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  • 75 things to know about Sean Hannity

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Media Matters

    Fox host Sean Hannity, a professional propagandist for President Donald Trump, also has a history of bigotry, sexism, and pushing conspiracy theories. Below is a quick tour through Hannity’s career:

    1. Hannity was fired from his first radio job after saying that gay people are prone to disease because they consume each other's feces during sex.

    2. After outlets banned selling the Confederate flag, Hannity demanded that they also stop selling rap music.

    3. Hannity promised that he would be waterboarded for charity but has never followed through. He also slammed a football into his desk, screaming, “Imagine this is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's head. Dunk it in water so we can save American lives."

    4. Hannity defended a killer convicted of multiple counts of premeditated first-degree and second-degree murder. He also has lauded Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman.

    5. Hannity used footage from a Glenn Beck rally to make a Michele Bachmann rally look bigger than it actually was.

    6. Hannity lied about Michelle Obama’s senior thesis in order to portray her as a radical.

    7. Hannity praised conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who claims that the 9/11 terror attacks and the Sandy Hook massacre were committed by the U.S. government, telling him he was doing a “great job.”

    8. Hannity’s source for anti-Clinton information was a former editor of the Weekly World News who frequently wrote about Bigfoot and aliens. Hannity also has a bizarre fascination with Hillary Clinton’s underwear.

    9. Hannity accused Black Lives Matter of advocating for cop-killing and compared the movement to the KKK.

    10. Hannity agreed with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision constituted “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

    11. Hannity said that only idiots refer to “climate change” -- he just calls it the weather.

    12. Hannity defended Donald Trump’s racist attacks on a federal judge overseeing the Trump University case.

    13. Hannity wanted to make sure that parents can teach kids that “being gay is not normal.”

    14. Hannity got interested in the birther conspiracy about Obama right around the same time that Trump did. Hannity later offered to pay for the Obamas to fly to Kenya if they would never come back.

    15. Hannity appeared in an actual Donald Trump campaign ad. During a debate, Trump demanded that Americans call Sean Hannity to verify the then-candidate’s Iraq War lie.

    16. Cable news hosts surveyed about their colleagues deemed Hannity the worst of cable news hosts, which made him furious. Later, when a Wall Street Journal editor called him “Fox News’ dumbest anchor,” Hannity had a late-night meltdown on Twitter.

    17. During one of their many interviews, Hannity fed Trump a lie about Syrian refugees from a hoax website. Trump then began repeating it at campaign events.

    18. Hannity declared the probe into Russian hacking during the 2016 election a “liberal media fake news story.”

    19. Discredited pundit Dick Morris gave Republican donors a tour of Hannity’s studio, and they discussed politics with Hannity in his green room.

    20. Hannity speculated that Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because “he might have converted to Islam.”

    21. Hannity also denied that Trump had been hostile to non-white voters.

    22. VICE mocked Hannity’s martial arts skills and described Hannity as “the kind of bro who talks up his street fighting skills on Twitter.”

    23. Hannity said that John Legend -- who won an Academy Award for his song in the historical drama Selma -- “doesn’t know anything” about voting rights.

    24. After Seth Rich’s family pleaded with Fox to stop pushing a conspiracy theory about his murder, Hannity continued hammering the issue, seemingly to distract from an investigation of Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia.

    25. Hannity laughably said police officers won’t bother black Americans if they’re not “part of a gang.”

    26. Hannity asked if affirmative action is as “equally wrong” as racial discrimination.

    27. Hannity justified Trump’s attack on a Muslim Gold Star family during the 2016 election and actually asked Trump during an interview why the family was targeting him.

    28. After Trump used the term “anchor baby” in a political ad, Hannity defended using the slur to describe the American citizen children of undocumented immigrants. He claimed there was “no other term to use,” apparently forgetting the term “American citizen.”

    29. Hannity smeared black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. as racist by distorting a 1994 interview he gave on C-SPAN. He missed the fact that Gate’s comments were about an event in 1959.

    30. Hannity repeatedly employed anti-Muslim smears against Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), including saying that Ellison taking the oath of office on the Quran was akin to using “Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible.”

