Hannity

Tags ››› Hannity
  • Sean Hannity is running the campaign against Sean Hannity

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone released the following statement after advertisers including Cars.com, Leesa, Casper, Ring, USAA and Peloton reportedly pulled their ads from Fox News’ Hannity.

    “Put simply: Sean Hannity is running the advertiser campaign against Sean Hannity.

    That multiple advertisers have dropped from Hannity proves the point we’ve been making all along: that organizing a pressure campaign wasn’t even necessary at this juncture, because Hannity is so volatile that major brands would likely be uncomfortable associating with him. In the past few days, Hannity has put that volatility on full display with wild and reckless conspiracies and by antagonizing his employer Fox News. Sure enough and as predicted, companies started pulling their ads from Hannity because they know his volatility is bad for business.

    Tonight, Hannity further illustrated the pitfalls of his volatility by starting to actively encourage his fans to pressure his own advertisers. This is only going to send them running from him even faster.”

  • How the murder of a DNC staffer turned into a right-wing conspiracy

    The story goes through nearly everyone in right-wing media: Sean Hannity, Roger Stone, Louise Mensch, Megyn Kelly, Jim Hoft, Julian Assange, and more

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    It started with a late night walk on July 10, 2016. Seth Rich was talking with his girlfriend while walking through the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., when there was some sort of altercation. Rich was shot multiple times and died shortly thereafter.

    Nearly a year later, his death has become a cause célèbre among right-wing media and the fringiest elements of pro-Trump media, simply because he worked as a staffer for the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

    The conspiracy theories started immediately. The day after Rich was killed, a Twitter user connected the murder with a lawsuit filed by Bernie Sanders supporters against the DNC. (This lawsuit would later be the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories after the death of a process server that the coroner would later conclude was caused by accidental polypharmacy, or a combination of drugs.)

    The first right-wing version of the conspiracy theory was about confirming right-wing allegations against the Clinton Foundation. On July 13, conspiracy theory website WhatDoesItMean.com (previously cited by pro-Trump media) ran a piece, sourced to the Kremlin, claiming that Rich thought he was on his way to meet with the FBI about the Clinton Foundation when a “hit team” put in place by the Clintons killed him. The article also linked the conspiracy theory with two Russian diplomats who were expelled by the United States two days before Rich’s murder, and it concluded by claiming the hit team was captured on July 12 in Washington, D.C. The actual police events of July 12 had nothing to do with any of this. On July 14, Snopes debunked this conspiracy theory.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 22, WikiLeaks released 20,000 emails that had been stolen from the DNC, and Redditors immediately started guessing that Rich was the source of those emails. Heat Street, a News Corp. publication then run by Louise Mensch, ran a roundup of these rumors. In the post, Heat Street simply went through the “r/The_Donald” subreddit, listing different conspiracy theories that users had come up with, even comparing one theory to the work of mathematician John Nash and the movie A Beautiful Mind. Heat Street had also mentioned the FBI rumor in the bottom of a previous post about Rich’s murder, noting that there was no evidence to substantiate it.

    The one entity that did claim to be the WikiLeaks source was Guccifer 2.0. As The New York Times explained on July 27, while American intelligence services believed Guccifer 2.0 to be a front for Russian spies, the hacker claimed to be Romanian. In the report, the Times detailed evidence linking the emails to Russia, including “metadata hidden in the early documents indicating that they were edited on a computer with Russian language settings.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Notorious dirty trickster Roger Stone, a contributor to Alex Jones' conspiracy theory website Infowars, and WikiLeaks began pushing the conspiracy theory in earnest in August. In an August 8 tweet, Stone included Rich in a group of four murdered people for whom he blamed the Clintons, referencing the FBI version of the conspiracy theory. A day later, WikiLeaks announced that it was offering $20,000 for information, and founder Julian Assange himself brought up Rich unprompted on a Dutch TV program, implying that Rich was a source. The host was taken aback by Assange’s suggestion and tried to push him on what he was implying, but Assange did not clarify his remark:

    Pro-Trump media jumped on the interview. Mike Cernovich immediately promoted the interview while stating point-blank that Rich was the source -- something that even Assange never said. On August 10, Hannity discussed the interview on his radio show, saying that it wasn’t the Russians who gave WikiLeaks the information. Later in the show, he discussed the matter with Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft and Townhall’s Rachel Alexander. Hoft was befuddled as to why the Rich family would not want the matter politicized, saying that it could only increase the information about the murder.

