The parents of late DNC staffer Seth Rich have sued Fox News over a retracted report claiming their son was in contact with WikiLeaks and leaked the DNC emails to the whistleblowing organization.
Joel and Mary Rich filed the suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday, accusing the network of fabricating a conspiracy theory in its May 16 article. The piece alleged Rich leaked information to WikiLeaks. Reporter Malia Zimmerman and political operative Ed Butowsky are named in the suit along with Fox News.
According to the complaint obtained by RT.com, the Richs “seek justice for having become collateral damage in a political war to which they are innocent bystanders.” The filing says Fox “intentionally exploited this tragedy — including through lies, misrepresentations, and half-truths,” and calls the article a “sham.”
Rich was killed on July 10, 2016. He was shot walking home from a bar in what police have stated was a botched robbery. The case has yet to be solved, and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has “identified no suspects, witnesses, or possible motives,” the suit says.
FOX NEWS ARTICLE
The Fox News article published in May, 2017 claimed Rich was a source of the leaked DNC emails which WikiLeaks published on July 22, 2016. The emails revealed the committee’s favoritism towards presidential candidates Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.
The suit says Fox News’ “outrageous conduct prevented them [the Richs] from coming to terms with his murder because they were repeatedly forced to relive it. Whatever progress they had made in accepting Seth’s death and moving forward was completely derailed by Defendants’ outrageous behavior.”
The Fox article quoted an unnamed federal investigator, who said they had seen an FBI report revealing Rich had been in contact with the late WikiLeaks director Gavin MacFayden. Rod Wheeler, a private investigator and Fox News contributor, was featured heavily in the original story and reportedly told Fox News his investigation also found emails had been exchanged. He was quoted as saying he believed “the answers to who murdered Seth Rich sit on his computer on a shelf at the DC police or FBI headquarters.”
Wheeler sued Fox for defamation and racial discrimination in August saying he had been misquoted. The contents of article were heavily promoted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who pushed the Rich conspiracy on his show.
Fox retracted the story on May 23, publishing a statement on their website: “On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich. The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed.”
The family’s lawyer, Leonard A Gail of Massey & Gail LLP said: “Whether motivated by party politics, ratings, corporate profit, or personal gain, we hope to help prevent this kind of malicious and reckless behavior in the future so that others can be spared the hell the Riches have had to endure.” A Fox spokesperson said: “We can’t comment on this pending litigation.”
Rich’s murder has long-fuelled speculation that he was in fact the DNC leaker. This is contradicted by US intelligence’s claims that the DNC was hacked by Russia in a bid to prevent Clinton from winning the election. News of the Rich lawsuit sparked further debate and speculation across social media Wednesday, with many still maintaining Rich was killed because he was the leaker.
WikiLeaks has not said Rich was the leaker, however, founder Julian Assange further fuelled rumors when he spoke of Rich in an interview with Dutch TV Nieuwsuur in August 2016. “Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks,” he said. “There’s a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.”