Fox News host Sean Hannity is again in the crosshairs of liberal outrage after he presented a story about Seth Rich, the former Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer who was gunned down in Washington, D.C., last July. Various sources have suggested that Rich was the source behind the DNC emails leaked to WikiLeaks that made a huge stir last summer. His family has denied the story.
After the liberal group Media Matters released a list of companies which advertise on Hannity’s show, many advertisers announced they would boycott the show. Hannity announced he would go on vacation, and of course rumors flew that Fox News had cut its most famous host. Following the release of Bill O’Reilly, this seemed plausible.
Here are five things to know about the recent Sean Hannity scandal.
1. The Seth Rich story.
Last week, Fox News published a story reporting that Seth Rich had sent 44,053 DNC emails to WikiLeaks, citing a nameless federal investigator who reportedly had access to Rich’s computer following the DNC staffer’s death. The story also emphasized that while Rich’s murder was ruled a “botched robbery,” the killers did not take “his wallet, cell phone, keys, watch or necklace worth about $2,000.”
But the Rich family requested that Fox News and other outlets pull such stories until there is evidence to support them. Fox News removed the story from their website Tuesday.
“The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting,” the network announced in a statement on Tuesday. “Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards.” The statement promised to continue to investigate the story and provide updates.
Hannity, on his radio show Tuesday, bolstered the story, adding that “this issue is so big now that the entire Russia collusion narrative is hanging by a thread.” The argument goes that the DNC emails were leaked by the Russians, but if Rich was behind the leaks instead, the Russian collusion angle falls apart.
Hannity also promoted notorious Internet entrepreneur and hacker Kim Schmitz, better known as Kim Dotcom. The hacker claims to know for certain that Rich was the source behind the leaks, and released an official statement to that effect on Tuesday.
Hannity even went so far as teasing a “huge announcement tonight about Seth Rich, Trump/Russia Collusion corrupt media, the liberal effort to silence me. And my future at Fox!” on Tuesday afternoon.
2. Hannity’s Tuesday night show.
But on Tuesday night, Hannity seemed to renege on his promise. “Out of respect for the family’s wishes now, I am not discussing this matter at this time,” the Fox host said. He only insisted that “the ‘destroy Trump’ media and the Democrats have been pushing Russian tinfoil hat conspiracy theory with zero evidence.”
According to Aaron Rich, Seth Rich’s brother, Hannity had planned to have Kim Dotcom on the show Tuesday night. Aaron Rich wrote a letter asking Hannity not to invite Dotcom on the show.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) May 23, 2017
“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. He insisted that if Hannity put Dotcom on television, it would only harm the Rich family.
Hannity seems to have accepted this argument, and he said he would not discuss the story then.
But Hannity promised to continue to investigate the matter, writing, “I am closer to the TRUTH than ever.”
While Hannity kept up his research, the liberals were planning a powerful attack.
3. Media Matters launches a boycott.
On Tuesday afternoon, the liberal organization Media Matters for America (MMFA) released an extensive list of advertisers for Hannity’s show. MMFA characterized Hannity as a “professional propagandist for President Donald Trump, as well as a bigot, a sexist, and a conspiracy theorist.”
BuzzFeed News reported that at least seven advertisers had boycotted the show as of Thursday afternoon. These companies include USAA, Cars.com, the mattress companies Casper and Leesa Sleep, the video doorbell company Ring, the cycling studio Peloton, and Crowne Plaza Hotels.
USAA, a financial service for the military community, announced it pulled its commercials because Hannity’s show is an “opinion show.”
“USAA advertises on news programs, but advertising on opinion shows is not in accordance with our policy,” USAA tweeted Wednesday. “We are no longer advertising in relation to Hannity. Thank you!”
We are no longer advertising in relation to Hannity. Thank you!
— USAA (@USAA_help) May 25, 2017
“Cars.com’s media buy strategies are designed to reach as many consumers are possible across a wide spectrum of media channels,” a Cars.com spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “The fact that we advertise on a particular program doesn’t mean that we agree or disagree, or support or oppose, the content. We don’t have the ability to influence content at the time we make our advertising purchase. In this case, we’ve been watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity.”
