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Sean Hannity speaks out after Fox News retracts Seth Rich story

Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was shot and killed in 2016 in what authorities have said was an attempted robbery.

Since his death, some conservative media outlets have suggested that Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks – a claim Rich's family said it had "seen no evidence" of – and may have been killed for political purposes, CNN reported. Recent developments regarding former FBI Director James Comey’s firing and the investigation into any potential collusion between President Donald Trump’s administration and the Russian government also were met with stories suggesting a cover-up in Rich’s death.

>> Read more trending news

The slain DNC staffer’s family has since asked outlets to stop touting the conspiracy theory, according to CNN.

On Tuesday, Fox News retracted one of its stories about Rich.

Many wondered how Fox News anchor Sean Hannity would react, as he has spent a great deal of time discussing the conspiracy theory.

On Tuesday, Hannity told his radio audience that he would stay the course.

“I feel so badly for this family and what they have been through and what they are going through,” he said, mentioning the family’s desire to “find the truth.” Hannity also said he sent his “thoughts and prayers.”

>> Listen here

From there, Hannity said finding a connection between WikiLeaks and a whistleblower in the DNC – “take Seth out of it” – was important as “the Russia collusion narrative is hanging by a thread.” Hannity suggested that the existence of the whistleblower would show that the source of the WikiLeaks revelation came from an internal source, not Russia.

“These are questions that I have a moral obligation to ask,” he said, promising to “do the mainstream media’s job.”

“And all you in the liberal media, I am not FoxNews.com. I retracted nothing,” he added.

Audio from Hannity’s show was shared by several sources, including liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America. The Fox News anchor accused the organization of trying to get him fired, referencing its published list of his advertisers:

But later Tuesday evening, Hannity appeared to soften his tone during his television show.

"Out of respect for the family's wishes for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time," Hannity said.

He added, “To the extent to my ability, I am not going to stop trying to find the truth. ... And at the proper time, we shall continue and talk a lot more." 

>> Watch the clip here

Playboy model who shot nude of unwitting woman due in court

A Playboy centerfold who ignited a backlash of criticism when she secretly snapped a photo of a naked 71-year-old woman in a locker room and posted it online mocking the woman's body is expected to appear in court Wednesday to resolve a criminal charge.

Dani Mathers is planning to show up at a hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court on a misdemeanor charge of invasion of privacy, her lawyer said.

Mathers, 30, has apologized for taking the photo at an LA Fitness club in July and posting it on Snapchat with the caption: "If I can't unsee this then you can't either."

The posting was accompanied by a selfie of Mathers in a tank top with her hand over her mouth as if she's gasping in horror.

The 2015 Playmate of the Year was roundly criticized for the so-called body shaming incident. Mathers said she intended to send the photo privately to a friend and accidentally posted it publicly.

Defense lawyer Dana Cole argued unsuccessfully that the charge should be dismissed because the woman in the photo can't easily be identified.

The victim, who has not been named, is expected to testify if the case goes to trial, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney.

Cole said he's hoping to work out a settlement Wednesday. He said prosecutors want a guilty plea and community service on a highway crew. Wilcox said no plea deal has been offered.

Deputy City Attorney Chadd Kim did not return phone and email messages seeking comment, but in court papers said Mathers had shown no remorse and needed to face consequences for her "cruel and criminal act."

The defense has argued for a more lenient outcome, saying in court papers that Mathers has already lost modeling work and a job as a radio host. They have recommended she use her notoriety to bring attention to the issue of body shaming.

'Dancing With the Stars' crowns new winner

Congratulations to Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater, the new winners of "Dancing With the Stars."

Jennings came into night two of the two-part finale on the top of the leaderboard. On Monday night, he and partner Slater performed two back-to-back flawless routines that left the judges and audience on their feet. He first performed a flawless Viennese waltz followed by a funky freestyle that earned high praises from the judges.

After part one of the finale, it was clear Jennings had his game face on.

For part two, Jennings and Slater performed a cha-cha and tango fusion as their “24 Hour Challenge.” Slater applauded Jennings’ willingness to “go there” throughout the season.

