Fox News host and non-journalist Sean Hannity’s relentless pushing of a baseless conspiracy theory about the murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer which he is trying to link to the Hillary Clinton campaign – a story that has been completely discredited by the authorities – has become a major embarrassment for the real reporters and editors at Fox News.
The Daily Beast interviewed a number of Fox News staff, all of whom requested anonymity to preserve their jobs, and found them unanimous in being “aghast at the network’s ongoing coddling of the baseless story.”
“The other reporters I’ve talked to [about this] are similarly pissed about the whole thing,” said a Fox reporter. “Some find it embarrassing, others downright heartless.”
The story they are pushing is that Seth Rich, a 27-year-old DNC staffer, was murdered last summer at Clinton’s behest because he had been feeding inside info to Wikileaks. Although Washington, D.C. police believe Rich was killed in a botched robbery, the conspiracy theory has been fed by shadowy comments from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.”
All of this was hashed out months ago but recently returned when a private investigator appeared on Hannity’s show claiming he had found proof Rich leaked information to Wikileaks.
That set off a round of further discussion by Hannity, Breitbart, Fox News, Drudge and other right-wing conspiracy theorists.
The private detective backed away from his story after receiving a legal letter from the Rich family, which also went to Hannity. It asked them to “stop [manipulating] the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda.”
Even that hasn’t stopped Hannity from running with more crazy theories.
The Fox reporters say that is “heartless,” because the victim’s family has repeatedly asked Fox and Hannity to stop dredging up the painful memories and said in interviews that the alt-right fringe’s reporting is just wrong.
“So much of the conspiracy theory has been dependent on the allegation of federal investigators being involved,” said Brad Bauman, a spokesman for Rich’s family, told ABC News “and the fact that the FBI has not and never had been involved with this investigation is critical to understanding just how false these conspiracy theories are.”
Another Fox reporter told The Daily Beast he is “befuddled” that the network has not put an end to Hannity’s “incessant support for, and coverage of, this particular conspiracy theory.”
Fox in the past has made a distinction between its actual “journalist” and right-wing pundits like Hannity who do commentary. That distinction was especially clear during the 2016 election when Hannity openly promoted Trump while acting as an advisor to his campaign
Hannity’s latest efforts are tied to his efforts to clear Trump of the charges that he and/or his campaign conspired wth the Russians to swing the 2016 election to him.
What Hannity and the right wing echo chamber (Breitbart, etc.) are saying is that if they are right, then blame Hillary for the Russian interference, not Trump.
Now, adds the Daily Beast, even some of the opinion pundits on Fox News are disgusted about the conspiracy talk, calling it “absurd” and describing Hannity’s antics as “unhinged.”
Among pundits who support the conspiracy theories are Geraldo Rivera and Newt Gingrich. The former House Speaker who has been a strong Trump supporter (his wife was just appointed Ambassador to the Vatican) went on Fox & Friends on Sunday and repeated all the baseless claims.
He is also looking to use the conspiracy to clear Trump of the Russia investigation.
It is all too much for the people who actually do the work at Fox, especially coming on top of so much turmoil recently at the network which has seen the exit of Megan Kelly, the firing of Bill O’Reilly and the firing and then death of Roger Ailes.
“Several staffers said there exists a general sense of exhaustion from the network’s endless stream of controversies,” reports The Daily Beast, “from sexual harassment and racial discrimination lawsuits to the scandal-plagued ousting of several executives and prime time stars.”
“Mostly we’re keeping out heads down,” a politics reporter told The Daily Beast, adding: “I mean, have you seen some of the stuff we put on air?”
How long Hannity can stay on the air in the next question. His relentless pounding of the Rich conspiracy has continued while competitors at CNN and MSNBC have been covering the many bad news stories surrounding Trump, including the Russia campaign interference investigation and appointment of a special prosecutor.
While CNN and MSNBC ratings have risen, Hannity and Fox’s have done a deep dive that continues. Fox is still among the top cable news networks in total viewers but its days of total dominance are now history, and hopefully, Hannity will also soon be swept onto the dust heap of history.