Sean Hannity doesn’t like to let the truth get in the way of whatever he happens to be saying. This week, that tendency took the form of the Fox News host cajoling a debunked conspiracy theory surrounding the unsolved 2016 murder of Seth Rich from the shadows of the internet and plunking it down on cable news. The story of Rich, a 27-year-old DNC staffer who was killed last year, has titillated the loons online—and now on Fox—with conspiratorial possibility. I’m not going to get into the full extent of the lunacy (you can read more about it from Slate’s Will Oremus here), but the conspiratorial gist is that the Clintons had Rich murdered because he “knew too much” and had been in contact with WikiLeaks, and you can see where this is going.
How flimsy is Hannity’s “investigation” into the PizzaGate-like conspiracy theory surrounding Rich’s death? On Tuesday, Fox News retracted a story on its website touting itself as an “investigation” because “[t]he article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” And the degree of editorial scrutiny at Fox News isn’t all that high to start with.
Things had gotten out of control enough, thanks to Hannity’s boost, that the Rich family began making personal appeals to the network and Hannity himself to let them grieve in peace. On Tuesday night, after a day full of promoting that what he was up to was so hot that he was about to be fired, complete with a #SaveHannity hashtag, Hannity went on air and said, at the behest of the Rich family, he would lay off the debunked story. For now. Sort of.
Here’s Hannity on Tuesday’s program:
The unsolved murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich continues to get attention. I totally and completely understand how upset and how hard this is on this family, especially over the recent coverage of Seth’s death. I’ve been communicating with them. I got a very heartfelt note. I also sent them a heartfelt note back. I reached out personally today to his brother, Aaron. I expressed my condolences over how hard and how difficult this has been for him and his family. As I told Aaron, my heart and soul and prayers—everything goes out to them in this very difficult time.
…As a father, when I saw the video of the parents online saying they want answers—I know the brother Aaron started a go fund me page, it truly pained me. However, out of respect from the family’s wishes for now—I am not discussing this matter at this time. Let me explain this. There are so many issues here. Not the least of which is the democratic push of their Russian narrative, collusion, Trump-Russia narrative. The destroy-Trump-media and Democrats, they have been pushing that tinfoil hat conspiracy with zero evidence…
See what Hannity did there? While the Rich family was imploring him to stop rooting around in their personal tragedy, Hannity made it seem as if he was working on behalf of the family to bring them closure. Hannity then launched into a false equivalency about the Russia investigation, which has been the real reason he continued to push the Rich story. Hannity is trying to conflate conspiracy with investigation in the hopes that everything will look the same. Hannity closed with this:
I want to say this to you, my loyal audience, please do not interpret what I am saying tonight to mean anything—don’t read into this. I promise you, I am not going to stop doing my job. To the extent of my ability, I’m not going to stop trying to find the truth. That’s what we do here every single day. That effort. That’s not stopping in any way, shape, matter or form. I’m continuing the work that I promise to do every day for you and at the proper time, we shall continue and talk a lot more. As for my job here at the Fox News channel, there is an effort to silence me. Media is attacking my advertising base. That’s what we have called liberal fascism. Attack, boycott, all in an effort to silence conservatives. I serve at the pleasure of the Fox News channel. I’m here to do my job every night. I’m under contract as long as they seem to want me.
That was big of you, Sean?
Or maybe not.