Bruno Tonioli called the performance “dazzling” and told Jennings he was a “rising star” throughout the competition. Len Goodman shared that was surprised Jennings made it to the finals and applauded him for making it all the way to the end. And fans will be happy to hear that Jennings is joining the summer “DWTS” Summer Nights tour.

>> Read more trending news

The duo earned 39 out of a possible 40 points.

The pair smiled as Jennings took one more final bow with his new trophy surrounded by his fellow season 24 competitors.

Monica Lewinsky rips Roger Ailes for launching 'culture of exploitation'

Monica Lewinsky penned an op-ed piece in the New York Times ripping former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who died last week.

She opened her piece by saying her words are not meant to be another obituary for Ailes, but "I hope, instead, an obituary for the culture he purveyed — a culture that affected me profoundly and personally,” she wrote.

>> Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes dead at 77

She continued, “Just two years after Rupert Murdoch appointed Mr. Ailes to head the new cable news network, my relationship with President Bill Clinton became public. Mr. Ailes, a former Republican political operative, took the story of the affair and the trial that followed and made certain his anchors hammered it ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.”

>> Medical examiner: Roger Ailes' death was accidental

She emphasized that their tactic worked like a charm. The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal hooked viewers as it unraveled, turning casual viewers into Fox loyalists. Fox cemented itself as the No. 1 news station, where it has remained for the last 15 years. Lewinsky also said that last year, the network made about $2.3 billion.

Lewinsky called it “a culture of exploitation,” and she railed on the environment fostered at Fox News and other cable news networks that use titillating stories to drive ratings.

"Their dream was my nightmare. My character, my looks and my life were picked apart mercilessly,” Lewinsky wrote. “Truth and fiction mixed at random in the service of higher ratings. My family and I huddled at home, worried about my going to jail — I was the original target of Kenneth Starr’s investigation, threatened with 27 years for having been accused of signing a false affidavit and other alleged crimes — or worse, me taking my own life. Meantime, Mr. Ailes huddled with his employees at Fox News, dictating a lineup of talking heads to best exploit this personal and national tragedy."

>> Read more trending news

Lewinsky said the firing of Ailes after sexual harassment allegations, and more recently the firing of disgraced former Fox News ratings king Bill O’Reilly following multiple sexual harassment allegations and some $13 million in settlements paid to women, shows that Fox News’ culture extended beyond the ratings game.

“The irony of Mr. Ailes’s career at Fox — that he harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut and then was brought down by his own — was not lost on anyone who has been paying attention,” Lewinsky wrote.

Netflix nabs Lupita Nyong’o, Rihanna film pitched by Twitter users

It’s happening! Netflix just scored a deal to produce a movie starring Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o -- a concept created by Black Twitter. 

>> Read more trending news

According to Entertainment Weekly, the project was just made official during a negotiation session at the Cannes Film Festival this week, but the idea originally started brewing on social media in April. 

It began when one Twitter user posted a photo of the stars at a 2014 fashion show with the caption, “They look like they’re in a heist movie with Rihanna as the tough-as-nails leader/master thief and Lupita as the genius computer hacker.”

» RELATED: Did Lupita Nyong’o and Rihanna just greenlight a film created by #BlackTwitter? 

Nyong’o quoted the tweet and tagged Rihanna, saying, “I'm down if you are @rihanna.”

“I’m in Pit’z,” Rihanna replied

When other tweeps caught wind of the idea, they recruited Ava DuVernay as the director and Issa Rae as the screenwriter. 

Now, the plan is actually coming to fruition. 

There is no word on the flick’s final storyline, but production is set to begin in 2018, and the crew is thrilled. Check out DuVernay’s response below. 

Tom Cruise reveals 'Top Gun 2' to start filming soon

The Danger Zone may have gotten old and dusty, but Tom Cruise says he's about to fly back in.

The 54-year-old actor says the long-discussed sequel to "Top Gun" is a sure thing and should start shooting soon.

Cruise made the announcement Wednesday in response to questions from anchors on the Australian morning news show "Sunrise."

The actor said filming will likely begin within the next year. He added, "It's definitely happening."