    31. Hannity falsely accused a former Obama administration official of concealing a statutory rape from two decades previous.

    32. Hannity baselessly claimed a different former Obama administration official wanted to “force sterilizations” on Americans.

    33. Hannity pushed the “death panels” smear of Obamacare in a book.

    34. Hannity joined other conspiracy theorists pushing baseless claims about Hillary Clinton’s health during the 2016 presidential election, specifically saying that she was having “seizures.”

    35. Hannity said that a 2006 Democratic midterm election victory could be a “victory for the terrorists.”

    36. Hannity attacked Obama for putting “fancy” Dijon mustard on his food. Seriously.

    37. Hannity criticized Obama’s children for going to the Bahamas and Idaho during spring break, complaining about the cost to taxpayers, yet years later he denied he had ever criticized them. He has yet to criticize Trump or his family for any of their travels or for the fact that Melania and Barron Trump live in New York.

    38. Hannity lauded Trump’s use of a teleprompter during the 2016 campaign, after spending years attacking Obama for using a teleprompter.

    39. Hannity asked WikiLeaks to back up his baseless assertion that the CIA framed the Russian government for 2016 election interference.

    40. Hannity urged Facebook to show live video of violence and murder so people could “understand the nature of evil.” He defended this call by saying that kids have already seen violence given “the games” they play.

    41. Hannity urged Trump to arrest 46 U.S. attorneys after he dismissed them.

    42. Hannity claimed that Obama’s campaign database is proof of “a shadow government” and that it demonstrates that Hannity's “not the great conspiracy theorist that some people may think I am.”

    43. Hannity warned his viewers that the “globalist establishment” is “in bed with the Republican establishment” and said it was “reminiscent of former Soviet Union propaganda and mind control.” (Remember when he said he wasn’t a conspiracy theorist?)

    44. Hannity claimed that “everything that conspiracy theorists have said over the years” is “true.” He added that “it’s a media assault on your mind.”

    45. Hannity suggested that former Bill Clinton aide Vince Foster’s suicide was a “massive coverup” and that the Clintons may have been involved.

    46. Hannity said in 2008 that “demoniz[ing]” Hillary Clinton is “my job.”

    47. Hannity refused to rebuke Trump’s false claim, originating from tabloid The National Enquirer, that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved with John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Hannity has said the Enquirer “gets a lot of things right.”

    48. Hannity falsely claimed that Obama “is Bill Ayers” and “is Reverend Wright.”

    49. Hannity criticized a women’s sexual health study by claiming female students “seem to be the only ones getting stimulated.” Ew.

    50. To defend Trump's decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey, Hannity invoked a dubious claim originating from the “alt-right” that Comey could have been implicated in leaking classified information.

    51. Hannity defended Glenn Beck’s claim that Obama is “a racist.”

    52. Hannity attacked the judges who ruled against Trump’s Muslim ban, claiming they put Americans’ lives “literally in jeopardy.”

    53. Hannity lauded rancher Cliven Bundy’s refusal to comply with the federal government’s demand that he pay grazing fees for using public land, with Bundy calling Hannity a “hero.”

    54. Hannity completely flipped his views on WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, going from calling for his arrest to claiming he had “done a lot of good” after he targeted Clinton during the 2016 election.

    55. Hannity called Hillary Clinton’s laugh “frightening.”

    56. Hannity falsely claimed that the killing of Osama Bin Laden was “thanks to George Bush,” even though the operation was ordered by Obama.

    57. Hannity has repeatedly attacked women getting birth control, saying, “I won’t have sex, but I’ll be paying for the birth control, not fair.”

    58. Hannity refused to accept a T-shirt from firefighters because they supported Obama.

    59. Hannity pushed the misleading claim that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes well before Mitt Romney did.

    60. Hannity attacked people on food stamps for having an “entitlement mindset.”

    61. Hannity defended Augusta National Golf Club’s men-only policy by comparing it to a “girls night out.”

    62. Hannity has told poor people to “quit drinking soda and drink water” and suggested you “can survive off” of only rice and beans.

    63. Hannity defended Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke by saying Limbaugh was just “trying to be funny.”

