Fox News host Sean Hannity is a vocal defender of police, as he demonstrated when he stood by the officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. But he drew the line Thursday, arguing in a testy exchange on his show that there's no justification for the grisly shooting of Walter Scott.
"You do not shoot an innocent man in the back eight times in cold blood like this," Hannity said.
The Scott shooting has drawn national attention following the release of a video recording that allegedly shows North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager shooting Scott eight times as the unarmed black 50-year-old was fleeing from the officer. Slager has been fired from the police department and charged with murder.
One of Hannity's guests, Rev. Jesse Peterson, head of the religious organization Bond, said the shooting initially upset him, but he later "calmed down" and questioned what led to the events. "I started to question things," Peterson said. "What happened before these shots?"
Hannity quickly fired back: "Wait a minute. If he's not a threat to the officer, or threat to anybody else, there is never a justification in terms of tactics and techniques and training. There's no justification for what I see on that video. None."
He later added, "Let's assume he punched the police officer in the face, raked his jaw with a hammer punch, and broke his jaw. At that moment, when [the officer] fired the weapon and hit that man eight times in the back, he was not a threat to that officer or anybody else — and that means that it's not a justifiable use of force, period."
The segment got increasingly heated from there, as Peterson and another guest, Leo Terrell, a civil rights attorney, debated the shooting. "Jesse Lee Peterson is the only man on the face of this Earth who is talking about everything else other than the unlawful shooting of this man," Terrell said. "For you to come on this show as a black man and to say, somehow, justify this shooting, you are an embarrassment to the world."
As the debate continued, Terrell became angrier, eventually leaving the show after he shouted, "I am not going to sit here and listen to this hate!"
Hannity tried to calm the situation after Terrell left — again stating that there's no way the cop's actions could be defended in this shooting. "That tape is overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence that this man was shot innocently in the back," Hannity said. The officer "is not the judge, jury, and executioner here. He doesn't get to fire against the guy that's not a threat to anybody."