“We do not advertise on Fox News, Hannity or any political commentary show,” Crowne Plaza Hotels said in a statement. “We have a specific do not advertise list for this type of programming. Unfortunately, our expectation to adhere to this list was not met by a third-party agency. Since we learned of the airings, we addressed the issue immediately and terminated our relationship with the agency. We have no plans to advertise on Fox News for the foreseeable future.”
Despite these moves, many more companies have either refused to make a decision or have announced that they will not pull ads from Hannity’s show.
My Pillow said it had no plans to remove ads at this time. Reelz told BuzzFeed News that the company “believes in free speech and does not participate in boycotts of any kind.” Mercedez-Benz said its “rule of thumb is that we do not pull our ads based on editorial content. Our feeling is that a variety of viewpoints is part of the natural discourse that takes place in a free media.”
4. Hannity’s response, and an announced vacation.
On Twitter, Hannity reported that he “spoke to many advertisers,” who said they “are being inundated with Emails to stop advertising on my show. This is Soros/Clinton/Brock liberal fascism.”
Hannity shot back in an interview with HuffPost. “There is an attempt, at this moment in time, to absolutely shut down the Fox News Channel and render it, frankly, a shadow of its former self. I’m like the last, sole remaining person there from the old guard,” he noted, following the departure of Bill O’Reilly and the passing of former Fox CEO Roger Ailes.
The Fox host argued that his critics probably “don’t want me around for the 2018 and the 2020 elections. So I do believe if they can shut me down, silence me, there’s political benefits for them.”
“There’s nothing that I did, nothing that I said, except they don’t like my position politically,” Hannity continued. “They’ll try to ratchet up the intensity of their rationale. It does not justify an attempt to get me fired. And that’s what this is. This is an attempt to take me out. This is a kill shot.”
CNN reporter Oliver Darcy announced that Kimberly Guilfoyle would be filling in for Sean Hannity, who will be going on vacation for two days this weekend. Darcy ended the tweet saying, “Unclear if preplanned.”
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) May 25, 2017
Some other liberal users on Twitter chimed in, pushing the rumor that Hannity’s vacation is the beginning of the end of his show. “Hannity takes abrupt vacation after seven advertisers pull out of his show for reporting #fakenews,” an outspoken member of the liberal “resistance” tweeted.
— Strictly supports @AOC and Bernie🌹⚖️ (@christoq) May 25, 2017
After all, Bill O’Reilly had announced a vacation shortly before his eventual departure from Fox News.
Hannity demolished these rumors in no uncertain terms. “Uh oh My ANNUAL Memorial Day long weekend starts NOW. Destroy Trump/Conservative media breathless coverage starts! Did Hannity do last show?” the host tweeted.
5. Fox News stands by their man.
In a statement Thursday, Fox News officially quashed the rumor. “Like the rest of the country, Sean Hannity is taking a vacation for Memorial Day weekend and will be back on Tuesday,” the network declared. “Those who suggest otherwise are going to look foolish.”
“Hannity” generates millions of dollars in ad revenue for Fox News. In 2016, the show brought in approximately $65.7 million, according to Kantar Media. That represented a 17 percent increase from the approximately $56.1 million the show brought in over 2015.
Fox News wasn’t alone in defending Hannity, either. Media Research Center President Brent Bozell declared that “the attack on Sean Hannity is a part of the liberal strategy to re-establish their monopoly over television news.”
“We now see elements of corporate America joining in the liberal cause and advancing the liberal strategy,” Bozell lamented. “These corporations are not serving the interests of their customers. Sponsoring a free, meaningful dialogue based on mutual respect reflects what happens among consumers in every life.”
“It is especially disappointing that an upstanding company like USAA would so easily succumb to the pressure of left-wing extremists,” Bozell added. He argued that when such companies cave to this pressure, “it merely makes them servants of the politically correct.”
“For decades, Sean Hannity has been a fierce supporter of the military at every turn,” Bozell wrote, addressing USAA directly. “And this is how you treat him? We have remained silent for far too long. A bridge has been crossed. Stay tuned.”
So far, very few of the advertisers on Hannity’s show have pulled their ads. Media Matters should be ashamed and terrified. It would not be surprising for Media Matters or some other liberal activists to reintroduce the extremely tenuous sex scandal allegations launched by Debbie Schlussel last month. The Left is out for another Fox News scalp, and they likely will not stop at this defeat.