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The family of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer whose murder was at the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory, is suing Fox News for a story it retracted last year implying that he leaked documents to WikiLeaks.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claims Fox News “intentionally exploited” Rich’s death “with disregard for the obvious harms” that befell the family.
“No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure,” Joel and Mary Rich said in statement, according to CNN. “The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son’s life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension.”
Rich, 27, was killed in Washington D.C. in July 2016, and his murder remains unsolved. The nature of his death has led to conspiracy theories that insist he was targeted by Democrats for leaking emails to WikiLeaks. The theory was built on the timing of Rich’s death (he was killed less than two weeks before WikiLeaks published DNC emails) and a reward the organization offered in return for information about his death. Authorities say Rich was killed as a result of a robbery gone wrong.
Fox News published a story in May 2016 that implied Rich was WikiLeaks’ source and retracted it a week later. The news outlet said it “not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Right-wing pundit Sean Hannity faced backlash for doubling down on the conspiracy theory despite Fox News’ retraction. Several advertisers, in the wake, pulled their ads from his show.
The lawsuit claims the story contained “false and fabricated facts” and “irreparably harmed” the family.
In a statement to ABC News, which first reported on the lawsuit, Fox News commentator Ed Butowsky—a defendant in the suit—called it “one of the dumbest” he’s seen, adding “to file a lawsuit to say that anybody has benefited just smells weird.”
Despite the claims of Rich’s family, some people are convinced the lawsuit is meant to “keep the truth quiet.”
I wonder who is really behind this lawsuit that Seth Rich family brought against Fox News. Someone is really trying to keep the truth quiet. Little do they know this will shine more light on the situation. DNC going down.— SGT DOOM (@MinorityRepubl2) March 14, 2018
You know what this lawsuit doesn't do? Doesn't accuse them of deformation or libel. Hmm 🤔.. So they aren't saying what they reported was untrue. #SethRich #SethRichCoverUp #WhokilledSethRichhttps://t.co/WiLgf8IGuI— Chris (@Rimer_Chris) March 14, 2018
Rich family most likely has been threatened, and possibly paid to keep quiet. This lawsuit is the best thing to happen to reveal the truth of who killed him and why. We will never forget Seth Rich. #MAGA #InternetBillOfRights— I'mJustaGirl (@DottieBoyes) March 14, 2018
You can read more about the lawsuit here.
Andrew Wyrich is a politics staff writer for the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the internet. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).