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Farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley are languishing in drought, but environmentally-minded water restrictions limit the amount of water that can be pumped into the region. Sean Hannity has championed the issue as a case of government inaction and environmentalism gone awry. His reports from the valley carry a simple plea: "We came here tonight with a message for Washington and President Barack Obama," he said recently. "Please, for the sake of the farmers where unemployment is now near 40 percent, please turn this water on now." But Jon Stewart won't have any of it. He devoted a long segment to vivisecting Hannity:
- Hannity: Government Should Let Farmers Farm Hannity slammed "the government's decisions that are responsible for drying up this once fertile area." He said from an outdoor stage in California, "This land was once considered the breadbasket of America. Roughly 12 percent of our nation's agricultural output came from this valley between Bakersfield and Sacramento," he said. "Today, their water is gone, shut off by the government." Hannity framed it as "the story of how a government has failed its own people, how radical environmentalists threaten the American dream, and how a liberal agenda that promised so much has left so many great Americans behind." Hannity insisted, "Farmers want to work hard, they don't want a government hand-out."
- Stewart: Government Created That Reservoir Stewart pointed out that the reason there is any reservoir at all in the region is due to Roosevelt-led government projects designed to stimulate the economy. He mocked Hannity's position as: "The government should stop meddling in the business of the farmers, who would actually still be living in a desert if not for government meddling." He added, "History! History! Ahh! History hurts my brain."
- Hannity: Environmentalism Hurting Farmers Hannity explained that the cause was a "two-inch fish," the delta smelt, which environmentalists say could be wiped out by pumping water from the Bay Delta as the farmers demand. "They have decided that the farmers come second and the delta smelt comes first," he said. "I would like to put aside politics because if Barack Obama allows — tells his environmental extremists in his administration to stand down and turn the water on, he will get the first credit from me, OK?"
- Stewart: Delta Smelt Crucial for Fishermen Stewart argued that eradicating the small fish would devastate the food chain and thus fishermen, a class similar to the farmers Hannity defends. "You wanna saved the whales? Kill the plankton and the krill, then the whales will have more room," he joked. "But wait! If we destroy the lower rung of the food chain, larger fish would be hurt, which would hurt blue-collar fishermen, who are also hardworking Americans who want the government off their back. Who will save them?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.