Is Sean Hannity Ok? His Obsession With Conspiracy Theories Leaves Critics Troubled

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Sean Hannity has been focused on the nonexistent Deep State, which he believes does exist. Fox News

Sean Hannity has been a little much, even by the standards of Sean Hannity. Never exactly known as a cool cucumber, the Fox News host has been intensifying the conspiratorial insinuations that have always marked his style, though never quite to this degree. He has done so even as he has denied that he is a conspiracy theorist, regularly applying that label to liberal nemesis Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.

Earlier this week, the perspicacious media critic Erik Wemple of The Washington Post warned that "the Fox News firebrand is flirting with a scenario in which he ends up silencing himself, via pure madness." Wemple singled out a segment from Hannity's show on Tuesday evening, during which he suggested that a "soft coup" was underway to depose President Trump.

"Sinister forces quickly aligning in what is becoming now, in my mind, a clear and present danger," Hannity said. The conspiratorial bent led Wemple to compare Hannity to Alex Jones, the infamous conspiracy theorist responsible for promulgating a variety of despicable far-right deceptions.

Critics have also started to notice that Hannity's usual bluster has tipped over into something darker, untethered even from the customarily distorted reality of Fox News.

"Is this clown insane?" wondered a Twitter user named Richard Avalon Jr., linking to blog post about Hannity's "soft coup" segment.

"I'm calling for Hannity to be committed, he is batshit crazy," said a Twitter user with the handle @RSDVM, responding to an earlier segment.

It is not clear whether Hannity believes the conspiracy theories he's been touting or whether he is, as Jones has said of himself, a "performance artist." But certainly, conspiracy has become a frequent topic of his show, which has been in a fierce ratings competition for viewers with Maddow. (It must be said, on that point, that Maddow is not immune from weirdness of the liberal variety. Earlier this week, she suggested that Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff may have lost in a Georgia special House of Representatives election because of inclement weather that had "partisan implications." )

Hannity's most audacious and costly foray into conspiracy theory came last month, when he insisted that Seth Rich, an employee of the Democratic National Committee, killed last summer while walking home from a bar at night in Washington, D.C., had been the victim of dark leftist forces. Hannity only dropped the story after intense pressure from Fox News, with some speculating that he was on the verge of losing his job.

"I am not and have never been a conspiracy theorist," Hannity said on May 30th, as he announced he would suspend further discussion of Rich's murder for the time being— even as he told viewers that "the country deserves the truth" about the killing, which remains unsolved.

Since then, he has decided to fling the conspiracy theory accusation back at Democrats, in particular regarding their interest in the multiple Russia investigations now being conducted on Capitol Hill. He accuses Democrats of conspiring to remove Trump from office while also charging them with concocting conspiracy theories that would facilitate such a removal.

In effect, most everyone who criticizes Trump is a conspiracy theorist. Anyone who doesn't think he is fit to be president is a member of the Deep State.

"Deep State Revenge" was the name of the segment on Sean Hannity's show on June 16.

"This is insanity," Hannity said of the Russia investigations, discounting them all as partisan witch hunts. Trump implicitly endorsed that view by retweeting Hannity's tweet about that episode.

Alex Jones, meanwhile, said earlier this week that "Sean Hannity is currently the main leader of the resistance against the globalists."

Hannity shows the perils of defending a president who deceives freely and frequently falls victims to paranoia, both his own and that of others. Many mainstream Republicans, pundits and politicians alike, have done their best to stay away from Trump's most toxic imaginings, lest their own credibility be threatened. Those who choose to defend Trump, on the other hand, find themselves having to do so even when he behaves in ways that seem irrational, not to mention unbefitting of the office he holds.

For example, many on the right and left alike condemned Trump for having threatened fired FBI director James B. Comey with the suggestion, made on Twitter, that he'd taped their White House conversations. On Thursday, Trump admitted that no such tapes existed. This seemed, to many, a gross abuse of the presidential bully pulpit, if not witness intimidation.

Hannity saw things differently. "This was one of the most brilliant, strategic, doubt-inducing, mind-messing tweets in the history of mankind," he said, having plainly chosen to occupy Trump's reality over the one in which most Americans live.