Update: Fox News host Sean Hannity backs off conspiracy theory connecting DNC staffer’s murder with Wikileaks email dump

Sean Hannity

UPDATE 11:37 a.m. May 24, 2017: Sean Hannity, one of Fox News’ primetime hosts told viewers he was backing off a controversial story insinuating a DNC staffer was murdered last summer because he leaked emails to Wikileaks.

The announcement on Tuesday at the start of his show, “Hannity,” followed a day of furious tweets and comments on his conservative afternoon radio show affressively pushing the story, despite a retraction by Fox News earlier in the day.

Hannity discussed the controversy surrounding the story and said he had spoken with Rich’s family and that “out of respect for the family’s wishes, for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time.”

Viewers were left questioning whether Hannity is really done with the story, though.

“Please do not interpret what I’m saying tonight to mean anything. Don’t read into this. I promise you, I am not going to stop doing my job. To the extent to my ability, I am not going to stop trying to find the truth,” Hannity said during the monologue.

UPDATE 5:30 p.m. May 23, 2017: Media Matters, a progressive media monitoring nonprofit with a mission of “comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media” is turning its sights on Sean Hannity following a week of consipiracy theory outbursts by the Fox News host.

The site published a list of advertisers that support Hannity’s broadcasts, organizing his dozens of supporters into “primary advertiser” and “other advertiser” categories. The list provided little information other than the names of companies, but shortly after the article went live Tuesday, Hannity condemned the move via Twitter.

“Mediamatters is trying to silence me, get me fired, pressure my advertising on radio & TV. Liberal Fascism. I need your help,” he tweeted.

Based on the comments, followers of the progressive media watchdog organization are reaching out to Hannity’s advertisers in opposition to his recent comments.

Hannity has continued to espouse a conspiracy theory that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered by the party because he was behind the Wikileaks email scandal, even as no affirmative evidence has proven the story and as his network, Fox News, has issued a retraction on a story that ran on the subject last week.

Reader Citizen, 2nd Class wrote on the Media Matters message board, “‘Dear Swiffer,’ Sean Hannity is actively terrorizing a grieving family, and you are financing his efforts. I’m sure you’ll simply sweep my complaint aside, but I felt the need to bring this obscenity to your attention nonetheless.'”

The list identified 161 advertisers.

ORIGINAL POST: Fox News host Sean Hannity is still pushing a conspiracy theory about a Democratic National Committee staffer who he says was murdered at Hillary Clinton’s command because he orchestrated the Wikileaks email dump, even as Fox News has tried to distance itself from the story.

The conservative media outlet retracted an article published last week alleging DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was shot to death in Washington last July, was behind the DNC email WikiLeaks dump. The report alleged he provided Wikileaks with thousands of internal emails and was murdered because of it.

Hannity, however, isn’t backing down, and is citing sources like Kim Dotcom, a New Zealand-based computer programmer who made millions off a now-defunct document storing and sharing site Megaupload.

“I know that Seth Rich was involved in the DNC leak,” Kim Dotcom said in a statement on his website. “I know this because in late 2014 a person contacted me about helping me to start a branch of the Internet Party in the United States. He called himself Panda. I now know that Panda was Seth Rich.”

Dotcom does not reveal how he determed Panda to be Rich’s alias. 

Twelve days after Rich’s death, WikiLeaks published 20,000 emails that embarrassed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and forced the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

It’s a theory that’s been popular for months on right-wing media outlets like Breitbart News, the Drudge Report and Gateway Pundit, though no evidence to corroborate the claims has been provided.

RELATED: Who murdered Seth Rich? More on conspiracy theory

Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department is still investigating the Rich murder and has said there is evidence it was a botched robbery attempt, CNN reported.

The story hit the headlines again last week after Rod Wheeler, a private investigator and Fox News contributor gave an interview with a Washington Fox News affiliate, saying he could prove Rich had contact with Wikileaks before his death, but when pressed by CNN, he said what he meant to say was that he’d learned of “possible evidence.”

It turns out Wheeler was stuck in a feedback loop, attributing his information to media reports that were attributing the same facts to him.

Six days later, Fox News issued a retraction.

“On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich. The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed,” Fox News said in a statement. “We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange declined to comment on Rich and said he would never reveal a source.

Either way, Hannity isn’t backing down.

“For those accusing me of pushing a conspiracy theory, you are the biggest phony hypocrites in the entire world,” Hannity said Tuesday on his daily radio show.

And, he’s been tweeting about the conspiracy theory since the story hit headlines again May 16.

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