Published January 14, 2015
This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," September 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And tonight in "Your America" a seemingly innocent conference call is now raising major questions about how far the Obama administration is willing to go in order to push its agenda. Now the call was put together in August allegedly by Michael Skolnik who serves as the political director for music producer Russell Simmons.
Now the gathering was supposed to encourage artists to answer President Obama's call to public service and representatives from the White House and government-funded National Endowment for the Arts was said to be only participants in the call, not organizers.
But an investigation by BigHollywood.com reveals a far different story. Now according to e-mails that they recovered, Yosi Sergant, the NEA's communication director, actually sent out invitations for the call. Now Sergeant had denied any such involvement to The Washington Times and as a result he has since resigned from his post at the NEA.
Now audio of the call also clearly shows this wasn't simply meeting to promote volunteerism. It was, in fact, a meeting to promote the president's agenda, namely specifically, health care reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOSI SERGANT, NEA COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: I would encourage you to pick something, whether it's health care, education, the environment, you know, there's four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service. And then my ask would be to apply artistic, your artistic creativity, in creative communities, utilities, and bring them to the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: But it doesn't end there, newly uncovered audio of Skolnik reveals that he was asked by the White House to organize the entire thing. Let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SKOLNIK, POLITICAL DIRECTOR FOR RUSSELL SIMMONS: I've been asked by folks in the White House and folks in the NEA about a month ago in a conversation that was had. We had the idea to — that I would help bring together the artist community. Independent artists community around the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Joining me to talk about the serious misuse of power by the administration is artist Patrick Courrelech, who recorded that conference call and the publisher of BigGovernment.com, Andrew Breitbart is back with us.
Andrew, it's been a busy news time for you. Thanks for being with us. All right.
Patrick, let me go through this because I — there's some real serious charges ultimately involved in this and I want to make sure we've got this right. So this e-mail is sent out, it's sent out to artists. Who is it sent by?
PATRICK COURRELECH, ARTIST WHO TAPED NEA PHONE CALL: Mine was sent by Yosi Sergant, the former communications director at the NEA.
HANNITY: OK. Now, so — this was sent out and we have gone back this, what, how many groups involved in the conference call, approximate?
COURRELECH: Involved in the organization of the conference calls?
HANNITY: Yes. The organization?
COURRELECH: At the White House?
COURRELECH: Yes, the White House Office of Public Engagement, the National Endowment for the Arts, the United We Serve, which is the initiative for volunteerism and Michael Skolnik.
HANNITY: And on the artist side, how many groups were involved in this?
COURRELECH: There is approximately 75 or 80 or so artists of various.
HANNITY: All right. Of those.
ANDREW BREITBART, WWW.BIGGOVERNMENT.COM: In that —
HANNITY: Go ahead, Andrew.
BREITBART: In that conference, yes, in that conference call I believe there were 21 representatives of different groups and 16 of those had received NEA grants, upwards of $2 million. So these were grantees from the NEA and potential grantees who were in the call and it was stated at the very beginning of the call by Buffy.
COURRELECH: Buffy Wicks.
BREITBART: By Buffy Wicks from the Office of Public Engagement where she stated that we worked on the campaign together and we won and now we need to work towards furthering our president's agenda and his initiatives.
HANNITY: All right. Andrew, this is my point because if these groups — now what I had read is that the groups, the majority of them on the conference call, the artist groups together, 21 that you mentioned, that within 150 days prior, they had gotten grants and grant money, so in other words, they got grant money and then — correct?
I want to make sure that fact is right.
HANNITY: All right. And so —
COURRELECH: America for the Arts was on that list. America for the Arts was on the phone call and they are a grantee from the NEA, yes.
HANNITY: All right. So then the question is, then they're being asked 150 days later or some short time later to help the White House advance its agenda. So then that raises questions about lobbying laws, about conflict of interest and whether or not they were being paid to in fact — or paid back — or asked to pay back for the grants that they received. Is that a legitimate question?
BREITBART: Sean, there is a quid pro quo there. Patrick, in his four-part expose, there's a fifth part today where we give the whole context of the conference call and that the White House was involved. But days after this conference call occurred, the net result of that conference call that asks that the White House talked about started to represent themselves online and at Rock the Vote there's a full-scale help the president's health care initiative thing.
There are multiple, multiple people on the phone call who delivered the goods for President Obama in their desire to politicize the NEA.
HANNITY: All right.
BREITBART: And serve.gov.
HANNITY: Let's see if I can simplify this. Chronology. Patrick, I'll throw this to you. The chronology is these groups received grants. These groups were asked to be on a conference call. These groups are asked, and we have White House members that are on the call — they're asked to help advance Obama's agenda, and then they advance the agenda.
Is that the proper chronology in your mind?
COURRELECH: Yes, it is. It is either grantees or potential grantees on that phone call. That's what the National Endowment of the Arts does, they provide grants. They're the largest funder of the arts in the United States.
HANNITY: All right, this is —
COURRELECH: So they're —
HANNITY: Yes. I'm not trying to cut you short but this is my last question. What conflict of interest laws, what lobbying laws do you see that may have been violated here and what's your conclusion based on the result that they got what they wanted, the White House, being that these groups to help them?
BREITBART: Well, neither of us is a lawyer but many people have written about this say the anti-lobbying act and the Hatch Act are potential laws that have been broken but the conflict of interest is obvious, if Bush did this and tried to create art for the surge or for the Patriot Act, Greenwich Village would have around-the-clock protest this evening.
HANNITY: Yes, Patrick, last word?
COURRELECH: I couldn't agree him more, I think if you swapped out pro-Obama and you put in pro-Bush I think this would be a really big story on all of media lights' front pages.
HANNITY: Yes. Andrew, I think you called it quid pro art which is your phrase. We'll give you credit for it. But we're going to follow this story because you follow the money it seems certainly the appearance of impropriety. or whether laws were broken. We're going to try and get to the bottom of it.
Thank you, guys for being here.
COURRELECH: Thank you.
BREITBART: Thanks for having us.
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