    64. Hannity in 2012 lauded Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) as “modern day Paul Reveres” for claiming the Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating the government.

    65. Hannity argued in 2012 that Obama supporters would defend Obama if he was “robbing a bank and shooting all the tellers.”

    66. Hannity asked if Obama compared himself to Trayvon Martin because “he smoked pot and he did a little blow.”

    67. Hannity attacked California for enacting a law protecting transgender students, saying, “What do we do with the 7-year-old girl that goes into the locker room and there's the 14-year-old boy naked in the girls' locker room because that's where he chooses to be?"

    68. Hannity has repeatedly attacked Pope Francis, saying he is “against capitalism” and laughably suggested he is “not really in a position … to lecture anybody on what it means to be good Christians.”

    69. Hannity in 2013 claimed that Obama on World AIDS Day discussed AIDS in order to “change the topic” from the Affordable Care Act.

    70. Hannity attacked the Transportation Security Administration for making an animated video explaining the airport screening process for children, calling it “indoctrination.”

    71. Hannity defended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson when he called homosexuality sinful and similar to bestiality, saying his comments reflect “old-fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values.”

    72. Hannity mocked Obama for wearing a bicycle helmet while bicycling, calling it “embarrassing.”

    73. Hannity said that because he lived in New York, he knew “what it’s like to live under communism.”

    74. Hannity predicted that New York City would become “a mess” because the city’s mayor wanted to close public schools during certain Muslim holidays.

    75. Hannity questioned how the 2012 Benghazi attacks were any different from Watergate, saying, “Four Americans weren’t abandoned to be murdered in Watergate.”

    BONUS: Hannity was described by the website Wonkette as “the dumbest motherfucker on planet Earth.”

  • Fox News can’t believe 44 million Americans qualify for food assistance

    The number of food stamp recipients is roughly equal to the number of people living in poverty, far below number who qualify for assistance

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News contributors and hosts defended President Donald Trump’s draconian budget request for fiscal year 2018 by coalescing around a talking point also voiced by the White House that spending cuts for nutrition assistance programs are justified because of their gut feeling that too many people are using them. In the real world, the number of food stamp recipients is roughly equal to the number of Americans living in poverty, which has remained elevated since the last recession ended.

    During a May 23 press conference discussing Trump’s budget request, NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander asked Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to defend the president’s decision to cut programs like Social Security and Medicaid that he had promised to protect during the campaign. Mulvaney falsely claimed that no person who “really needs” assistance will be removed from the programs, and turned to Trump’s proposed new restrictions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as “food stamps,” as an example. Mulvaney noted that the number of SNAP recipients “spiked during the recession” to over 42 million and complained that it remains high today “eight years removed from the end of the recession.” Mulvaney ended his remark by wondering “why is the number still that high?”:

    Mulvaney’s unfounded gut feeling that the number of people receiving SNAP benefits is too high was endlessly reiterated by Fox News and Fox Business personalities who have a long track record of attacking the program. On the May 22 edition of America’s News Headquarters, contributor Mercedes Schlapp bemoaned the so-called “entitlement mentality” of Americans who might oppose unnecessary cuts to food assistance. Later that day, on Your World with Neil Cavuto, host Cavuto complained the number of SNAP recipients has “ballooned to over 44 million today” (it’s actually 42 million), baselessly suggesting it was “not sustainable,” while conservative columnist Carrie Sheffield falsely claimed that federal food assistance has “crowded out the private sector.”

    Fox returned to the complaint on May 23, dedicating time on Fox Business’ Cavuto: Coast to Coast and Risk & Reward to the same talking point that 44 million SNAP recipients seemed like too many and therefore the program must be cut. On Making Money with Charles Payne, host Payne and guest Liz Peek falsely argued that food assistance programs are meant only to be “emergency programs” while lamenting the number of users. During that day’s edition of Your World, Cavuto returned again to his complaint about the number of people enrolled in SNAP, remarking that if 44 million Americans are really in need of food assistance “we’re Mozambique, we’re not America.” Moments later, Cavuto was joined by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who defended adding new restrictions to food assistance programs and agreed with Cavuto’s characterization that there is no way so many people truly qualify for assistance.

