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Fox News host Sean Hannity

Photo by MediaMatters

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

On the October 19 edition of his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity amplified an unverified and salacious claim about Hunter Biden. The allegation began the day before when Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), appearing on Fox with anchor Maria Bartiromo, made a stunning statement with zero evidence. That segment was widely condemned for its irresponsibility, but Hannity doubled down on its baseless claims, suggesting that "a lot of this is going to pan out to be true."

From the October 19, 2020, edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Sean Hannity Show

SEAN HANNITY: [Sen. Ron Johnson] was on with Maria Bartiromo and anyway, then he said and acknowledged the possibility this Sunday that the FBI has investigated whether there was child pornography on this laptop and hard drive that allegedly belonged to Hunter Biden. And anyway, so Maria asked Ron Johnson about a report that the FBI's subpoena for the laptop appeared to show that the FBI agent who served it was someone named Joshua Wilson. I had not known this. Star Ledger report published last year, an FBI agent with that name spent nearly five years investigating child pornography, but it remains unclear if this is the same Wilson that -- and what exactly the bureau was investigating here. And Maria twice asked Johnson if he knows of any connection and he said, quote, "I think you just made the connection." And he said, again, "This is what the FBI I think has to come clean about." In other words, did they have this? And if they had it during impeachment, why wouldn't they have revealed it considering its relevancy to every argument Democrats were making as it relates to impeachment?
Pressed again on the issue, Sen. Johnson said he couldn't comment any further and he said, "I don't want to speculate other than to say what I have said publicly before -- our report uncovered so many troubling connections, so many things that need to be investigated that I really think we are just scratching the surface. And yes, I have heard all kinds of things that I think will probably be revealed over the next few days." That's what I'm hearing too. But I'm not going to get over my skis on this. I'm just not. Based on what I'm hearing, do I think a lot of this is going to pan out to be true? My gut tells me yes, but I'm going with what I know now. And when I know something to be true, we bring it to you.

Hannity has a long history of promoting baseless lies and conspiracy theories on his Fox and radio show. In one of the most vile examples of this pattern, Hannity championed a conspiracy theory involving murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. Now, Hannity is amplifying a baseless and deranged accusation about the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's son.

This accusation comes in the midst of a larger story, first reported by the New York Post last week, involving alleged evidence of an international criminal conspiracy involving Joe Biden found on an abandoned laptop in a Delaware repair shop. The supposed evidence of this plot was obtained by smear merchant Rudy Giuliani -- Trump's personal attorney, who has a history of coordinating with Russian agents. Now, the evidence of the smear campaign against Biden is being investigated by federal officials as part of a potential Russian disinformation campaign in the lead up to the presidential election.

CNN's Jake Tapper covered Johnson's accusation on his show in a responsible manner. Tapper noted that Johnson made an unverified accusation, and then rightly contextualized it within the larger scope of right-wing conspiracy theories.

From the October 19, 2020, edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper

JAKE TAPPER (ANCHOR): In our politics lead today, with parts of the Republican Party embracing the untethered, deranged conspiracy theory of QAnon -- that Democrats are running a secret cabal of Satan-worshiping cannibalistic pedophiles in the government -- it seemed likely that it would only be a matter of time before someone from the Republican Party and someone from Fox would try to spread that slime all over the Bidens. And that happened yesterday with a deranged segment from Fox host Maria Bartiromo and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. The clip is so gross and irresponsible, I'm not actually going to air it for you. But suffice it to say it involves allegations about the most hideous of crimes and zero evidence, none at all, just tons of wildly irresponsible, pathetic, and groundless speculation. That that segment has not been assailed by Senate Republicans and Bartiromo's colleagues is, frankly, complicity. I do not know how these people sleep at night or what they think they are doing to the nation or to the Republican Party.

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