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It was reported yesterday that Fox News host Sean Hannity is taking an unexpected vacation amidst mounting backlash from his advertisers for his embrace of the bizarre and moronic conspiracy theory surrounding the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich. For those unfamiliar with the case, Rich was murdered in an apparent botched robbery last July; the internet, of course, wasn’t satisfied with the official explanation for his death. And since Seth Rich was a DNC staffer, conspiracy theorists — with their Rain Man-esque compulsion to make everything, no matter how small, fit into a larger and more sinister picture — decided his death was no mere coincidence.

The basic gist of the conspiracy theory was that Rich was the source of the DNC emails that were given to WikiLeaks and disseminated to the public during the campaign last summer (a claim that has since been debunked). As a result, the theory goes, the Clinton campaign had Seth Rich murdered for his betrayal; some theories have Clinton herself ordering Rich’s assassination, because if you’re gonna manufacture a conspiracy theory out of thin air, you might as well go for the gusto.

The theory gained a little traction in the immediate wake of Rich’s death, then mostly faded away, due in large part to the absence of new or compelling “evidence” to support it. Then Donald Trump was elected President, America began its slow, inexorable descent into madness, and we all chalked up the Seth Rich conspiracy to the internet doing what it does best: questioning everything and assuming an ulterior motive even when no evidence of one exists.

Enter Sean Hannity.

It’s no secret that Fox News is happy to support Donald Trump’s every move despite a mountain of evidence suggesting that, all theories about his alleged collusion with Russia aside, Trump is astonishingly unqualified — both in intellect and temperament — to be President. Fox News is acutely aware of this; despite its purported role as a journalistic outlet, Fox News is first and foremost a business, and Donald Trump is good for business.

It behooves Fox News to engage in a symbiotic relationship with Trump: as long as Trump continues to claim that any journalistic source that doesn’t treat him with total deference is “biased” or “fake news,” Fox News sets itself apart in the eyes of Trump’s base as the only outlet willing to tell the truth about Trump. And by acting as the propaganda arm of the Trump administration, Fox News is able to claim a journalistic monopoly over Trump’s base.

With the possible exception of the morons on “Fox & Friends,” there has been no more passionate and dedicated Trump apologist than Sean Hannity. Hannity has routinely used his show as a platform to act as Trump’s cheerleader when Trump takes action (usually the wrong one) on something. And when Trump has found himself in an indefensible position ­­— which has happened with alarming frequency in his young presidency — Hannity has used the bully pulpit to effectively jangle a set of keys in his viewers’ faces in order to distract them from the very real damage Trump is doing, both domestically and on a global scale.

As an example, it was reported by the New York Times on May 19th that in a meeting with Russian officials, Donald Trump admitted to firing “nut job” James Comey because of Comey’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. Some outlets went so far as to assert that Trump’s remarks constituted an admission of obstruction of justice; even conservative outlets struggled to spin this news in a positive light. So what did Sean Hannity discuss that night on his show? Here’s a partial list:

  • “The ‘Destroy Trump’ Alliance”
  • “The Deep State”
  • “’Destroy Trump’ Media”
  • “Democrats”
  • “Establishment Republicans”
  • “Never Trumpers”
  • “Media And Democrats Call For Trump’s Impeachment”
  • “Reporting On Rosenstein”
  • “WaPo’s Comey Claim,” followed by:
  • “The Washington Post: Wrong Again” (they weren’t)
  • “NYT Goes After President Trump”

In other words, Hannity covers TEN topics before he even mentions the New York Times report. He presents a pile of “evidence” — four minutes’ worth, which should tell you something about the quality of said evidence — that everyone has it in for Donald Trump, before smirkingly acknowledging a report (one that Trump’s own staff doesn’t dispute) and attempting to pass it off as just another wild shot in the dark from the lamestream media.

As more and more reports surfaced concerning the Trump administration’s quest to trip over their own dicks in increasingly spectacular fashion whenever possible, Hannity resorted to more desperate measures to deflect his viewers’ attention, culminating in his dredging up the Seth Rich conspiracy. There are, as I have mentioned, no new or compelling details about Rich’s murder, but that didn’t stop Hannity. Seth Rich’s murder served a dual purpose for Hannity: it allowed him to discuss the leaked DNC emails without the looming specter of Russian interference, while also being salacious enough to distract his viewers’ attention for as long as it would take for them to forget about Trump’s latest scandal.

Hannity was widely derided for not only giving a platform to such a ridiculous conspiracy theory, but continuing to pursue it even though the “new information” in the case that allowed him to bring it back up turned out to be a source whom a local Fox affiliate falsely claimed possessed this new information. Undeterred, Hannity kept pushing the story, even in the face of mounting pressure on his advertisers to pull their ads from his show and a cease-and-desist order from Seth Rich’s family.

Hannity even went so far as to offer airtime to Kim Dotcom, a hacker and the founder of Megaupload who is currently facing federal charges for, among other things, conspiracy to commit racketeering. Dotcom also attempted to hack into Seth Rich’s email; it is believed that Dotcom’s plan was to release a mix of authentic and forged emails — as he’s tried to do before, even though he’s apparently pretty goddamn bad at it since he keeps getting caught — in order to support his theory.

The whole time, Hannity adopted an air of righteous indignation, acting as though he was the subject of a witch hunt by the mainstream media and claiming that he was doing this for Seth Rich’s benefit. (Clearly, Rich’s family disagrees.) This should not come as a surprise, because this is what Sean Hannity always does: he whips his viewers into a frenzy about some manufactured controversy, and when he’s called out on it, he vacillates between his self-styled tough-guy persona and his simpering “but I’m just asking questions!” façade. And though he’s been playing dress-up as Bob Woodward for the past week or so, Sean Hannity is certainly not a journalist — he’s a TV personality.

Hannity’s role is to stir the pot and encourage ignorance, positioning himself in the abstract as the one person willing to ask the tough questions while in practice doing everything in his power to avoid exactly that. Since the departure of Bill O’Reilly and (in more ways than one) Roger Ailes, Hannity has become the last bastion of the “never apologize” era of Fox News, an era defined by a near-complete abdication of journalistic ethics and responsibility in pursuit of ratings. And for his viewers’ sake, I hope he follows in the footsteps of his former colleagues soon.

For too long, Hannity has used his platform to serve up half-truths or blatant spin, and viewers — yes, even Fox News viewers — deserve better. They deserve better than this faux-earnest, Eddie Haskell-type dipshit, who so disdains his own audience that he’s willing to peddle theories that have no basis in fact rather than trust his viewers to form opinions on their own. Sean Hannity is a scumbag, a hack, a hyper-partisan shill, a pumpkin-headed idiot who represents everything the public has come to detest about the way news is covered. He’ll carry water for anyone who makes him feel like the titan of media he so desperately wants to be, even if he has to sacrifice his own ethics to do it. So I say this with as much sincerity as I can muster: enjoy your vacation, Sean. I hope you never return.