Cruise has said in similar interviews that the film was in development and a strong possibility, but has not offered such clear confirmation.

The 1986 Reagan-era flyboy epic propelled Cruise to superstar status.

Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of the original, had been dropping hints too. He posted a picture of himself and Cruise on Saturday's 31st anniversary of the original's release.

Tom Cruise confirms ‘Top Gun’ sequel is in the works

It’s official and straight from Maverick’s mouth.

Despite reports about a sequel to the 1986 Naval airplane action/drama film circling for years, Tom Cruise has not confirmed it’s happening until he was asked about it on “Sunrise,” Australia's morning talk show Wednesday local time.

>> Read more trending news

“It's true, yeah it's true,” Cruise said. “You know what? I'm going to start filming it probably in the next year. I know. It's happening. It is definitely happening.”

Cruise is in Sydney promoting is upcoming movie, “The Mummy.”

“You're the first people that I've really said it (to), he said. “This is going to happen.”

In 2016, Cruise addressed rumors about a sequel on the U.K.’s “The Graham Norton Show.” At the time, when host Norton asked, Cruise said “no.” When pressed further and asked about a tweet teasing “Top Gun 2” from “Top Gun” producer Jerry Bruckheimer, he said, “Yes, we’re discussing it.”

It looks like the discussions went well.

“Top Gun” celebrated its 31st anniversary in the U.S.  May 16.

Alcoholics Anonymous sues for return of 12-step manuscript

Alcoholics Anonymous is demanding the return of its 1939 original manuscript describing the "Twelve Step" program of recovery from alcoholism.

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. in New York state court last Thursday sued an Alabama man, Ken Roberts, who owns the manuscript, a New York art gallery and a California auction house.

The manuscript is to be sold June 8 at auction. The lawsuit said the manuscript was gifted to a man who left instructions for it to be given to Alcoholics Anonymous upon his death. But it never was.

Now, it is being advertised by Profiles in History, which plans to auction it in two weeks. Aron Gerson, a spokesman for the Los Angeles-area auction house, declined comment. A man who answered the phone at QuestRoyal Fine Art in Manhattan, where the manuscript was displayed over the weekend, said he could not comment.

On a web page devoted to the auction, Profiles in History described it as "The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous" and "The Bible to Millions," saying its 161 typed pages included handwritten edits by AA founders, including William Griffith Wilson, also known as Bill W. It said it had sold 30 million copies since 1939, been translated into 43 languages and has been ranked by the Library of Congress as a top non-fiction book that shaped America.

The auction house estimated it will sell for between $2 million and $3 million.

The lawsuit said the original working draft copy of the manuscript is "an original, historical document of unique importance." It said it "indisputably belongs" to Alcoholics Anonymous after Barry Leach, who received it from Wilson's widow, signed and notarized a letter in April 1979 saying it would belong to the organization upon his death. He died in 1985.

The lawsuit blamed "either extreme negligence or potentially wrongful actions" around the time of Leach's death for it never reaching Alcoholics Anonymous.

As a result, it said, the manuscript was sold at auction in June 2004 at Sotheby's to William A. Shenk for $1.57 million. The lawsuit said Roberts bought it at a Sotheby's auction in 2007 for $850,000 at a time when Alcoholics Anonymous was not aware of Leach's notarized letter.

The lawsuit said Roberts informed Alcoholics Anonymous on April 7 that he planned to sell the manuscript on June 8. A phone message left for Roberts was not immediately returned.

FCC: No punishment for late-night host Colbert's Trump joke

There will be no fine for Stephen Colbert's risque joke about President Donald Trump.

A Federal Communications Commission spokesman said Tuesday that the agency received "thousands" of complaints about the late-night host's May 1 show, so it reviewed the material as "standard operating procedure." It's the FCC's job to police obscene or indecent material on TV when it receives complaints.

The agency found that the joke, which involved Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and a crude word for penis, did not warrant punishment.

Colbert's politically-tinged "Late Show," rife with Trump jokes, has become the most popular of the late-night circuit.

