Reacting to Thursday’s arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by British police officers and to the Department of Justice charging Assange with conspiracy to hack government computers, Fox News host Sean Hannity rallied to the defense of the man he once offered a guest-hosting gig.
Claiming during his Thursday night opening monologue that the media “has spread a baseless lie that he was the key to Russian collusion,” Hannity noted that Assange was arrested on a U.S. extradition warrant over a 2010 plot to steal government secrets with former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
After framing President Trump’s ridiculous “I know nothing about WikiLeaks” Thursday remarks as the president merely saying he leaves Assange’s fate with the Department of Justice, the pro-Trump host proceeded to make the case that Assange was acting purely as a journalist regarding the leaked DNC and John Podesta emails, only publishing information provided to him by sources.
“As a matter of fact, if you look at Wikileaks' record, they never printed a single thing proven untrue in like 12 years,” Hannity declared. ”Whether you like their work or don't, that's a much better track record than the fake news media mob here in America that has been doing nothing but lying and peddling you conspiracy theories for two-and-a-half years.”
Bringing up the Pentagon Papers Supreme Court case that found media outlets could publish stolen materials as long as they didn’t conspire to steal the information, Hannity referenced his 2017 interview with Assange in which the WikiLeaks founder denied Russia was involved in providing him with the hacked DNC and Podesta emails.
Hannity then wondered why Special Counsel Robert Mueller never questioned Assange if it “wasn’t Russia,” adding that Assange “could have been the guy that offered computer forensics that would prove exactly where that information came from.”
“Mueller didn't take the time to ask?” Hannity exclaimed.
Mueller’s indictments and reporting over the past two-plus years, however, have shown that Russian hackers were responsible for hacking the emails and began releasing the information in June 2016 through the persona “Guccifer 2.0”—traced to an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU). Mueller has also revealed in indictments that WikiLeaks contacted Guccifer 2.0 in June and that stolen emails were sent to WikiLeaks the following month.
Hannity, meanwhile, has expressed doubt that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC’s emails, going so far as to promote an unfounded conspiracy theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered in July 2016 because he was in contact with WikiLeaks. Fox News would later retract an article on the Seth Rich investigation and the Rich family has sued the network.