Is this how far Trump supporters will go? They’re so willing to divert attention from President Trump’s problems that they spread conspiracy theories?
Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich are not low profile Republicans and two of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters. They’re covering the Seth Rich/Wikileaks conspiracy without any regard for Rich’s parents who have disavowed the “reports” and asked people to stop.
Dave Weigel at The Washington Post has an excellent piece detailing the story and how it turned into a yarn that should only reside on nutter sites like InfoWars:
On July 10, at 4:19 a.m., gunfire was detected in the District’s Bloomingdale neighborhood. Not five minutes later, police found Seth Rich, a 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer, lying on the ground, dying from a bullet wound to his back. A conscious Rich was transported to the hospital; by daybreak, he was dead.
Nearly one year later, Rich’s death remains one of America’s thousands of unsolved murders — and the focus of endless conspiracy theories, spread this past week by Fox News, alt-right social media, a local D.C. news station and the Russian embassy in Britain. The reemergence of the conspiracy theory this week, which did not lack for real news, revealed plenty about the fake news ecosystem (or to use BuzzFeed’s useful phrase, “the upside-down media”) in the Trump era. It also happened to cause untold pain for the Rich family, which has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the so-called private investigator who led this dive back into the fever swamp.
Here’s what we learned.
TV news can be an easy mark. This iteration of the Seth Rich story started when the District’s own Fox 5 ran a Monday night “exclusive,” citing one source — a Fox New legal commentator, Rod Wheeler — for a “big break in the investigation.” Reporter Marina Marraco reported that “conspiracy theories” could “be proven right,” as Wheeler was saying what had been rumored since last year: Rich might have leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks, making him the target of an assassination.
“You have information that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks?” asked Marraco.
“Absolutely. Yeah. That’s confirmed,” said Wheeler, who Fox 5 identified as the Rich family’s investigator.
Within 24 hours, reporters at NBC News, CNN and The Washington Post had debunked the story. First, Rich’s family quickly corrected the idea that Wheeler was on their payroll; he was hired by Ed Butowsky, a Texas businessman who had grown interested in the case. Next, Wheeler told CNN he hadn’t actually obtained information linking Rich to WikiLeaks — Fox 5, he insisted, had told him to say so.
Marraco did not cite any sources except Wheeler — not the Rich family, not D.C. police, not the mayor’s office, not the DNC. Wheeler, a very occasional TV pundit, was noticeably skimpy on details, suggesting he had a source who’d told him eyeball-to-eyeball that Rich’s computer was in lock-up and that it had evidence of WikiLeaks contact. But he was murky on whether D.C. police or the FBI allegedly had the laptop, and the family quickly reported that neither did.
It is worth reading the article in its entirety since Weigel does a great job in detailing all of it and how “fake news” is still a problem among conservatives.
The story of Rich’s ties to Wikileaks was already debunked, and Rich’s parents pleaded with people not to spread the story. That didn’t stop Sean Hannity:
Thursday night, Sean Hannity again reported on the debunked conspiracy theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered over suspected ties to Wikileaks.
The new report comes just days after a Rich family spokesperson condemned those reporting on the killing for “manipulat[ing] the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda.”
“There is a special place in hell for people” who report on the story in that manner, the spokesman said.
In his segment Thursday, Hannity questioned the story of the Washington Metro Police Department, that Rich was the victim of a robbery attempt gone sideways.
“Does it make sense you shoot somebody in the back and the whole narrative has been they’ve been investigating a robbery.” Hannity said. “But they didn’t take the wallet, they didn’t take the necklace, they didn’t take the phone, and they didn’t take the watch? Does that sound like a robbery to you? Because it doesn’t sound at all like a robbery to me.”
It only got worse when Newt Gingrich went on Fox and Friends to spread the same nonsense:
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a stalwart supporter of President Trump, used a Sunday-morning appearance on “Fox and Friends” to spread the conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was killed last year to cover up the true story of how WikiLeaks obtained tens of thousands of hacked Democratic Party emails.
“We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments,” Gingrich said.
“Nobody’s investigating that, and what does that tell you about what’s going on? Because it turns out, it wasn’t the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee. He’s been killed, and apparently nothing serious has been done to investigative his murder. So I’d like to see how [Robert S.] Mueller [III] is going to define what his assignment is.”
The former Speaker of The House of Representatives wants special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate a false story.
I suppose when a birther is elected President, anything goes, right?
It’s one level of pathetic for Sean Hannity to cover the story. His slavish devotion to Donald Trump is nauseating but it’s even worse watching Newt Gingrich descend to such depths.
Gingrich, as noted was the Speaker of the House for five years. In 2012 he was a legitimate candidate running for the GOP presidential nomination. It is telling that Fox News executives allow this story to be promulgated. Fox News suffered a hit in the ratings since Bill O’Reilly let go. I suppose allowing a garbage story like this is their way of recovering some of it but it’s nothing more than increased degradation of their credibility.
Count me out.