Sean Hannity Backs Off Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory ‘At This Time’ (Video)

Fox retracted its report after pleas from Rich’s family

Sean Hannity announced tonight on his Fox News show that he will no longer discuss the July 2016 murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich — for now, anyway.

“I totally completely understand how upset… how hard this is on this family, especially over the recent coverage of Seth’s death,” Hannity said, adding that he had reached out personally to the Rich family to offer his condolences.

“Out of respect for the family’s wishes, I am not discussing this matter at this time,” Hannity said. You can see Hannity’s comments in the video above.

Hannity’s announcement came after he received considerable criticism for promoting a conspiracy theory alleging that Rich provided internal DNC emails to Wikileaks, and that Rich may have been killed for doing so. Rich was shot to death last July in Washington, D.C., in what police have investigated as a robbery gone wrong.

The Rich family blasted media promoting the theory, saying to Business Insider on May 16 “it’s sad but unsurprising that a group of media outlets who have repeatedly lied to the American people would try and manipulate the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda… I think there is a special place in hell for people like that.”

In response, Fox News retracted its earlier reporting on the story. “On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich. The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting,” the network said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed. We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”

For a minute there, Hannity’s cryptic social media behavior led many to wonder if he was leaving the cable news network, but instead Hannity reaffirmed that he will stick with Fox as long as it wants him. His leaving would have been a big problem for Fox News Channel, which is not without problems these days.

In April, the network fired its biggest ratings magnet, Bill O’Reilly, after reports that he and the network had paid out $13 million to settle complaints accusing him of sexual harassment and other impropriety. The network’s founder, Roger Ailes, died last week, months after he left in disgrace after facing his own accusations of sexual harassment.

Last week, MSNBC beat both CNN and Fox News in weekday primetime among both total viewers and the key news demo for the first time ever. However, Fox News continues to lead MSNBC and CNN in all categories for the month of May.

Here’s how important Hannity — and “Hannity” — are to Fox News.

In the first quarter of 2017, “Hannity” handed FNC its highest-rated quarter ever in the 10 pm. ET time slot, hauling in 2.9 million total viewers on average, with 668,000 of them coming from the key 25-54 demographic.

That overall audience haul made “Hannity” the fifth-most-watched series on cable news. Considering No. 1 was the now-defunct “O’Reilly Factor,” readers can pretty much bump “Hannity” to fourth.

In the main demo, “Hannity” was the third-biggest series across cable news. There again, Bill O’Reilly was top dog, which means you can safely slip Hannity the silver now.

In other words, “Hannity” helped Fox News achieve primetime growth of 20 percent overall and 19 percent in the demo. Good thing for the network he’s sticking around.

Tony Maglio contributed to this report.