Sean Hannity is taking a couple days off amid a growing advertiser boycott after pushing a conspiracy theory involving a slain Democratic National Committee staffer.
So far, seven advertisers have pulled out of Hannity’s show after he continued to promote a baseless story that claimed the staffer, Seth Rich, was murdered possibly for releasing DNC emails to Wikileaks. FoxNews.com retracted its story six days after first posting it, saying in a statement it "was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting."
Despite the retraction and pleas from Rich's parents to stop peddling a conspiracy theory about their son that had been discredited by Snopes, Factcheck.org, Poynter, and numerous news agencies Hannity defiantly pushed the theory on his radio show before agreeing to drop it "for now" on his Fox News program.
Cars.com was the first advertiser to announce it was pulling ads, telling Buzzfeed News on Wednesday afternoon that “we’ve been watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity.”
— Mary Georgantopoulos (@marygeorgant) May 24, 2017
Soon after, exercise bike company Peloton, Leesa Sleep, mattress retailer Casper, insurance company USAA, home security equipment maker Ring, and Crowne Plaza Hotels all announced they would be redirecting their ad buys from Hannity’s shows.
"We do not advertise on Fox News, Hannity or any political commentary show," a spokesman for Crowne Plaza Hotels said. "Unfortunately, our expectation to adhere to this list was not met by a third-party media aggregator. Since we learned of the airings, we addressed the issue immediately and terminated our relationship with them."
“There’s nothing that I did, nothing that I said, except they don’t like my position politically,” Hannity said. “They’ll try to ratchet up the intensity of their rationale. It does not justify an attempt to get me fired. And that’s what this is. This is an attempt to take me out. This is a kill shot.”
The Five host Kimberly Guilfoyle, who has confirmed speaking to the White House about potentially replacing press secretary Sean Spicer, will be filling in on Hannity on Thursday and Friday. Hannity announced on Twitter the vacation was his annual Memorial Day getaway.
Uh oh My ANNUAL Memorial Day long weekend starts NOW. Destroy Trump/Conservative media breathless coverage starts! Did Hannity do last show?
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 25, 2017
"Like the rest of the country, Sean Hannity is taking a vacation for Memorial Day weekend and will be back on Tuesday," Fox News said in a statement. "Those who suggest otherwise are going to look foolish.”
It is unclear if he will still host his syndicated radio show on Thursday and Friday, which airs at 6 p.m. in Philadelphia on 1210 WPHT.
So far, the timeline of events is strikingly similar to how events unfolded for former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
Following a New York Times report that revealed O’Reilly paid five former Fox News personalities $13 million to settle claims of sexual and verbal harassment, the former host took an abrupt vacation amid a growing exodus of advertisers from his show.
Despite assurances from the network that the vacation was pre-planned, Fox News fired O’Reilly eight days later.
In interviews with Philly.com, two Fox News staffers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, complained about the willingness of Fox News executives to offer a platform for the debunked conspiracy theories.
Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky, a Democratic strategist who is currently suing the network, called it “really egregious” to allow Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and others to exploit the death of a young man for political gain.
“We know the facts. Wikileaks was in collaboration with the Russians,” Roginsky said.“How do we know this? Because the entire intelligence community said that the Russians were the ones who hacked into these emails. This is not in dispute.”