Ariana Grande fans tremble as they recall Manchester attack

Rihanna Hardy had been excited about seeing Ariana Grande ever since she got her concert ticket as a Christmas gift. So when the day came, the 11-year-old left school a couple of hours early to make sure to get to Manchester Arena on time.

Her parents, Ryan and Shauna, took the afternoon off work, and the family drove the 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Newcastle to Manchester. They struggled to find the arena's multistory parking lot, and barely managed to buy Rihanna a black Ariana Grande tour sweatshirt before the concert started.

But what was supposed to be a special night for Rihanna and thousands of other young concertgoers turned into a tragedy when a suicide bomb blasted off just outside the cavernous hall. It killed 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl, and injured 59 — the deadliest attack in Britain in more than a decade.

"Poor Rihanna ... just kept asking every five or 10 seconds, 'Are we going to die?' Those were her exact words," her father said.

The family took their seats, close to the stage, just before the first of two supporting acts warmed up the crowd. The arena, which seats 21,000, was packed. Many clutched pink balloons and donned cat ears, like those the 23-year-old Grande is famous for wearing.

As the former star of the Nickelodeon series "Victorious" sang and danced her way through her set, the arena heated up. Young children and their parents glistened with sweat.

Then, as the concert ended, the horror began.

Just a few minutes after Grande finished her final song, "Dangerous Woman," blew a kiss to the audience and left the stage, the house lights came back on. People began filing toward the exits.

It was then that a suspect identified as 22-year-old Salman Abedi set off his suicide bomb in the foyer, near a road linking the venue to the city's railway station. Witnesses described seeing bolts and other bits of metal at the scene of the blast.

The boom echoed through Manchester Arena, shaking the floor with a hollow thud. Thousands of Ariana Grande fans — many of them youngsters accompanied by their parents — fell silent for a few seconds, in shock. Then the screaming started.

"I thought we were going to die. It was just horrendous," said Rihanna's mother.

Panic descended on the hall.

"It was just sheer chaos," said Kirstyn Pollard, who had a seat close to the stage. "People were trying to get off the balconies. It was awful."

Melissa Andre and two friends clambered over a security barrier in their rush to get out. It was already dented from other concertgoers fleeing the arena, as officials tried frantically to restore order.

"A security official was on stage saying 'Be calm, everything's fine,'" said Andre, 20. "I think they were just saying that to calm people down before they got out. And then when we got out, the alarm went off."

Police were called in at 10:33 p.m. As they arrived, a smell hung in the air — a bit like smoke, a bit like burning, nothing the Hardys had ever smelled before.

"I can't describe it. It was a really awful smell," Shauna Hardy said. "And there was just alarms going off, police everywhere. Sirens everywhere. People running, screaming. It was just crazy. Absolutely crazy."

Ryan Hardy desperately tried to slow down his wife and daughter as they left the arena, worried they might fall in the crush of people fleeing the carnage. They emerged from the stifling heat of the concert hall into the cool night.

"Everyone else was running out the entrance while he was walking out the entrance," Rihanna — still wearing her Ariana Grande sweatshirt — said Tuesday, looking up proudly at her dad.

Police and paramedics rushed to aid the wounded, wrapping some in foil blankets to keep them warm and ward off shock. Others hobbled off into the night, their clothes torn and stained by blood.

Charlotte Fairclough, 14, was part of the rush to flee.

"Everyone was like scrambling over each other," she said. "Quite a few people got knocked over. It was like just a race to get out."

When Charlotte got out, she immediately called her mom, Stacy, who was waiting to pick up her daughter and a friend. The she called again to say she'd heard a big bang.

Her mother, at the time, wasn't too worried.

"I'd heard fireworks earlier in the night, so I wasn't too concerned to start with," she said.

The full scale of the attack did not hit home until they turned on the news at a hotel.

The Hardy family escaped unscathed, but the shock of the night endured even as they tried to sleep it off. When a door slammed loudly at half past five in the morning, Rihanna got frightened.

"There are a lot of people killed, a lot of people injured, a lot of people missing," Shauna Hardy said. "And we just feel so so lucky that we are all together."

____

Associated Press writer Rob Harris in Manchester contributed.

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