World Media

DNC Staffer's Family Sues Fox News Over Retracted Article About His Killing

DNC Staffer's Family Sues Fox News Over Retracted Article About His Killing

The parents of a murdered former Democratic National Committee staffer are suing Fox News and two of its reporters for promoting a conspiracy theory that featured their dead son at its center. However, in the absence of definitive answers, conspiracy theories have proliferated online claiming-without evidence-that Rich was murdered under more suspicious circumstances.

Because of the false reporting, the lawsuit claims the Richs have symptoms of PTSD and obsessive compulsive behavior, noting "they feel compelled to review the news stories, tweets, and internet material falsely stating that Seth was WikiLeak's source for the DNC emails." iMediaEthics has written to the Rich family's lawyer for further comment.

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.

"No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure", Rich's parents, Joel and Mary Rich, said in a joint statement this week. Unbeknownst to them, however, Wheeler was working with Butowsky and Zimmerman on the article at the same time, and Butowsky and Wheeler even briefed White House communications director Sean Spicer on the story's progress.

The complaint says the Rich family is seeking monetary damages to be determined by a jury trial.

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The lawsuit claims that reporter Malia Zimmerman and commentator Ed Butowsky developed a "sham" story about Rich's death, which Fox News "aided and abetted" by providing the story a national platform on which to be disseminated.

Nevertheless, in May 2017, Fox News ran a story making the claim that Rich had leaked the emails.

Following his death, some right-wing media suggested his killing was revenge by figures linked to the Hillary Clinton campaign for allegedly leaking embarrassing DNC emails to Wikileaks. Nevertheless, the network is well-positioned to fend off a lawsuit brought by Rich's family that alleges "intentional infliction of emotional distress", according to legal experts.

Zimmerman's story said Rod Wheeler, a private investigator and Fox News contributor hired by Butowsky to look into Rich's death, had learned that Wikileaks had been in contact with Rich prior to his death. The false claim, they said, led to their son's murder being treated as a "political football", and are suing the network, and Zimmerman and Butowsky, for their pain and suffering they say they've endured. "Mr. and Mrs. Rich should come forward and be honest with people", he said.


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