The key bits in the clip below are the first 90 seconds and last 90 seconds. Three possible explanations for this climbdown. One: Sincere remorse. Rich’s parents published an op-ed in the Washington Post last night asking certain unnamed conservative commentators to back off and Hannity acknowledges here that he spoke to Rich’s brother earlier yesterday. Maybe he felt genuinely bad. Although that wouldn’t explain why (a) he was full speed ahead on the story on his radio show and (b) he took such pains last night on Fox to say that he’d revisit that matter at a later date. He’s not giving up on the “blame Seth for the DNC leaks, not Russia” story. He’s letting it go at a moment when the heat is turned way, way up and liberals are trying to organize an ad boycott of his show — which worked to great effect in pressuring Fox to finally dump O’Reilly.
Two: Fox’s legal team pulled him aside before last night’s show and told him to drop it, right this minute, in light of the network retracting its own Seth Rich story. If that’s what happened, the “I’ll revisit this subject again later” assurances at the end of the clip are just hot air he’s spewing to save face.
Three: Hannity had every intention of tackling the story again last night with a focus on Kim Dotcom’s claims that he knows Rich was the leaker — but then the story fell through at the last minute. Why might that be? Dave Weigel has an amazing theory, backed by evidence he says was supplied by the Rich family itself.
When Seth Rich’s Gmail account received an alert this week from Mega.com, attempting to start a new account on a website created by the New Zealand-based Internet businessman and convicted hacker Kim Dotcom, his family knew that something was off…
According to experts and Rich’s family, the emailed invitation from [email protected] appeared to be an attempt to gain access to Rich’s email. Joel Rich, who maintains his late son’s Gmail account, did not click the link. Meanwhile, Dotcom was promising on Twitter to prove that the younger Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks — and Fox News host Sean Hannity was telling his 2.37 million Twitter followers to be ready for a revelation…
The latest revelation — that a hacker from New Zealand may have been trying as recently as this week to hack into Rich’s email — offered fresh evidence that the conspiracy theory is false. Dotcom, it seemed, may have been willing to create a fake archive of emails from Rich to “prove” his role in the DNC hack.
In their WaPo op-ed, Rich’s parents insist that not only did D.C. detectives inspect Rich’s laptop and find no emails to or from anyone associated with Wikileaks, Rich would have had no obvious means of accessing DNC emails even if he’d wanted to. “Seth’s job was to develop analytical models to encourage voters to turn out to vote,” they wrote. “He didn’t have access to DNC emails, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails, John Podesta’s emails or Hillary Clinton’s emails. That simply wasn’t his job.” Maybe Hannity took a hard look at the evidence, or lack thereof, and decided that it was time to get out of the rabbit hole.
No, that’s probably not it.
A fourth possibility, via David French: Maybe he realized just how many people would need to be involved in this cover-up of a supposed hit on a DNC mole to keep it quiet and concluded that it’s preposterous.
The consequences of such an allegation are staggering to contemplate. For the theory to be true, its believers have to demonstrate that Rich leaked to Wikileaks, that someone in the DNC (or the Clinton camp) in turn had Rich murdered, that the D.C. police are intentionally slow-walking the investigation, that the major intelligence agencies (namely the CIA, FBI, and NSA) are together either deliberately concocting a story about Russian interference or too stupid to recognize an inside job, and finally, that the remainder of official Washington is either oblivious to or colluding with conspirators who’ve damaged relations with Russia in hopes of bringing down a president. Oh, and did I mention that the family of the slain young man is also either in on the conspiracy or unaware of its existence?
The irony of Hannity scrambling to find ways to solve Trump’s Russiagate headaches, even to the point of trying to pin a murder on Democrats to exculpate Russia from the DNC leaks, is that Trump keeps making his own Russiagate problem worse with needlessly suspicious behavior. The case for collusion, especially involving the president himself, is nonexistent at this point based on public disclosures; if the feds had dirt connecting Trump to nefarious behavior, it’s a cinch that it would have leaked by now. Yet Trump fired Comey, then admitted that the Russia probe was part of his calculus in doing so, and, if the reporting is to be believed, actually leaned on Comey to go easy on Flynn and on Dan Coats and Mike Rogers to push back on the Russiagate probe. Even writers as well-disposed to Trump as Byron York are exasperated that Trump keeps fueling the suspicions that he’s worried about the Russia investigation when there’s no apparent reason why he should be. If Hannity wants to help Trump out here, he’s better off forgetting Rich and advising Trump privately to stop acting as though there’s something to hide when there probably isn’t.
Exit question: If and when Hannity revisits the Rich story again, will he have Weigel on to discuss the suspected hacking attempt of Rich’s email by Dotcom’s website? If the truth is what’s important, that’s a key piece in finding it.