    Also on August 10, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson published a video about Assange’s implication, expressing concern that Assange could be assassinated:

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also jumped on Assange’s interview on the same day, telling Mike Gallagher on August 10 that the conspiracy theory was “worth talking about.”

    WikiLeaks also issued a similarly vague statement on August 10.

    On August 11, WikiLeaks started sowing distrust in Rich’s family when it tweeted that the family’s spokesperson was a “professional Democrat” -- even though the same could be said for Rich himself.

    In the days that followed, Infowars ramped up its coverage. Watson cited a “source close to the Democratic party” who said his reporting was “on the money.” Infowars dutifully picked up Gingrich’s interview and used it to confirm its own assertions. The conspiracy theory site was particularly incensed that the Rich family would hire a spokesperson to quash conspiracy theories. And it went on to publish multiple pieces about Rich that included accounts of WikiLeaks’ assertions and implications about Rich.

    Assange would resurface and again hint that Rich was his source on the August 25 edition of The Kelly File, again declaring his interest in the case without actually saying anything about Rich himself. While Laura Ingraham and some others ran with what Assange said to Kelly File host Megyn Kelly, Fox host Greg Gutfeld hit Assange for pushing the conspiracy theory -- to the distaste of fellow Fox host Eric Bolling:

    The conspiracy theory machine would turn away from Rich for most of September and October, though during this time Hannity frequently talked with Assange on his radio show, eager for new leaks that could be damaging to Clinton. In September, Rich’s girlfriend and his family spoke with Chris Hansen of Crime Watch Daily about the case, condemning the claims. GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman also began working with the Rich family at this time, offering more than $100,000 in rewards for information. Burkman would later say that he could “rule out attempted robbery” based on his canvassing of the neighborhood.

    On October 7, The Daily Beast reported that “Russia’s senior-most officials” ordered the DNC hack. On November 2, fake news purveyor DC Gazette published a post saying that WikiLeaks’ source was neither Russia nor Seth Rich, but instead dissatisfied government staffers. On December 9, The Washington Post reported on a CIA assessment that Russia was behind leaks targetting the DNC, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.

    This Post story would touch off a new round of conspiracy theories about Rich, and once again they began with Louise Mensch’s Heat Street. On December 14, the site aggregated comments on Twitter saying that it was Seth Rich and not Russia that provided WikiLeaks with the emails. The piece offered no theory as to how Rich could have gotten access to DCCC or Podesta emails; indeed, it’s unclear from the story if the author even understood that there were multiple hacks, even though Mensch herself turned up in the hacked Podesta emails (which the piece did not disclose). Weeks after this post, it was announced that Mensch had left Heat Street in “mid-December.” There is no indication if Mensch was still at Heat Street when this post was published.

    On December 15, Craig Murray, a “close associate” of Julian Assange, told the Daily Mail that he was a middleman for the leaks and that the handoff took place in D.C. in September. People immediately began tying Rich to Murray, even though Murray’s supposed handoff date (of which there was no evidence) took place months after Rich was murdered.

    Later that day on the radio, Hannity would cite Murray’s account as evidence that Russians were not behind the hacking. Later in the program, Hannity brought up Fox contributor John Bolton’s conspiracy theory from December 12 that if something looked like it was the Russians hacking, it might actually be a false flag in which someone made it look like it was the Russians. Assange agreed with the theory on Hannity’s show: 

    Hannity also called Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) an “idiot” for saying that Russians were involved in hacking:

    Weeks later, on January 3, Hannity returned to Rich, again saying that Rich may have been the source for Wikileaks:

    On January 6, U.S. officials released a report saying that Russians were behind the hacking. Suddenly, Hannity admitted that Russians have been hacking Americans for years:

    On January 12, Guccifer 2.0 denied the report that Russia was behind the hacking.

