Sean Hannity will not be silenced. That was the defiant message the right-wing commentator delivered on his Fox News show on Tuesday night, after a long weekend that, some thought, might extend into a permanent vacation.
But if Hannity's employers have shown explicit unease about the Seth Rich conspiracy theory (the utterly unfounded suggestion that the young Democratic National Committee employee slain last summer may have been the target of a Clintonian revenge plot after he sent compromising emails to Wikileaks), Hannity made clear that we would remain committed to his own principles, such as those are.
Last week, Hannity said he would no longer discuss the Rich conspiracy theory, which in his estimation would absolve President Donald Trump of any potential collusion with Russia. Yet on Tuesday, he plainly alluded to the Rich conspiracy theory in his opening monologue.
"The country deserves the truth," Hannity said, although Rich's own family has asked him to cease his probe. "I am making progress," Hannity continued, perhaps to the dismay of FoxNews executives who'd rather he find a less sensitive target for his boundless investigative zeal.
"I am not and have never been a conspiracy theorist," Hannity added for emphasis. In fact, Hannity has frequently trafficked in conspiracy theories aimed to discredit Democrats and liberal causes.
The order of the evening, plainly, was not justice for Seth Rich but, rather, justice for Sean Hannity. In recent days, Hannity became the target of an advertising boycott engineered by Media Matters, a liberal group that has called him "a professional propagandist for President Donald Trump, as well as a bigot, a sexist, and a conspiracy theorist." It has been publicizing a list of Hannity's advertisers in hopes that they are pressured to drop sponsorship of his show. Similar tactics proved effective against O'Reilly after his history of alleged sexual predation came to light.
And while the search for Rich's killer continues, Hannity found another cause to champion: an advertising boycott of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who has recently bested him in prime time ratings. Although he expressed his own distaste for boycotts and profound love of the First Amendment, Hannity invited as his first guests Brian Maloney and Melanie Morgan of the Media Equality Project, a right-wing watchdog group.
Earlier in the day, the Media Equality Project had introduced Operation Fight With Fire, as well as the hashtag #StoptheScalpings, an apparent reference to liberal targeting of conservatives and their unpopular (but invariably correct) viewpoints.
"The DNC, mainstream media, George Soros, and Media Matters for America, deemed Sean Hannity’s pursuit of the facts too close for comfort. In an effort to protect their ilk, and the secrets they keep, they have created a false narrative," Morgan wrote in an online introduction of the project. The post makes clear that the Media Equality Project believes that the Rich investigation is a serious journalistic enterprise that should continue.
But the true target is Maddow, the progressive firebrand who is as grating to conservatives as Hannity is to liberals. "As long as Media Matters continues to attack conservatives, we will return them the same kindness," Morgan writes. "We begin with Rachel Maddow who has been the biggest purveyor of lies and propaganda in the media today. Like Media Matters, we will now inform the public and the advertisers about who they are financing."
Hannity reiterated, during the segment, that he is "against boycotts."