The parents of Seth Rich – the Democratic National Committee staffer police believe was murdered during a botched robbery in 2016 – have sued Fox News over a retracted story that peddled a conspiracy theory about his murder, claiming the network “intentionally exploited” the tragedy for political purposes.
The May 2017 story stated, falsely, that investigators had evidence showing Rich leaked thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks in the midst of the 2016 presidential election, just weeks before he was shot to death in Washington. That story line – popular among conspiracy theorists and in alt-right online groups – contradicts U.S. intelligence that Russia was behind the WikiLeaks email dump that damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Fox’s story fell apart quickly after the FBI pointed out that a “federal investigator” and “FBI report” referenced in the story as sources did not exist. The second core source in the story, private investigator and Fox contributor Rod Wheeler, claimed the Fox reporter fabricated his quote saying he had evidence of emails between Rich and WikiLeaks. He has since sued the network for defamation. (Fox News has denied all his claims.)
Fox News retracted the story six days after it was published, saying the story “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.”
But Joel and Mary Rich say that the story has followed them ever since, wreaking irreversible damage on them and their son, whose legacy has become entangled in a conspiracy theory that Fox elevated “from the fringe to the front pages and screens of the mainstream media,” the lawsuit says. The couple is seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress.
“No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure,” Joel and Mary Rich said in a statement released through their media representative. “The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son’s life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension.”
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Meagan Flynn