Fox News reaches settlement with family of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich
Joel and Mary Rich sued the network for falsely suggested that their son was killed as political payback before the 2016 election
Rich, 27, was shot and killed in July 2016 near his home in Washington DC
His murder has never been solved but authorities believe it was a botched robbery attempt
His parents alleged in a lawsuit that Fox exploited their son’s death in stories and commentary
Fox pushed an unfounded conspiracy theory in an article and on air suggesting their son leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks and was killed in retaliation
The agreement will allow the family find closure said Seth’s parents who confirmed the settlement Tuesday
Fox also confirmed the agreement though financial terms weren’t disclosed
Fox News has reached a settlement with the family of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich after it falsely suggested their son was killed in retaliation for leaking emails to WikiLeaks in the run-up to the 2016 election.
The network and Rich’s parents, Joel and Mary Rich, reached the settlement Tuesday, both sides confirmed.
Rich, 27, was shot in the back and killed in July 2016 near his home in Washington DC.
The murder has never been solved but authorities believe it was a botched robbery attempt and said it took place in an area where several armed robberies had taken place around the time.
However his death became the focus of unfounded right-wing conspiracy theories – theories that Fox pushed in a 2017 article and on air on Sean Hannity’s prime time show.
Rich’s parents said in a statement that the settlement will allow them to ‘move on from the litigation’ and focus on ‘preserving Seth’s memory’.
‘The settlement with Fox News closes another chapter in our efforts to mourn the murder of our beloved Seth, whom we miss every single day,’ they said.
‘It allows us to move on from the litigation we initiated in response to Fox News’ May 2017 article and televised statements concerning Seth’s murder.
‘We are pleased with the settlement of this matter and sincerely hope that the media will take genuine caution in the future.’
Fox said in a statement: ‘We are pleased with the resolution of the claims and hope this enables Mr. and Mrs. Rich to find a small degree of peace and solace moving forward.’
Neither side disclosed the financial terms of the deal.
Joel and Mary Rich filed a lawsuit against Fox News, Fox reporter Malia Zimmerman and Texas businessman Ed Butowsky back in 2018 alleging they exploited their son’s death in stories and commentary.
The family had objected to a Fox article and commentary falsely suggesting their son had leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.
WikiLeaks had published a trove of DNC emails weeks after Rich’s killing, giving rise to right-wing conspiracy theories online that Rich was responsible for the leak and that the DNC had him killed because of it.
Such theories were contradicted by US intelligence reports and the Senate Intelligence Committee later concluded that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC and handing the information to WikiLeaks.
Fox pushed the conspiracy theory in an article written by Malia Zimmerman and published online in May 2017 and also referenced the unfounded claims on air multiple times. Zimmerman no longer works for Fox News.
In the article, titled ‘Seth Rich, slain DNC staffer, had contact with WikiLeaks, say multiple sources’, Zimmerman cited quotes from private investigator and then Fox News contributor, Rod Wheeler, claiming Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks shortly before his death.
Rich’s family had hired Wheeler via Butowsky to investigate their son’s death, something Zimmerman and other Fox employees had encouraged them to do, according to the lawsuit.
The suit claimed Zimmerman worked with Butowsky on developing the article suggesting Rich had leaked the trove of emails and was assassinated as a cover-up.
The theory was also pushed on air by several Fox News hosts including Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, Lou Dobbs, Newt Gingrich and Geraldo Rivera.
Hannity said on one of his prime time shows: ‘Still so many questions, this is getting more mysterious by the day, surrounding the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich. One thing I will tell you, my opinion, strongly, guess what: It wasn’t a robbery.
‘Was he talking to WikiLeaks? We’ll investigate. And if he did, does this blow the Russian collusion narrative out of the water?’
Fox later retracted the online story and Hannity and other contributors stopped pushing the theory.
Rich’s family sought damages for ‘mental anguish and emotional distress, emotional pain and suffering, and any other physical and mental injuries’.
A lower court had thrown out the lawsuit in August 2018, but the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan last year reinstated it.
The appeals court said the family had plausibly alleged what amounted to a campaign of emotional torture.
Several Fox hosts, including Hannity, were due to undergo depositions over the suit.