The Republican Party has created a new species of ouroboros. The snake has become an elephant, devouring its own tail, spiraling inward in a toxic, circular feedback loop that eschews all logic, indeed all semblance of reality.
With feverish paranoia coursing through the right, it was only a matter of time before a prominent conservative pundit utterly succumbed to the madness. FOX News anchor Sean Hannity has seized this dubious honor between his teeth with all the fervor of a rabid grizzly bear.
In an increasingly unhinged series of broadcasts and tweets, Hannity has thrown his full-throated support behind a completely nonsensical conspiracy theory revolving around the murder of a former DNC staffer named Seth Rich even as his network distances itself from the rapidly unravelling delusion.
Rich was killed in a botched robbery in D.C. last year. Law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation overwhelmingly agree that it was a sad and senseless act of violence, but not an uncommon one, and certainly not part of some grand conspiracy.
Unfortunately, facts have no place in the online conspiracy bubble, and right-wing forums quickly concocted a convoluted story that tied Seth Rich to Wikileaks, DNC corruption and assassination, somehow exonerated Trump from his Russian collusion, and of course pinned the ultimate blame on that greatest of all conservative bugaboos, Hillary Clinton.
The exact details of the invented story are less important than the fact that any sensible person would disregard it after even a cursory reading. Sean Hannity is no sensible person. He’s become obsessed with the Seth Rich narrative, to the point where it’s all he talks about to his audience.
Rich’s family has been deeply hurt by the conspiracy theorists, as they’ve been forced to watch their son’s name dragged through the muck of the lowest kind of partisan political hackery. Today, The Washinton Post published a piece written by Seth’s parents, beseeching the conspiracy theorists to let their son rest in peace.
Disgustingly, Hannity is lying and saying that Rich’s family wants him to pursue the story:
It seems to have taken on a pathological level for Hannity. He’s becoming bogged down in the minute details of the invented story, even tweeting about alleged codenames:
FOX News has already issued an official retraction of the story, realizing that if they pursued it any further they’d shred what little credibility they have left. Hannity disagrees with their decision. Shortly after the retraction, Hannity went on his radio show and refused to abandon the story:
“We’re right, they’re wrong. And all you in the liberal media, I am not Fox.com or FoxNews.com. I retracted nothing,” he said. It’s unclear how the comments will affect his job security. It should be noted that FOX News is largely to blame for the current atmosphere in right-wing America, as they carefully cultivated an invented reality for decades, poisoning their viewers with misinformation, fear, and xenophobia to drive up ratings.
Hannity is a symptom of a much larger problem, and his latest tweet shows no signs of the insanity slowing down:
The only appropriate “announcement” would be a heartfelt apology, followed by an immediate resignation from broadcast news. Don’t expect such decency from the pundit. Far more likely, he’ll continue to flame out in spectacular, manic fashion reducing FOX News to ashes around him.
Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.