Update 5/23: On Tuesday night, Sean Hannity announced that he would not discuss the death of Seth Rich any longer "out of respect for the family's wishes." Original story below:
Sean Hannity, FOX News host and Donald Trump superfan, went out on a limb Tuesday in defense of his coverage of a conspiracy theory, calling his critics "phony hypocrites" and appearing to stand by a story his own network has retracted. Hannity wants to know who killed Seth Rich, even if the mainstream media, Rich's family, and his own colleagues just want him to stop.
For the blissfully unaware, the murder of Seth Rich, a young Democratic National Committee staffer, has inspired a lot of wild speculation in the fringe right-wing media and on FOX, the gist of which is that he was murdered by Democratic operatives as revenge for being a whistleblower who delivered the notorious DNC emails to WikiLeaks. If Rich were the leaker, the thinking goes, there wouldn't have been any Russian hacking, therefore the entire investigation into the Trump campaign's Russian connections would be nonsense. The latest round of speculation was prompted by a FOX story based on quotes from a private investigator who was also a FOX News talking head; that story was retracted after the PI denied he had said what FOX said he said.
The most prominent figure spreading this conspiracy theory is Hannity, who has been asked repeatedly to stop by Rich's family. On Tuesday, Rich's brother Aaron sent a letter to FOX pleading with the network to stop Hannity. "We appeal to your decency to not cause a grieving family more pain," the letter said.
But the theory is bigger than any one figure—it's so huge it has its very own subreddit. And Hannity is teaming up with at least one other peddler of nonsense.
Hannity spent much of Tuesday tweeting about Rich. His big "source" is Kim Dotcom, an outlaw webpreneur who appears to have patterned his lifestyle after the kid from 1994 movie Blank Check. Dotcom has been claiming for days that he knew Rich, and that he has information that proves Rich had delivered a collection of DNC emails to WikiLeaks. On Monday, he promised some kind of major reveal. On Tuesday, what was revealed was a blog post at Dotcom's website, Kim.com, about a person in 2014 who went by "Panda" chatting with Dotcom about "corruption and the influence of corporate money in politics." Dotcom claims that Panda was Rich (though he doesn't provide evidence for this), and hinted vaguely about more to be revealed in the future, but really it was a big fat nothing.
In his letter to FOX News, Aaron Rich wrote that his family had been in touch with someone calling himself Kim Dotcom, and that they've asked him to run any Seth Rich–related evidence past law enforcement, or the Rich family, and to keep it out of the media for the time being. They hadn't received a response from Dotcom about their request, but on Tuesday night, Hannity is scheduled to interview Dotcom on his show.
Throughout Tuesday afternoon, Hannity carried on talking about the Seth Rich case on his radio show, saying, "For those accusing me of pushing a conspiracy theory, you are the biggest phony hypocrites in the entire world," according to Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times.
"I am not FOX.com or FOXNews.com. I retracted nothing," he told listeners.
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