| Sean Hannity, who had been one of the loudest voices peddling a conspiracy theory about the murder of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich, said on his program tonight he had spoken with Rich’s brother and made a decision: “Out of respect for the family’s wishes, for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time.”
“Please do not interpret what I’m saying tonight to mean anything. Don’t read into this,” Hannity later explained. “I promise you I am not going to stop doing my job. To the extent of my ability, I am not going to stop finding the truth. … At the proper time we should continue and talk a lot more.” Hannity added: “I serve at the pleasure of the Fox News Channel and I am here to do my job every night. I am under contract. As long as they seem to want me.”
In tweets before his show aired, Hannity said he had spoken to his lawyers and said he had “so much more I know than I can discuss at this time.” After the segment, he seemed to back away from what he’d said on air, at least to some extent, tweeting that he was “closer to the TRUTH than ever” and to “stay tuned.”
Statement from the Rich family spokesman: “The Rich family thanks Sean Hannity for respecting their wishes by not giving a venue to conspiracy theorists which would only prolong the pain and anguish they have felt over the past week, and many months since Seth’s murder. We hope that Mr. Hannity will join Fox News in their rededicated commitment to editorial integrity and allow law enforcement to investigate this tragedy.” Fox News retracts: Earlier today, Fox News removed an inaccurate story that peddled a conspiracy theory about the murder of Rich. The story had remained online for almost a week after we and others pointed out basic problems with its assertions.
Here’s the full statement from the network: “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.”
Family appealed to Hannity’s “decency”: Seth Rich’s brother wrote a letter this morning to the executive producer of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show pleading with him to stop spreading the conspiracy theory…
“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.” Read the letter here…
The family also published a column in The Washington Post: “We’re Seth Rich’s parents. Stop politicizing our son’s murder.”
Steven Perlberg over at BuzzFeed notes, the Murdochs have been noticeably silent on this…
Kelly McBride in Poynter: Fox News’s retraction is a woefully inadequate response to its colossal mistake.
Tom Kludt emails: Another ad boycott brewing? Media Matters published a comprehensive list of Hannity’s “primary advertisers” this afternoon.
Dylan Byers’ take: The Murdochs have already endured a year from hell at Fox News. Now they have to think about what they’re willing to tolerate from Sean Hannity, who has crossed from partisan pundit to morally offensive conspiracy theorist. Even as Fox News retracts the Seth Rich story, even as Rich’s family implores him to stop peddling falsehoods, Hannity persists. Hannity may take great joy in the outrage he’s created, and his ability to troll his critics, but his behavior reflects on his employer as well. And whereas the Murdochs might claim that Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly’s alleged transgressions took place behind closed doors, Hannity’s shameless hawking of conspiracy theories is happening right out in the open.
The problem for the Murdochs, of course, is that they can’t afford to lose Hannity after already losing Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly. He’s the face of the network now, and their biggest ratings draw. If Fox loses him, it will have lost all three of its prime time stars in less than a six-month period.
Unanswered questions for Fox News:
– How did this happen in the first place? Why did it take so long for Fox News to correct the record?
– Will the reporter who wrote the Fox News story face any disciplinary action? What about the editor who cleared it?
– The website’s statement was noticeably missing an apology or expression of regret. Will Fox News apologize to the Rich family?
– Why is Hannity permitted to continue peddling the retracted story? Is his show subject to any editorial standards?
– Has Fox News provided guidance to its personalties like Geraldo Rivera and Newt Gingrich and shows like “Fox & Friends” — which previously promoted the theory — asking them to refrain from pushing this again?
We reached out to a Fox News spokesperson, but did not hear back…