NBC's Thomas Roberts details Fox News and Sean Hannity's role in spreading Seth Rich conspiracy
Roberts: Despite Fox's retraction and Hannity saying he'd stop "for now," the Fox host sent out a tweet saying he's "not giving up at all"
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From the May 24 edition of NBC's Today:
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HODA KOTB: One offshoot of the Russian investigation is a wild conspiracy theory about the fatal shooting of a Democratic National Committee staffer. Now his family is speaking out. NBC's Thomas Roberts is here with that story. Hey Thomas, good morning.
THOMAS ROBERTS: Good morning, a lot to talk about here because we do have intelligence officials making it clear that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC and funneling stolen emails to Wikileaks. But there are false stories about a potential connection to that murdered Democratic staffer and they've recently been amplified by Fox News and Sean Hannity. Now the network and the host are coming under fire. Overnight, Fox News's Sean Hannity appearing to back down.
SEAN HANNITY: Out of respect for the family's wishes, for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time.
ROBERTS: Stepping back from a false story about a Democratic staffer, Seth Rich, who was shot and killed last summer. Police suspect it was a robbery gone wrong, but the murder mystery has sparked wild conspiracy theories claiming his death was linked to last year's hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
Hannity has come under fire for reporting a Fox News story published last week suggesting Rich was a source of the internal DNC emails published by Wikileaks and implying he was killed because of it. The network retracted the story Tuesday. Fox says it was not subjected to a high degree of editorial scrutiny. And overnight the host offering his sympathy saying he reached out to Seth's brother.
Before his show was over, the outspoken host took to Twitter, saying "TO BE CLEAR, I am closer to the truth than ever. Not only am I not stopping, I am working harder. Updates when available. Stay tuned!" The bogus story catching fire after former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich discussed it on Fox.
NEWT GINGRICH: You have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee who apparently was assassinated.
ROBERTS: The Fox retraction came hours before The Washington Post published a scathing op-ed by Seth Rich's parents that reads in part, "Every day we wake up to new headlines, new lies, new factual errors, new people approaching us to take advantage of us and Seth's legacy." Rich's parents are calling the conspiracies “baseless” and “unspeakably cruel,” writing, "We are forced to relive Seth's murder, and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth's memory is torn away from us."
So, in a statement, the Rich family addressed Sean Hannity thanking him for respecting their wishes, but this morning we have Sean Hannity sending out several tweets about this matter, one saying "Not giving up at all. I'm working harder than ever to get to the truth the family wants and deserves. Stay tuned." Also Media Matters, which is a progressive media outlet, has put together a list of his advertisers. They have been successful in the past of trying to get folks to boycott certain hosts at Fox News, and he's taken aim at them. I spoke to several sources at Fox, none of which that wanted to give me much on background except for one line that "Hannity beats to his own drum."
So we'll see where it goes, but for right now, the controversy continues and the Rich family would really like answers.