    Contrary to this misleading characterization, the number of SNAP recipients is actually lower than the number of people who qualify for the program and is roughly equal to the number of people living in poverty (see graph below). One would expect the number of SNAP beneficiaries to largely mirror the number of Americans living in poverty because the program is available, with some restrictions, for individuals earning up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

    For much of the program’s history, the number of people who actually participated in the federal food assistance program was far less than the number who struggled with poverty and the number who potentially qualified for assistance. That began to change during the Bush and Obama administrations, when technological improvements and a bipartisan effort to tackle stigma helped get more deserving families and individuals enrolled in the program. Rates of waste, fraud, and abuse in the system have actually fallen as participation increased and, according to a November 2016 report from the Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, the gap between the number of Americans who qualify for assistance and the number who receive it has been narrowing for years:

  • Fox News retracts online Seth Rich report while Hannity keeps pushing the conspiracy

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Media Matters

    Fox News has retracted an online story promoting conspiracy theories about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, saying the May 16 article “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Despite the online retraction and objections from Rich’s family, leading Fox News host Sean Hannity and other personalities at the network continue to aggressively promote conspiracies about Rich’s death.

    FoxNews.com originally posted a May 16 piece headlined “Slain DNC staffer had contact with WikiLeaks, investigator says.” The story relied on a report by D.C.'s Fox 5 and Rod Wheeler, a former D.C. homicide detective and Fox News contributor, for its sourcing. The Fox 5 story soon fell apart and Wheeler backtracked -- according to CNN, he told the network “he had no evidence to suggest Rich had contacted Wikileaks before his death.” Through a spokesperson, Rich’s family asked on May 17 for “a retraction and an apology from Fox News and from the Fox 5 DC affiliate for inaccurate reporting and damaging the legacy of their son."

    Six days later, Fox News has finally retracted its story.

    The network’s May 23 statement reads: “On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich. The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed. We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”

    Just retracting the one online story hardly undoes the damage Fox News -- and specifically Sean Hannity -- has done by pushing baseless conspiracy theories about Rich’s death. For the past week, Hannity and his colleagues have repeatedly pushed the evidence-free conspiracy theory that former Democratic staffer Seth Rich was murdered for providing WikiLeaks with emails from the Democratic National Committee.

    This afternoon, Rich’s brother sent a letter to Hannity’s executive producer calling on Hannity to stop pushing the conspiracy, writing in part: "As the family, we would hope to be the first people to learn about any such evidence and reasons for Seth's death. … It is a travesty that you would prompt false conspiracy theories and other people's agendas rather than work with the family to learn the truth."

    CNN reported that Brad Bauman, spokesperson for the Rich family, “told CNN the family was grateful for the retraction.”

    As of Tuesday afternoon, Hannity was still promoting the conspiracy on Twitter.

  • This is how right-wing media reacted to ISIS terrorism under President Obama

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN, NINA MAST, BRENNAN SUEN & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    ISIS has claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in Manchester, England, which killed more than 20 people. During Barack Obama’s presidency, right-wing media figures exploited terrorist attacks that ISIS claimed responsibility for to blame, criticize, and attack the president. Additionally, right-wing media figures castigated Obama for not leaving a foreign trip in the aftermath of an attack.

  • What’s behind Sean Hannity's disgraceful Seth Rich conspiracy theories

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Fox News/Screenshot

    Successful Americans, experts say, confront the “Sunday night blues” by spending time with their loved ones, organizing themselves for the coming work week, and unplugging from the internet before bed. Fox News host Sean Hannity spent last night sending an increasingly frantic series of tweets about a deranged conspiracy theory.

    Hannity devoted several editions of his TV and radio shows last week to diving into the fever swamp with widely debunked speculation that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered last summer by Democrats in retribution for leaking DNC emails to WikiLeaks. This evidence-free nonsense contradicts both the U.S. intelligence community’s finding that the emails were hacked and distributed by Russian intelligence services and law enforcement’s conclusion that Rich was likely the victim of a botched robbery.