    Once again, the conspiracy mill died down, with occasional posts on 4chan and Reddit keeping the conspiracy theory alive.

    On February 27, Jack Burkman, the GOP lobbyist who at one point was allied with the Rich family, told the Daily Mail that he had evidence that the Russians killed Rich because Rich had evidence that they were the ones behind the hacking. Burkman’s only source was a “former U.S. intelligence officer” -- “an older man, 65-70 years old, who claims to have been a contractor in Iraq in the 1970s.” None of Rich’s friends or family members have given any indication that Rich had such an explosive secret.

    In mid-March, Stone admitted contact with Guccifer 2.0, but he claimed it was innocuous.

    On March 23, Burkman talked to Sinclair station WJLA in Washington, D.C., about launching a new investigation. Claiming that the investigation would be launched out of “the Seth Rich Center for Investigations” in Arlington, VA, Burkman now claimed to have a team including “a forensic physiologist, a security specialist and George Washington grad students.” But the piece also noted that the Rich family had no part in this effort.

    On April 8, a new conspiracy theory emerged alleging that Guccifer 2.0 was the middleman between RIch and WikiLeaks. Model Robbin Young published screenshots on her website of a purported direct message conversation she had with Guccifer 2.0 from August 25. In it, Guccifer 2.0 claimed that the DNC leak came from someone named “Seth” and responded affirmatively when Young talked about Rich’s murder. WikiLeaks, the subreddit “r/The Donald,” Gateway Pundit, Heat Street, and others immediately ran with the claim.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The conspiracy theory came to its most public stage on May 15. That was a week after Obama intelligence chief James Clapper and former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified before the Senate partially on issues relating to Russian hacking, days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey as a result of the Russian investigation, and hours after The Washington Post reported that Trump gave highly classified information to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office that compromised a valuable intelligence source.

    On that day, Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler told Fox 5 DC, a station owned and operated by Fox News’ parent company, that he had evidence that Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks.

    Sean Hannity pushed the story on his Twitter account shortly after midnight, including by quote-tweeting a vague allegedly hacked email of Podesta’s:

    After retweeting a video of the Fox 5 segment, Hannity affirmatively quote-tweeted someone claiming that Assange had previously said that Rich was his source (which, again, Assange had never actually said).

    The story exploded as conservatives latched onto a tale that ostensibly showed that the focus on Russia was misplaced. Drudge put the story on the top of the site. The subreddit “r/The Donald” went crazy. Pro-Trump media pushed the story hard. Fox News joined in on Tuesday morning. By 10 a.m., Hannity was lashing out at CNN's Oliver Darcy for noticing the trend.

    Hannity then quote-tweeted Robbin Young, whose story about Seth Rich was different from the one Wheeler was pushing and that Hannity was touting. (Guccifer 2.0 claimed that they served as the middleman between Rich and Wikileaks; Assange had implied and Wheeler had stated that Rich was in touch with WikiLeaks directly.) At no point then or later did Hannity ever seem to notice the discrepancy.

    At one point, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson even claimed that the Washington Post story about Trump giving highly classified information to the Russians was a hoax intended to cover up the Rich story -- a claim based on Watson completely misreading time stamps on the stories (the Post’s went up before the Fox 5 piece did).

    But soon, the Rich story fell completely apart. The Fox station admitted on May 16 that D.C. police said that Wheeler’s claim was false. Wheeler’s contact with the Rich family turned out to be frequent Fox News guest and Breitbart author Ed Butowsky. Wheeler himself admitted to CNN that he actually had no evidence. Wheeler instead claimed that his comments were reflective of the FoxNews.com piece that ran. Fox News’ piece, by Malia Zimmerman, cited Wheeler as the source of the claim.

