At least five advertising firms have pulled their commercials from the Sean Hannity Show on Fox News following the television host’s coverage of a false murder conspiracy. On Tuesday of last week, Hannity reiterated a now-debunked theory regarding the death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee employee who was gunned down last summer in Washington, D.C. While local police suspect the shooting to be a botched robbery, Hannity claimed that Rich was murdered over his alleged ties to WikiLeaks. Moreover, Hannity argued on Twitter that the story could potentially discount any evidence of collusion between Russian officials and the Trump administration leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election:
On May 16, the same day that Hannity referenced the conspiracy on air, an article featuring similar claims was published on the Fox News website. The site later retracted the article on May 23, saying it “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” By then, the story of alleged ties between WikiLeaks and Rich’s murder had reached major conservative news outlets like Drudge and Breitbart.
On the day of the retraction, Hannity told Fox viewers that he would no longer be reporting on Rich’s murder, not because of its inaccuracy, but because of a request from the deceased victim’s family. “Please do not interpret what I’m saying tonight to mean anything,” he said. “Don’t read into this. I promise you, I am not going to stop doing my job. To the extent of my ability, I am not going to stop trying to find the truth.” Hannity later told The Huffington Post that the decision to suspend his reporting came from his heart rather than any network pressure. He added: “Nobody tells me what to say on my show. They never have and, frankly, they never will.”