but only if you believe we live in a world in which Obama is the CEO of Walmart or that, even more generally, the president has anything more than a modicum control over the behavior of corporate America.
Listen to an excerpt from Hannity's radio show via Mediaite below.