    And yet, the transparent bullshit was still enough for pro-Trump media. On May 16, echoing Benghazi conspiracy theories, Gateway Pundit claimed there was a “stand down” order given to police regarding the Rich investigation. An “alt-right” troll asked Trump himself about Rich in the White House, getting no response. Anonymous posts on 4chan linked Rich to Pizzagate, Antonin Scalia’s death, Michael Hastings’ death, and even Media Matters. An anonymous post on 8chan even suggested that Rich was illegally surveilled and then improperly unmasked by former national security adviser Susan Rice.

    Lou Dobbs on Fox Business picked up the line of attack on Rich’s family that had previously begun with WikiLeaks and Infowars, saying there was “a partisan shroud” on Rich’s family:

    Later on May 16, Hannity even declared that Rich’s murder “could become one of the biggest scandals in American history”:

    Later in the show, Hannity talked with American Center for Law and Justice’s Jay Sekulow and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, focusing on the media being wrong about Russia. Hannity continually brought Rich into the conversation:

    Hannity then had Wheeler himself on the show. Wheeler continued pushing the conspiracy theory, even while admitting that he never had seen the evidence.

    The next day, even more claims collapsed. Newsweek reported that the FBI is not investigating Rich’s death, contra Wheeler’s claims, and a family spokesperson confirmed that D.C. police found no evidence of stolen emails ever being on Rich’s laptop. Fox 5 added an editor’s note that Wheeler had backtracked from claims that he made, but it did not retract the story. The story was in shambles. The Rich family demanded full retractions from Fox 5 and Fox News.

    Still, conservative media persisted.

    On May 18, after Mediaite published a post highlighting people mocking Hannity, Hannity again tweeted his belief in the conspiracy.

    Hannity then discussed the case at length on his show, re-airing Assange’s Dutch TV interview and previous radio interviews.

    On May 19, the Rich family sent a cease-and-desist letter to Rod Wheeler.

    The Russian Embassy in the U.K. trolled everyone when it stated as a fact that Rich was WikiLeaks’ source. Meanwhile, Infowars claimed that The Washington Post was reporting on the Comey memos only as a distraction from the Rich story.

    May 19 is also when Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom inserted himself into the story. Dotcom alleged that he had bombshell information on the case. As Dotcom, who lives in New Zealand, is fighting extradition to the United States to avoid trial for charges including conspiracy to commit racketeering, nearly everyone on the planet saw through the ruse, save for Sean Hannity.

    Hannity brought up the conspiracy theory again that night on his show with Jay Sekulow, apparently just for the purpose of saying that it is important because if true, it would clear Russia entirely.

    Over the weekend, it got even stranger.

    Stone escalated attacks on Rich’s parents, claiming on his radio show Stone Cold Truth they were engaging in “suspicious” behavior.

    Stone also told obvious lies. For instance, he claimed that Craig Murray said Rich was his source. First, Murray did not mention Rich in his comments about serving as a middleman for the emails. Second, Murray said he met his source in September, months after Rich had already been murdered. Third, nothing about what Murray actually did say is credible in the least -- there’s no evidence and nothing has been corroborated. There were other factual errors as well, though “Roger Stone says something factually incorrect” is the rule, not the exception.

    “Dumbest man on the internet” Jim Hoft jumped head-first into the Dotcom conspiracy, even one-upping Hannity by picking up an anonymous 4chan poster whose only claim to knowledge is “I work in D.C.” The post claimed there’s a “panic” in D.C. over the Rich conspiracy theory that right-wing media had been pressing.

    The following day, Hannity would echo this post:

    Hannity even admitted that it was about the Russia story:

    Also on Sunday, Newt Gingrich joined Fox & Friends Sunday and stated outright that Rich was WikiLeaks’ source for DNC emails, even though he had avoided that conclusion in August. Pro-Trump media jumped to promote the interview.

    Another Gateway Pundit post took a video that the Rich family did thanking donors to a GoFundMe campaign and stated that it was actually done to thank conservative media for pushing the conspiracy.

    Elsewhere, self-described “rogue journalist” Caitlin Johnstone said that someone had edited Rich’s Reddit posts. Soon after, she added a “retraction” note to the post following a statement from the Pandas For Bernie Facebook group.

