Once widely maligned for leaking state secrets, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, continues to win favor with the US right over the release of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
On Friday night, the Fox News personality Sean Hannity and David Duke, a US Senate candidate in Louisiana and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, became the latest to offer their support.
In response to a tweet from the Nebraska Republican senator Ben Sasse that was critical of the Clinton leaks, Hannity praised Assange and WikiLeaks for having “done the USA a great service” by exposing “government corruption” and cybersecurity weakness.
Duke, meanwhile, posted an image of Assange with the caption “HERO” in the red and blue posterized style made famous by the artist Shepard Fairey’s 2008 depiction of Barack Obama. Duke’s expressions of support for Donald Trump have caused difficulties for the Republican presidential candidate.
WikiLeaks, which Assange founded in 2006, has been posting daily batches of emails from Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, seemingly in an attempt to harm Clinton’s electoral chances. Among other things, the leaks have shown communications with journalists that were meant to be kept secret, political advice about rivals within and without the Democratic party, and details of the candidate’s paid speeches to Wall Street firms.
Clinton has raised questions about the possible involvement of Russian hackers in obtaining the documents – the US government has accused Russia of being behind the hacks against the Democratic National Committee – and what it would mean if Vladimir Putin’s government were trying influence the race.
Trump has said information disclosed in the leaks ought to disqualify Clinton from the presidential election.
Some observers believe Assange is personally antagonistic to Clinton, who was secretary of state when the US began investigating him for potential crimes under the Espionage Act.
WikiLeaks came to prominence in 2010 for a massive dump of diplomatic cables and army reports related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars provided to media outlets including the Guardian by an American soldier, Chelsea Manning.
At the time, Hannity suggested that “people might die” because of the leaks. On Friday, he tweeted: “And I have said on radio and TV that my original fears were wrong. My biggest fear was people would die as a result. Listen, watch learn.”
Since 2012, Assange has been running WikiLeaks from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after applying for political asylum. He is wanted in Sweden for rape, an accusation he links to a conspiracy to extradite him to the US to face charges. This week, the Ecuadorian embassy said it had removed his internet access. The US and Ecuador denied that they had conspired to do so.