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Amid Conspiracy Controversy, Hannity Takes A Vacation — And Vows To Return

Sean Hannity is not going away.

Well, scratch that. He is going away — but only on a planned vacation, and only briefly. Then, after that, you can be sure: He is not going away.

That, at least, is the word from Hannity, who lost several advertisers this week after repeatedly pushing a baseless conspiracy that was retracted Tuesday by his employer, Fox News Channel. Hannity took the second half of the week off, but before he did, he cautioned his Twitter followers not to worry:

His network also backed him up in a statement.

"Like the rest of the country, Sean Hannity is taking a vacation for Memorial Day weekend and will be back on Tuesday," Fox said, adding: "Those who suggest otherwise are going to look foolish."

If that seems like quite a to-do for an annual vacation taken over a holiday weekend, one need only hearken back to last month, when another of the network's marquee pundits answered an advertiser backlash by taking a long-planned trip. Bill O'Reilly's own vacation announcement turned out to be the final words he would speak at the desk of The O'Reilly Factor.

Before O'Reilly could even return, Fox parted ways with its longtime superstar, who continues to grapple with allegations of sexual harassment — allegations he steadfastly denies as "unfounded claims."

Organizations such as Media Matters for America, the liberal-leaning watchdog group that has pushed for Hannity's ouster, would like to see that pattern repeated. As yet, though, far fewer advertisers have abandoned Hannity than they did O'Reilly, who before his ouster lost the support of dozens of companies — more than half his advertisers, according to a study by the ad-tracking firm iSpot.tv that was cited by The New York Times.

To date, just a handful of advertisers have pulled their commercials from Hannity's show for pushing a story that Fox says "was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting."

Earlier this week, NPR's David Folkenflik explained the story at the crux of the controversy:

"The retracted May 16 online story reported as fact that the late Seth Rich, a 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer, was actually the person who leaked tens of thousands of emails from the DNC to WikiLeaks and that his murder was tied to that action. Rich was fatally shot last July in what police have called a botched robbery, and there is no evidence known publicly to suggest he shared those emails. The Rich family had publicly pleaded with Fox News and others to stop trading in such speculation absent facts."

Still, The Times notes that many advertisers view this controversy in a distinctly different light than that which felled O'Reilly.

"Our rule of thumb is that we do not pull our ads based on editorial content," Donna Boland, a Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman, told the newspaper. The car company pulled its commercials from O'Reilly but feels differently about Hannity. "Our feeling is that a variety of viewpoints is part of the natural discourse that takes place in a free media."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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