Although Fox News seems to have halted for now its promotion of the baseless conspiracy theory about the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, it has yet to apologize for the pain the network has caused the family. And while Fox staffers have reportedly cringed with embarrassment at the story, the Murdoch family, which controls Fox News, has remained silent.
Last night, after the Rich family made some heart-wrenching pleas to Fox News and the public about the “nightmare” caused by the right-wing media's conspiracy theories - that Seth Rich had been murdered after leaking DNC documents to Wikileaks - Sean Hannity had some short-lived moments of decency and backed off his discussion of the story.
But before the Hannity show had finished airing, he was back to promoting it again on Twitter.
It just so happens that Hannity’s obsession with Rich’s murder coincides with another far-fetched belief: that Rich’s murder could “completely shatter the narrative” that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential race.
Meanwhile, earlier that day, FoxNews.com had retracted its report on the story saying, “The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.”
Indeed, you have to wonder what level of editorial scrutiny had been done by Fox News. The Rich family explained yesterday what is known so far:
We know that Seth was abruptly confronted on the street, that he had been on the phone and quickly ended the call. We also know that there were signs of a struggle, including a watchband torn when the assailants attempted to rip it off his wrist. Law-enforcement officials told us that Seth’s murder looked like a botched robbery attempt in which the assailants — after shooting our son — panicked, immediately ran and abandoned Seth’s personal belongings. We have seen no evidence, by any person at any time, that Seth’s murder had any connection to his job at the Democratic National Committee or his life in politics. Anyone who claims to have such evidence is either concealing it from us or lying.
We know that Seth’s personal email and his personal computer were both inspected by detectives early in the investigation and that the inspection revealed no evidence of any communications with anyone at WikiLeaks or anyone associated with WikiLeaks. Nor did that inspection reveal any evidence that Seth had leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks or to anyone else. Indeed, those who have suggested that Seth’s role as a data analyst at the DNC gave him access to a wide trove of emails are simply incorrect — Seth’s job was to develop analytical models to encourage voters to turn out to vote. He didn’t have access to DNC emails, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails, John Podesta’s emails or Hillary Clinton’s emails. That simply wasn’t his job.
Last night, CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter said the network had reached out to Fox News for some answers about its editorial oversight but received no response.
In the same newsletter, CNN’s Dylan Byers noted the bind the Murdochs are in:
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.
As Media Matters reported today, NBC’s Thomas Roberts said on Today, “I spoke to several sources at Fox, none of which that wanted to give me much on background except for one line: that ‘Hannity beats to his own drum.’”
As I’ve previously reported, Fox has long given free rein to Hannity’s lack of journalistic scruples: Terri Schiavo, Cliven Bundy, Hillary Clinton’s health, Bill Clinton and Jeffrey Epstein, Obama birtherism are just some notable examples. Will Fox finally start imposing some basic standards of truth and decency?
Your guess is as good as mine.
In the meanwhile, Fox and Hannity owe the Rich family a lot more than just sort-of silence.
Watch Roberts discuss the Rich story below, from the May 24, 2017 Today, via Media Matters.
(Hannity image via screen grab)
Fox “News” employees are complaining about this old, Long Island hawk to whomever will listen. It’s time to take the complaints to as many media outlets as possible. Tell the world about Hannie’s little habits behind close doors.
NOTE TO MURDOCH BOYS
Read Hannity’s Tweets and ask yourselves if he’s a sane man. He’s blaming Clinton and Soros for losing advertisers. He’s sick and needs professional help. Let him go.