The automotive classified site Cars.com and several other companies pulled advertising from Sean Hannity’s Fox News show after he came under fire for promoting a conspiratorial account of the slaying of a former Democratic National Committee staffer.
“We don’t have the ability to influence content at the time we make our advertising purchase,” Cars.com said in a statement Wednesday. “In this case, we’ve been watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity.”
The mattress maker Leesa Sleep, the exercise company Peloton, and the military financial services company USAA said they, too, were no longer advertising on Hannity’s show. Crowne Plaza Hotels, online mattress retailer Casper, and the video doorbell company Ring told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that they were backing out as well.
Ring told BuzzFeed News in a statement: “We are always evaluating and monitoring our advertisements to ensure they align with the Ring brand. As of May 23rd, we have asked our media buying partners not to place Ring ads on The Sean Hannity Show.”
Hannity had been one of the main purveyors of a widely discredited theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was shot and killed near his home in Northwest Washington last year because he had supplied DNC emails to WikiLeaks. District police say Rich died in a botched robbery. His parents have pleaded with news outlets to stop speculating about his death.
Facing a wave of criticism over its reporting, Fox News retracted an article on Tuesday that said Rich made contact with WikiLeaks before he was shot.
At first Hannity refused to follow suit, telling listeners on his radio show, “All you in the liberal media, I am not Fox.com or Foxnews.com; I retracted nothing.” On his Fox News show Tuesday evening he said he would back off the story “for now,” but he continued to post cryptic tweets about Rich’s death.
The left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters published a list of Hannity’s sponsors on Tuesday — a move many interpreted as a call to boycott his show.
Hannity responded in a series of tweets saying “liberal fascists” were trying to bring him down.
Liberal Fascism. Mmfa is targeting my advertisers to silence my voice. They hope to get me fired. Rush, O'Reilly, Beck, Imus, & now me.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 24, 2017
Notice MMFA only does this to conservatives. Smear, slander, malice, half truths, purposefully taking things out of context. Why….. https://t.co/jPnoX38Bhb
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 24, 2017
“There’s nothing that I did, nothing that I said, except they don’t like my position politically,” Hannity told HuffPost Wednesday. “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.”
Rich, a 27-year-old data analyst, was gunned down in the early hours of July 10 in Washington’s Bloomingdale neighborhood. Later that month, WikiLeaks published a cache of DNC emails, leading some commentators to speculate that Rich’s death was somehow related.
Investigators have not found Rich’s killer, but they have ruled out any connection to WikiLeaks.
On May 16, Fox News reported that Rich had leaked more than 44,000 DNC emails and more than 17,700 attachments to a now-deceased WikiLeaks director. The story, which cited “investigative sources,” was widely circulated on social media and among conservative news outlets.
In its retraction on Tuesday, Fox News said in a statement that the article “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.”
Rich’s parents, Mary and Joel Rich, have described the conspiracy theories surrounding their son’s death as a “nightmare.”
“Seth’s death has been turned into a political football,” they wrote in a Washington Post commentary. “Every day we wake up to new headlines, new lies, new factual errors, new people approaching us to take advantage of us and Seth’s legacy. It just won’t stop.”
Last month, advertisers fled former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s show en mass amid allegations that he had sexually harassed several women. Over the course of a couple weeks, dozens of companies pulled out of after a damning New York Times article revealed that he and Fox had paid $13 million over the past 15 years to settle five cases. Fox News ended its 20-year association with O’Reilly on April 19.
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