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Hannity defends cost of traveling to UVSC

Sean Hannity
Sean Hannity

OREM — Conservative radio talk-show host Sean Hannity won't be eating caviar or getting a shiatsu massage when he travels to Utah next week to speak to Utah Valley State College students.

That's what Hannity told the Deseret Morning News on Friday — an effort to combat rumors that he's demanding prima donna treatment for his Utah trip.

Still, Hannity's travel costs won't be cheap since he has to be shuttled by private jet round-trip from New York to Utah and then to Arizona where he will broadcast his shows during the final presidential debate there.

And the school must pay — or find someone to pay — the bill.

How much? A tally isn't known — but it's expected to be "substantial" because UVSC must cover three legs of his trip, said Derek Hall, UVSC spokesman.

"But we won't even know anything about the specific costs until next week."

A private Hawker jet will fly Hannity to Salt Lake City on Oct. 11, but Hannity said the flight accommodations weren't arranged at his request.

Rather, he said, it was an offer by UVSC officials to help him keep a speaking engagement intended to counter an Oct. 20 appearance by "Fahrenheit 9/11" director Michael Moore. To the chagrin of political conservatives, the film lambastes the Bush administration for its response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the war in Iraq.

"They said it. They offered it," Hannity said. "I don't want a penny."

Since Hannity has a family event the night before and hours of taping for his radio program and TV show "Hannity and Colmes" on the day of his UVSC appearance, he wasn't able to use GOP gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman Jr.'s private plane as originally planned.

That's when UVSC stepped in and offered to pay for a private plane, said Mike Mower, who is a member of UVSC's board of trustees.

"The agreement all along is that we would accommodate Mr. Hannity's transportation needs because he's the one doing us the favor," Mower said.

Hannity offered to waive his usual $100,000 speaking fee after learning Moore would be paid $40,000 to speak at UVSC. He only asked for travel costs.

The Huntsman campaign, which helped arrange Hannity's appearance in an attempt to balance out Moore's politically liberal views, immediately offered use of a private jet. They couldn't accommodate his schedule, however.

But the campaign will still put $10,000 toward a private jet, said Jason Chaffetz, Huntsman campaign spokesman.

"We're just trying to help supplement the cost," Chaffetz said. "We're catching him the midst of an extremely busy schedule."

However, Hannity isn't the only one flying first class.

Travel costs for Moore and his 10-man entourage are expected to top $10,000. And previous appearances by former first lady Barbara Bush and talk show host Larry King required costly travel accommodations.

UVSC spent $15,000 on a private jet for King. In Barbara Bush's case, a private plane was donated, but the white-haired Bush matriarch left a $600 bill.

"When Barbara Bush came, part of her contract stipulated what kind of aircraft needed to be used," Hall said. "And when we had Larry King, his people made all the arrangements and we paid the bill."

If ticket sales are any indication, Hannity isn't as big of a draw as Moore, who sold out in five days. After more than a week, an estimated 800 tickets remain for Hannity. The event is still expected to sell out.

Proceeds from ticket sales should help the school reimburse any costs it might incur from Hannity's visit.

"Honestly, I don't want anything," Hannity said. "I only wanted to come out there to meet the students and give them another side."


E-mail: lwarner@desnews.com