    While Hannity was pushing new, quickly debunked developments in the story, Rich’s devastated, long-suffering family was demanding Fox retract its reporting on the murder and firing off a cease-and-desist letter to the “private investigator” behind the new wave of stories. But Hannity shows no signs of stopping -- over the weekend he invited on his show Kim Dotcom, a hacker “now fighting extradition to the United States on copyright infringement and wire fraud” who claims to have proof linking Rich and WikiLeaks (none of this makes sense).

    One of the conservative movement’s most powerful media figures is up to his neck in bullshit, with big implications for the future of his network. Here are a few potential theories for how Hannity got here:

    Hannity doesn’t realize what he’s doing. “Sean Hannity is actually a very nice guy,” Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz tweeted on Tuesday night, after Hannity started talking about the conspiracy theory. “If he realized how horrible this is to the grieving Rich family, I'd bet he'd stop. Think, Sean.” Under this explanation, Hannity simply got ahead of his own good judgment, failing to properly vet the story and consider both the facts and the impact on Rich’s devastated family.

    An extremely charitable observer might be willing to grant Hannity that interpretation on Tuesday. But it is impossible to grant him plausible deniability when he has continued to push the story, even as the family seeks retractions and Hannity himself is faced with harsh criticism of his behavior on Twitter.

    Indeed, as the Fox host’s behavior continued, Podhoretz denounced Hannity’s “monstrous” conduct.

    Hannity really believes in the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. Hannity has suggested that Vince Foster, a close friend of Hillary Clinton’s and a former White House aide who committed suicide in 1993, was actually murdered mysteriously. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he hyped National Enquirer reporting about a Clinton “fixer” who helped “set up illicit trysts for Hillary, with men AND women,” and suggested that she might have Parkinson’s disease or suffer from seizures. He frequently claimed that President Barack Obama hadn’t released his birth certificate. He’s asserted that climate change data and job reports have been manipulated for political gain.

    Is it so hard to accept that Hannity might be fully aware of all the evidence against his Seth Rich theory as well as the pain the family is going through, but nonetheless remain convinced that the Democrats employ assassins to conduct contract hits in retaliation for their employees’ misdeeds? Perhaps Hannity is simply gullible and stupid. It is certainly difficult to rule that out.

    This sort of motivated reasoning (where individuals come to conclusions they are already inclined to believe, rather than accepting contrary information) is not unusual when a political movement is out of power -- see the recent obsession of some progressives with the absurd conspiracy theories of Louise Mensch and her ilk. But Hannity is running with these stories while his party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress. That speaks to a grave weakness for conservative media figures who remain more interested in attacking Democrats and smearing them with nonsense than they are with passing any positive agenda.

    Hannity is engaged in a cynical game for political and financial gain. Perhaps Hannity doesn’t really believe that the Democratic Party has John Wick on retainer and uses him only to eliminate low-level employees. Instead, he might simply be playing his audience to protect the president and boost ratings.

    Hannity, an unrepentant Trump toady, uses the Rich tale as a way to undermine the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was trying to help Trump win the election, in part by hacking Democratic party organizations and leaking the contents. “If it was true that Seth Rich gave WikiLeaks the DNC emails,” Hannity said on May 18, “wouldn't that blow the whole Russia collusion narrative that the media has been pushing out of the water?”

    (Incidentally, it wouldn’t -- as The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel points out, “Very stupid people keep saying this, ignoring” two other separate hacks of Democrats that the intelligence community has attributed to the Russians.)

    Hannity’s audience is currently built around his over-the-top shilling for Trump. But because the president’s first few months have been an unmitigated series of disasters, Hannity needs to find something else to talk about. Last week’s stream of devastating headlines made that need all the more important. A conspiracy theory that allows him to attack the “deep state” and the press for covering up the truth, while presenting himself as a likely martyr, would seem like just the ticket.

    Hannity also desperately needs a new storyline because his audience is flagging badly. The longest-tenured Fox host in the light of Bill O’Reilly’s recent firing, Hannity has lost hundreds of thousands of viewers in recent months. As Eric Boehlert notes, he is no longer dominating his time slot, frequently getting crushed by MSNBC’s The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell in the crucial 25-54 demographic.

