When we last saw Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity, it was before the Memorial Day weekend and he had been forced to step back from claims that the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich was somehow connected to the leak of Democratic Party emails to Wikileaks. Sure, every point that he had brought up in the past week had been debunked. But he, Sean Hannity, knew better than the police and Seth Rich's family.
That continuing insistence of a secret motive behind Rich's death brought pushback from other hosts at Fox, along with repeated public requests from the Rich Family to show some respect and not turn their son's death into another half-baked conspiracy theory. And on the surface, it might have seemed that Hannity planned to hold his tongue.
But if you thought Hannity was going to keep his word when it came to the Rich case, then you evidently have never listened to one of his shows. He barely got out a "Hello" on Tuesday's Fox News show before returning to the Rich case. He did admit to telling the family he would halt his airing of his theories, but he vowed to privately continue his investigation. "We are making progress...I have a lot more coming. Probably sooner than later." He then went on to say that because he was seeking the truth, he was labeled a "conspiracy theorist" by the liberal, deep state media.
Of course, it's not as if this charge came out of nowhere. While Hannity did admit to toning down his coverage of the Rich case out of "respect for the family," he also argued that he (Hannity) would continue to search for the truth and that he was sure the Rich Family would want the same thing. Ignoring the fact that the reason the Rich Family asked that he shut up about their son is that they are content that the cause of their son's death has been properly identified by police as a random shooting.Hannity then moved onto the Trump/Russia story and he assured his viewers that if any true facts were ever uncovered, he would be the first to talk about them. And as proof that there was no Trump administration/Russian government collusion, he once again snipped a segment from a James Clapper interview, in which he said there was no clear proof Russia had affected the vote tallies in November.
Which would be a pretty solid argument against the collusion story. Except for the nagging fact that almost no one has ever claimed Russia directly affected the election results. Instead, the allegations of collusion or just inappropriate contact between Trump officials and member of Putin's inner circle are more about financial misconduct and weakening the U.S. election process than direct tampering of election results.
Ah, details, details.
Hannity went on to ask why he's being called a conspiracy theorist if hundreds and hundreds of hours of cable news coverage have been devoted to a story that has been debunked?
The obvious answer is that it's a story because these aren't charges being invented by creative journalists aching to bring down Donald Trump. American allies reported seeing evidence of inappropriate contact between Russians and Trump transition s. staffers. Nearly every American intelligence agency warned of the same issues and all of these worries have been translated into a number of separate investigations in the House of Representatives, Senate and the Justice Department. To believe that all of these investigations are simply politically driven, you'd have to argue that every branch of government has joined together to execute a conspiracy too complicated to be included in a second tier Dan Brown novel.
No one knows the full story at this point - at least not publicly. But there is something substantial to the collusion story and while Hannity spent another five minutes arguing that he's simply curious, he can't seem to bring himself to be curious about stories that don't fit his self-absorbed worldview.
He also can't bring himself to let the Seth Rich story go, although he's convinced himself that by not mentioning Rich's name, he's respecting the family' wishes. Hannity is more than willing to believe Wikileaks head Julian Assange, but somehow finds the FBI or other Justice Department officials to be untrustworthy. He publicly promises the Rich Family that he'll decline to discuss the case for now, but continues to throw around vague, dog whistle comments such as "some families want to know the truth."
Sean Hannity wants to pursue the Rich story, but doesn't have the stones to do so overtly. Instead, he dances around the case, bleating references that are just vague enough that he can continue to claim he's respecting the Rich family's wishes while still implying their son was murdered by someone connected to the DNC and/or Hillary Clinton.
Hannity brought the same level of testicular fortitude to his problems with advertisers. In the past couple of weeks, some liberal groups have been contacting Hannity's advertisers, asking for them to drop support of his show. It's an effort that helped push Bill O'Reilly off the air, and even though it doesn't appear to have been very effective, Hannity is clearly nervous about the effort.
So he argued Tuesday evening that it's a free speech issue and that it's unfair for critics to attempt to drive him off the air or contact his advertisers. He also spends a fair amount of time claiming that he personally doesn't believe in boycotts and wouldn't encourage them. Well.....maybe just if it's in his self interest. And he introduced two guests who are leading an effort to target advertisers of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.
Now it's not a coincidence that Maddow is the main target of his passive-aggressive wrath. She's currently the most-watched cable news host and more than anyone, she's figured out a way to aggregate and slice the various Trump/Russia stories into a coherent argument for corruption.
Faced with such competition, some news anchors would decide to double down and work harder. Take a different editorial tack, perhaps even let the occasional new thought trickle into their otherwise arrogantly close-minded brainstem. But no, Hannity instead argued Rachel Maddow is the real villain here. Okay, HE doesn't make the direct argument. Instead, he lets two other people do it, while he continues to reluctantly agree with their every point. It's the cable news equivalent of watching someone get whelped with baseball bats while continuously repeating "this is not something I usually agree with..."
Hannity played a series of clips from old Rachel Maddow shows, which purport to show her passing along some seemingly bizarre conspiracy theories about various GOP officials, politicians and supporters. What's notable about the clips is that it's obvious they've been edited in a way to be extremely misleading. While I'm not going to spend time going through the clips here, things are taken out of context in a way that is as close to "fake news" as you can get without actually uttering the phrase.
But Hannity believes in truth and honesty.
Hannity then interviewed the two co-founders of the Media Equality Project, who claim they aren't trying to organize a boycott of Rachel Maddow advertisers. They are just publishing lists of her advertisers, along with a request for conservatives to contact the companies and give their opinion of her show. But it's not a boycott. And Sean Hannity agrees that none of them want that, although there is much discussion about how their effort will continue until the left stops their anti-Hannity efforts and embraces "free speech."
The hypocrisy and self-delusion makes your head hurt. It is the political equivalent of an auto manufacturer learning that their cars can spontaneously burst into flames. And rather than fixing the problem, they begin a campaign to randomly set their competitors cars on fire until everyone's customers learn to drive around while they're burning.
Sean Hannity tied himself up in knots Tuesday night, but it's not because his central point is flawed. I don't believe in advertiser boycotts either. The problem is that whether he's talking about boycotts or the Seth Rich case, Sean Hannity doesn't have the guts to say what he means. He's a paper tiger, puffed up with hot air and a disregard for the truth.
On this night, Sean Hannity showed he's a coward.