    Early on May 22, Assange was still playing coy about Rich and WikiLeaks

    But by this point, the story was getting attention in the mainstream media -- but only as a conspiracy theory run amok in right-wing media. As Hannity’s conspiracy-mongering had drawn attention, he became a focal point of criticism. The Daily Beast ran a story about Fox News personalities embarrassed by Hannity’s actions.

    Hannity was undeterred:

    On his radio show, Hannity said that he was right about Rich because he had been right about Trayvon Martin, the black teenager shot and killed while walking through a Florida neighborhood:

    (He wasn’t right about Trayvon Martin, by the way.)

    Geraldo Rivera, a perpetual gadfly when it comes to pushing terrible things, also jumped on the conspiracy.

    Elsewhere, the subreddit “r/The Donald” announced plans for a march on D.C. about Rich’s death on its anniversary, claiming 1.1 million people could show up.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On May 23, everything came to a head. Rich’s brother personally asked Hannity to stop pushing the conspiracy theories. Shortly thereafter, Fox News retracted its story about Rich, the one that Rod Wheeler originally cited as the basis for his story. A statement from Fox News said that the story did not meet the site’s editorial standards.

    And yet after all of this, Hannity continued to push the story on his radio show.

    On Twitter, Hannity ecstatically promoted Kim Dotcom’s “revelation,” which was a big nothingburger.

    The Rich family then published an op-ed in The Washington Post begging commentators to stop pushing conspiracy theories about their son.

    Hannity then tweeted about the op-ed as if it wasn’t just about him

    Shortly before his television show, Hannity tweeted that he still stood behind everything he had said on the topic, but also that he just was on a call with three of his attorneys:

    On his show, Hannity said that he was stopping talking about the matter “for now” at the request of the Rich family:

    And yet before his show was over, Hannity hinted on Twitter that he was still looking at the story.

    He even retweeted gratuitous praise from Kim Dotcom.

    Meanwhile, Oliver Darcy, who followed the story closely from the beginning, had a list of good unanswered questions for Fox News about Hannity’s despicable and ghoulish actions.

    Hannity then begged for fans to spread the conspiracy theory.

    By morning, a Republican congressman was echoing Hannity.

    Newt Gingrich, after pushing the conspiracy both in August and again on May 21, suddenly said that he didn’t know anything about it, telling The Washington Post, “I don’t know anything about it. … I know exactly what has been said on the various blog sites. ... I think it is worth looking at.”

    The retractions and hedging were much too little and far too late. In the bowels of pro-Trump media, Hannity had become a martyr and the Seth Rich conspiracy theory was gospel.

    The enduring tragedy of the episode is that the Rich family will likely have to live with this delusion bubbling up for a very long time. Even worse, pro-Trump media will say that they are part of it.

    No family deserves that.

    Research assistance provided by Bobby Lewis

  • Fox News shrugs while Sean Hannity has a meltdown over Seth Rich conspiracy

    Hannity is a loose cannon

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After going to the wall for a week on the email hack conspiracy theory about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, Fox News' Sean Hannity suddenly said Tuesday night that he was going to stop pushing it “for now.”

    The hollowness of Hannity’s line was immediately apparent. Minutes after saying that he would stop "out of respect for the family's wishes,” indeed even before his show was over, Hannity returned to the conspiracy theory on Twitter.

    Hours later, Hannity retweeted praise from Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who is furiously fighting extradition from his home in New Zealand to the United States, adding a #Justice4SethRich hashtag.

    (Earlier yesterday, Dotcom had posted an evidence-free document purporting that Rich was involved in the hacking of DNC emails.)

    Hannity then asked his followers to retweet his promise to stay on the story.

    In the morning, Hannity went on a Twitter tirade against Media Matters.

    He also promised again to stay on the Seth Rich story.

    Meanwhile, Fox News is letting Hannity go wild with no apparent repercussions for pushing the vile conspiracy theory, which has caused great pain for Rich’s family. NBC’s Thomas Roberts reported that one source at Fox News simply said, “Hannity beats to his own drum.”

