- Mike Segar/Reuters
Fox News host Sean Hannity slammed his critics as “hypocrites” after the network retracted a local affiliate’s story on slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.
Fox 5 in Washington, DC had reported that private investigator Rod Wheeler, who is affiliated with the Rich family, said that before Rich was fatally shot in July, he was in contact with WikiLeaks, the website that was responsible for the release of internal DNC emails last year. Hannity frequently discussed the story on TV and online, and he seems to be sticking by it even after Fox’s retraction.
“All you in the liberal media, I am not Fox.com or FoxNews.com, I retracted nothing,” Hannity said on his radio show Tuesday afternoon.
“For those accusing me of pushing a conspiracy theory, you are the biggest phony hypocrites in the world,” he said.
Hannity seems to think that if Rich was the source of the leaked emails from DNC officials, and not Russian hackers as US intelligence agencies believe, that could be a blow to accusations that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians to sway the presidential election.
“If in fact, take Seth out of it, there was a whistleblower within the DNC, a truth-teller that actually was the source for WikiLeaks, and not Russia working with the Trump campaign, these are questions that I have a moral obligation to ask and I will do the mainstream media’s job like I have most of my career,” Hannity said.
The Metropolitan Police Department is still investigating Rich’s murder and has said there is evidence which suggests Rich was the victim of a robbery gone wrong. No definitive motive for Rich’s killing has been found yet.
A number of right-leaning outlets and personalities, including Hannity, have pushed the theory that Rich’s murder was orchestrated by the DNC because he provided thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks.
Hannity and many others have pointed to Fox’s story that cited Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who is affiliated with the Rich family and apparently made the accusation that Rich had ties to WikiLeaks. These statements led some to theorize that Rich’s killing was ordered by the DNC and covered up by the Metropolitan Police Department. The police department flatly denied Wheeler’s claim.
Fox 5 published its story on May 15, and the story was picked up by Fox News’ national website on May 16. On Tuesday, Fox News removed the story from its website and released a statement saying that the story did not meet its editorial standards.
After the story was published, Wheeler told CNN that he personally had no evidence suggesting Rich had been in touch with Wikileaks before his death. “I only got that [information] from the reporter at Fox News,” Wheeler said.
He added that a quote attributed to him in the Fox News story was in reference to information the media had already reported on.
Hannity first raised questions about Rich’s murder in August 2016, speculating about the possibility that Rich was a WikiLeaks source. Hannity has repeatedly called attention to the conspiracy theory over the past week as well.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 19, 2017
Julian Assange all but identifies the 27 year old DNC worker as a source and we are to ignore this? https://t.co/PhnIJu4zEt
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 18, 2017
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 22, 2017
He has urged his followers to pay attention to the Twitter account of Kim Dotcom, a notorious internet entrepreneur who has also pushed the Rich conspiracy theory. CNN reported that Kim Dotcom currently resides in New Zealand and is wanted in the US on charges of copyright infringement and money laundering.
Hannity, who has painted Rich as a heroic victim targeted for retribution by the DNC, said on Tuesday, “I feel so badly for this family and what they have been through and what they are going through.”
But Rich’s family has repeatedly asked Hannity to stop peddling the DNC conspiracy theory.
“Think about how you would feel losing a son or brother,” Seth’s brother, Aaron, wrote in a letter to the executive producer of Hannity’s Fox News show. “And while dealing with this, you had baseless accusations of your lost family member being part of a vast conspiracy.”
Aaron Rich added that he thinks it’s a “travesty” that Hannity would “prompt false conspiracy theories and other people’s agendas rather than work with the family to learn the truth.”
In a statement provided to Business Insider last week, the Rich family’s representative Brad Bauman said, “It’s sad but unsurprising that a group of media outlets who have repeatedly lied to the American people would try and manipulate the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda.”
“I think there is a special place in hell for people like that,” Bauman added.