Fox News host and conservative commentator Sean Hannity has long been a supporter of Wikileaks and Julian Assange. That is, it seems, until around the time Assange was arrested in London after being holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for six years.
Within hours of Assange’s arrest, courtesy of Ecuador succumbing to abandoning the chalice that was becoming increasingly poisonous for it, the US Justice Department announced:
“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was charged Thursday with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for aiding Chelsea Manning in the cracking of a password to a classified U.S. government computer in 2010.”
Though he would appear to face far more serious charges related to espionage.
Almost seven years ago, Assange fled to London while on bail in the UK, fearing extradition to Sweden on trumped-up sexual assault charges and subsequent extradition to the US. He was formally granted asylum by Ecuador, followed by citizenship. His citizenship was stripped along with his asylum protection status.
Sean Hannity, one of the few journalists to be granted an interview with Assange, had been a long-term ally of the man and his organization, presumably because they supported the anti-Clinton movement. Wikileaks’ releases favored Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Reagan Battalion tweeted in the morning of April 11 that Sean Hannity – with the Twitter handle @seanhannity – had deleted several pro-Assange and pro-Wikileaks tweets on news of Assange’s arrest. The tweet shows tweets by Hannity supporting Assange and his organization’s work on May 21, 2017, and another series of tweets on September 10, 2016:
That tweet has since been deleted.
Snap Bird, a Twitter history search service, appears to support the allegations. Searches for tweets including “Julian,” “Wikileaks,” and “Assange” by Sean Hannity revealed only one tweet: his breaking news tweet of Assange’s arrest on Thursday:
Among his 433 tweets, not a single additional tweet mentioning those terms was found:
Interestingly, Hannity has a history of deleting tweets. In December last year, it was revealed the Fox News commentator had deleted tweets about Michael Cohen on the eve of Cohen’s sentencing. Cohen was Trump’s lawyer who was sentenced to three years in prison for tax fraud and campaign finance violations. Hannity is alleged to have deleted 270 tweets to distance himself from him.
Cohen had also represented Hannity.
According to The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, Hannity has mass-deleted a number of tweets, not just those relating to Julian Assange:
Still, the mass tweet deletion seems to have Julian Assange and Wikileaks over-represented among the purged tweets. It’s not clear when that profile purge took place. And not everyone in Twitterspiracy-land was convinced that it was a mere coincidence.
Regardless, Hannity’s record of support for Wikileaks and Julian Assange is well-documented. And now, the Nobel Prize nominee appears to have lost a media ally on the eve of his arrest.
While there is no evidence Hannity’s Wikileaks tweet deletions were not simply part of a larger, innocuous purge, the partisan commentator faces a clear choice: act with integrity and stand beside Assange or abandon a whistleblower that helped give you the credibility some of your audience endow you with.
Sean Hannity remains as partisan a journalist as they come, even by Fox standards. If he were a principled man, he would engage in a Twitter rampage in defense of Assange and the service he has given to the global public in speaking truth to power. If Hannity chooses to remain silent as Assange faces life in prison or worse, then he has every reason to face questions over his principles.
Or lack thereof.