Fox News
Fox News host Sean Hannity is seen in the White House briefing room in Washington, DCNicholas Kamm/AFP

Fox News plans to keep their most popular personalities, Sean Hannity, despite losing advertisers over his coverage of a debunked right-wing murder conspiracy. At least seven firms have pulled their commercials from Hannity's prime time programme.

The backlash comes after he promoted a right-wing theory that Democratic National Committee staffer, Seth Rich, was killed for providing DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Washington DC police suspect Rich was actually shot during a botched robbery.

Cars.com, mattress companies Leesa Sleep and Casper, United Services Automobile Association (USAA), Peloton bicycles, the Crowne Plaza hotel chain and doorbell company Ring have all asked to cancel their adverts from the show, The Los Angeles Times reported.

"We don't have the ability to influence content at the time we make our advertising purchase," Cars.com said in a statement. "In this case, we've been watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity."

According to the BBC, USAA tweeted its decision to pull its commercial in a message to a follower. "Thank you for sharing your concern," USAA tweeted. "Advertising on opinion shows is not in accordance with our policy and we've since corrected it."

The backlash has continued despite Hannity's promise to stop speaking about the conspiracy theory on-air. Hannity announced that he would no longer speak about Rich's unsolved murder after the victim's parents asked him to stop.

"I did it out of my own heart," Hannity said. "Nobody tells me what to say on my show."

He later added on Twitter: "Ok TO BE CLEAR, I am closer to the TRUTH than ever. Not only am I not stopping, I am working harder. Updates when available. Stay tuned."

The Times reported that Fox News declined to comment on the pullout by advertisers but noted that Hannity would be off the rest of the week on a scheduled holiday.

"Like the rest of the country, Sean Hannity is taking a vacation around Memorial Day weekend and will be back on Tuesday," a Fox News spokesperson said. "Those who suggest otherwise are going to look foolish."

The advertising controversy surrounding Hannity is similar to that experienced by his former colleague, Bill O'Reilly. Advertisers began pulling out of The O'Reilly Factor in March following reports that O'Reilly and Fox News had paid $13m (£10m) to settle claims of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. Every major advertiser dropped out by early April, the Times noted.

Following his 11 April show, O'Reilly left on holiday but never returned to the network again. He was sacked on 19 April but was paid the remainder of his $25m-a-year contract.

Fox News has seen its ratings drop following O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly's departure. For the first time since 2008, Fox News finished behind CNN and MSNBC in the 25-to-54 age group last week.