    This statement from someone at Fox comports with previous reporting about Hannity’s status at Fox. Oliver Darcy reported for Business Insider in 2016 that Hannity was “living on an island of his own” at Fox News. Apparently that's so true that he can brazenly boast that he’ll keep entertaining his obsession with a stale 4chan conspiracy even though it undermines Fox’s public statements. The networks' attempts to walk back the Hannity-fueled mess has left his colleagues ashamed to work with him.  

    This isn’t the first time Hannity has put his own interests ahead of Fox News’. In 2016, Hannity appeared in a Trump campaign ad without permission from his employer. In 2014, Hannity used his Fox News show to promote a paid sponsor of his radio show, which is tantamount to theft in the media business.

  • Fox uses Manchester terror attack by UK native to justify Trump's Muslim ban

    That doesn’t even make sense

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News used a deadly terror attack that killed 22 at a concert in Manchester, England, to advocate for President Donald Trump’s stalled Muslim ban, which would ban travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries. But this argument makes no sense given that Trump's ban doesn't apply to citizens and the attack was carried out by a U.K. native who was born in Manchester.

  • Seth Rich’s brother demands Sean Hannity stop pushing baseless conspiracy theories

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Seth Rich’s brother has sent a letter to Sean Hannity’s executive producer demanding Hannity stop pushing “false conspiracy theories” about Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was murdered in what police say was likely a botched robbery.

    Hannity, a long-time conspiracy theorist, has used a discredited report from a Fox affiliate about Rich to push the baseless claim that he was connected to WikiLeaks and that his murder was related to it. Though the report has been debunked, Hannity has repeatedly pushed the claim, and other Fox News figures have also made the same baseless claim. Rich’s family has since sent a cease and desist letter to the Fox contributor who was behind the affiliate report and demanded a retraction from the affiliate.

    In the letter to Hannity executive producer Porter Berry, obtained by CNN, Seth’s brother Aaron Rich wrote it was “a travesty that you would prompt false conspiracy theories and other people's agendas rather than work with the family to learn the truth.” He also demanded that Hannity, who has been pushing Rich conspiracy theories from dubious figure Kim Dotcom, “not provide a platform for a person who is known to have pushed false evidence,” as it would “cause us additional pain, suffering and sorrow.” CNN also reported that Hannity “had not reached out to the [Rich] family.” From the May 23 report:

    The brother of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich wrote a letter on Tuesday to the executive producer of Sean Hannity's Fox News show pleading with him to find "decency and kindness" in his heart and stop spreading an unproven conspiracy theory about the unsolved murder.

    "Think about how you would feel losing a son or brother. And while dealing with this, you had baseless accusations of your lost family member being part of a vast conspiracy," Aaron Rich wrote in the letter to "Hannity" executive producer Porter Berry, a copy of which was provided to CNN.

    "As the family, we would hope to be the first people to learn about any such evidence and reasons for Seth's death," he added. "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."

    [...]

    Brad Bauman, the Rich family spokesman, told CNN on Monday that Hannity had not reached out to the family. Hannity did, however, reach out over the weekend to invite Kim Dotcom, the Megaupload founder, on to his program.

    [...]

    "As such, we urge you to please, not provide a platform for a person who is known to have pushed false evidence in the past and not allow him to make a mistake like that here," Aaron Rich wrote. "Nobody wants to solve Seth's murder more than we do. However, providing a platform to spread potentially false, damaging information will cause us additional pain, suffering and sorrow. By airing this information, you will continue to emotionally hurt us."

    "We appeal to your decency to not cause a grieving family more pain and suffering by allowing your platform to be used by someone to drag our family name through the mud," the letter concluded.

  • These are Sean Hannity's advertisers

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Sean Hannity is a professional propagandist for President Donald Trump, as well as a bigot, a sexist, and a conspiracy theorist. As host of Fox News’ Hannity, he has used his platform to advocate for authoritarian tactics toward the press, defend Trump's obstruction of the investigation into collusion between the president's associates and Russia, and attack judges who have ruled against Trump’s Muslim bans. Below is a list of companies that have advertised during Hannity's Fox News show since May 1:

  • 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.

  • 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.