    How better to shore up that flagging demographic of young viewers than by making a play for the “alt-right” conservatives who are extremely interested in Seth Rich conspiracy theories and whether the people who rebut them are Jewish?


    Whatever his reasons, Hannity’s promotion of this garbage and Fox’s apparent inability or unwillingness to rein him in speaks to the network’s larger problems in the Trump era.

    Under President Obama, Fox defined itself in opposition to the president -- everything he did, large and small, was a disastrous attack on the fabric of America. During the 2016 campaign, the network defined itself in opposition to Clinton, who took on Obama’s mantle, and in support of Trump, whose flaws were airbrushed by Fox commentators.

    With Trump in the White House, engaging in investigative reporting or providing harsh analyses of potential administration misdeeds are effectively off the table. But with the administration spending much of its time in a defensive crouch, the network also can’t champion great conservative victories -- or even rally behind sustained White House pushes for policy priorities.

    Instead, the network’s hosts have to join the president’s aides in their foxhole, doing their best to convince their audience that Trump’s failures are simply the result of vicious attacks from the press, or the “deep state,” or the Democrats. Desperate to go on offense, Trump’s media allies are left with promoting conspiracy theories.

    The risk for the network, however, is if that begins to get stale -- if viewers decide that they no longer believe in Trump and thus are uninterested in Fox’s defense. As those viewers peel off, little by little, the remainder will be an ever-smaller rump audience of core Trump supporters. This could lead to a self-reinforcing cycle, where Fox reacts to its diminished  audiences by doubling down on Trump support to retain that core audience, only to see an ever-larger group of viewers leave. Or it could lead to the network shifting against Trump to chase those viewers, only to be abandoned by the Trump core.

    With Fox’s audience already on the decline, that decision point may be swiftly approaching.

  • On foreign trip, media figures praise Trump as “presidential” for not acting like a child

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Media figures praised President Donald Trump as “presidential” for not yet causing an international controversy on this week’s five-country trip, his first venture out of the country since the inauguration. They said the trip was “uncharacteristically normal” and praised Trump for not sounding “like the guy at the end of the bar popping off.”

  • Seth Rich's family sends cease and desist to Fox News contributor behind evidence-free smears

    Rich family: “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress”

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    According to NBC News, the family of murdered DNC employee Seth Rich sent a cease and desist order to Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler after his recent allegations led right wing media figures to smear Rich as the person responsible for providing WikiLeaks with DNC emails. Wheeler alleged that the murder was somehow related to a purported relationship between Rich and WikiLeaks, despite finding no evidence that Rich had ever been in contact with WikiLeaks. The Rich family previously demanded an apology but did not receive one.

    In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 quoted Rod Wheeler as saying  “a source inside the police department” told him the department was “told to stand down on this case.” Wheeler also claimed it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. According to CNN, “no real evidence has been provided to support such claims and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department.”

    Right-wing media seized on this story with Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs smearing Rich as potentially being behind the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.  The right-wing One America News Network has also fueled the conspiracy, even offering $100,000 for information about Rich’s death during a conspiracy-fueled report.

    Conservative media’s exploitation of the Seth Rich murder spurred the family to threaten Wheeler with legal action, saying, “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the family.” From a May 19 NBC News report:

    The family of slain Democratic staffer Seth Rich is threatening legal action against a private investigator after his "outrageous behavior" has given fuel to right-wing conspiracy theories about the unsolved murder of their son.

    An attorney representing the family of Rich, who was 27 when he was killed last July, sent a cease and desist letter Friday to Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former Washington, D.C., homicide detective who was employed by the family and earlier this week told a Fox affiliate that he believed police were covering up details about the crime.

    "Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous, and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the Family," wrote Joseph Ingrisano of the law firm Katuk Rock, according to a copy of the letter shared exclusively with NBC News.

    "Your improper and unauthorized statements, many of which are false and have no basis in fact, have also injured the memory and reputation of Seth Rich and have defamed and injured the reputation and standing of the members of the Family," Ingrisano continued.

    The letter demands Wheeler "immediately and permanently" cease and desist from making any comments about Seth Rich or his death and suggests he could face further legal action either way.