Balancing the Books

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, July, 9 2003  that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order a transcript of the entire show.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is once again coming under fire for the summer reading list for freshmen. Last year, some people complained that an assigned book about the Koran (search) did not represent a balance of viewpoints.

Well, this year, some students claim that this summer's choice, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, presents a liberally biased view of America and the American economy (search).

The university has not yet released a statement on this year's controversy. They declined our invitation tonight to appear on the show.

And joining us now is one of the students opposed to the selected reading. The founder and chairman of the Committee for a Better Carolina, Michael McKnight is with us.

Mike, how are you?

MICHAEL MCKNIGHT, COMMITTEE FOR A BETTER CAROLINA: Good. Thank you for having me, Sean. I've always wanted to follow Al Sharpton (search) on national television. This is my dream come true.

HANNITY: It's your big TV break. Welcome aboard. We're glad you're here.

All right, why don't you tell us why you don't want this book, why you think they're unfair here.

MCKNIGHT: Look Sean, this issue is very, very simple. And this controversy is very similar to last year's in that we believe that the university is presenting one side of an issue yet again.

Last year that issue was Islam. This year, that issue is the American economy. We feel like the university is presenting a socialist (search) perspective. Barbara Ehrenreich is a renowned socialist. And they're presenting one side of this view without providing new students who this read this any other perspective.

HANNITY: Look, we stand by the motto fair and balanced (search); we report, you decide. So I agree with you.

One of the things you were quoted in one of the papers as saying, that you know, it is intellectually dishonest to present one side.

Are you suggesting, you believe that this is the administration that is holding this view and that they have a captive audience of students and they're trying to indoctrinate them?

MCKNIGHT: In short, that's sort of what we think. But really, I don't know what their motive is. They just seem adamantly opposed to presenting two balanced points of view and being, like you said, fair and balanced on any issue. And we don't understand that. It would be very simple to provide alternate materials for this program.

HANNITY: You claim she's a devout socialist?

MCKNIGHT: Yes, sir.

HANNITY: And I know the book chronicles the experiences of its author. She traveled to three cities, and she worked at low paying jobs, like a waitress, a cleaning woman, a nursing home assistant, a Wal-Mart employee.

And so what is the conclusion? Where is the liberal bias?

MCKNIGHT: Well, you know, she's the honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, which is one of the largest...

HANNITY: But in the book, where is the liberal bias? What is the conclusion that you most take issue with? That poor people don't have a chance in America?

MCKNIGHT: Well, yes. That is the conclusion she arrives at. And she arrives at that before she even begins the book. And in her experiences she does everything she can to make sure that she does not make it in America, while she neglects to mention several key issues that affect the poor people she encounters.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Michael, it's Alan. Good to have you on the show, sir. Thank you for being...

HANNITY: He's the liberal, watch out for him.

COLMES: I'm not a socialist. However, Barbara Ehrenreich is a Democratic Socialist, which is not the same thing as a socialist, who believes that the means of production should be owned by the state. So before you call somebody a socialist, she's not a socialist. She's a Democratic Socialist. You're aware of that.

MCKNIGHT: Yes. I think socialism is socialism.

COLMES: Socialism is not socialism. She's a Democratic Socialist, she's not a socialist who believes the state should own the means of production. So you call her a radical socialist in your objection to her book. She's a Democratic Socialist, No. 1.

No. 2, what specifically… let me pick up on Sean's question, what's specifically in the book do you disagree with?

MCKNIGHT: Well, we disagree with her conclusion...

COLMES: Which conclusion?

MCKNIGHT: Her conclusion is that American businessmen are greedy and at fault for the state of the poor. And in the book, she never mentions the high taxes that the poor people are forced to pay on any of their habits. Alcohol, tobacco and drug users, or a combination of the three. And she never mentions any of these factors and the family structures. Of the characters she presents of the family structures, there are lots of single parents...

COLMES: She said they're all alcohol, tobacco and drug users? She said that?

MCKNIGHT: Nearly every one of them is a tobacco user and some of them use alcohol and marijuana. Even she admits to using marijuana.

COLMES: She talked about a certain strata of society and purposely, you know, didn't claim to be doing a scientific study. She put herself in the roles of those low-wage workers and did not claim it to be anything other than what it was.

But let me ask you, would you have a problem if Ganesh DeSousa , if one of his books, for example, were offered as the curriculum, part of the curriculum? Would you object to that? Would you say, "This is not fair and balanced. Ganesh is a renowned conservative. I object that book is on the curriculum"?

MCKNIGHT: We know that would never happen. We would want it to be fair and balanced all the same. But the fact is, this program has a tradition of, I think, a leftist bias. And all we're asking is for a fair and balanced perspective to be presented here.

And the fact is, if a conservative book were presented on a campus for this program, there would be massive whole scale objections to it.

COLMES: Maybe there would.

MCKNIGHT: It wouldn't be allowed.

COLMES: You know, first of all, she is a Democratic Socialist. I am not…have you read the entire book?

MCKNIGHT: Yes, sir. I certainly have. And she certainly has some very radical points of view. But our major contention here is not about the book itself but the lack of balance that has existed in this program.

COLMES: Isn't reading this book optional?

MCKNIGHT: It's expected. It's expected.

COLMES: Last year they made it mandatory, but this year they made it optional. So you don't have to read this book. It's not mandatory.

MCKNIGHT: What freshman wouldn't feel obligated to read this book?

COLMES: It's optional

HANNITY: What we'll do. We'll have him read Ann Coulter's (search) book.

MCKNIGHT: Yes, how about that?

HANNITY: All right. Thank you for being with us. And it is a good book, by the way, Ann's book, that is.

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