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Family of Seth Rich sues Fox News over retracted story
15 March 2018, 02:32 | Erica Roy
Seth Rich's Family Is Suing Fox News For Creating A Conspiracy Theory Over His Death
Joel and Mary Rich have filed a lawsuit that says Fox News "intentionally exploited" their son's murder. The Washington DC police haven't identified any suspects in what they believe was a botched robbery, but the killing led to accusations in conservative media that Rich - and not Russian-backed hackers - provided the emails to WikiLeaks.
In the lawsuit, which was obtained by ABC News, Rich's parents claim that Fox News, investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman and commentator Ed Butowsky are liable for the harm inflicted on Rich's family by spreading "false and fabricated facts" about their son's death.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY by Joel and Mary Rich, whose son, Seth, was murdered in July 2016, accuses Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman and frequent guest and political operative Ed Butowsky of "intentionally exploit [ing] this tragedy-including through lies, misrepresentations and half-truths-with disregard for the obvious harm that their actions would cause Joel and Mary".
The network removed the story a week after it was posted, saying it was not initially subjected to its "high degree of editorial scrutiny". "The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son's life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension", Joel and Mary said in a joint statement to ABC News.
Wikileaks itself fuelled the conspiracy theory by offering a reward for the capture of Mr Rich's killer and hinting that he may have been the source of the emails.
The lawsuit describes months of strategic planning among Zimmerman, Butowsky and Wheeler to convince the Riches that evidence linked Seth Rich to the DNC leaks. Fox retracted its article that day, and host Sean Hannity said he'd stop discussing the situation "for now".
The lawsuit claims that Fox News, Zimmerman and Butowsky "induced" the Richs "to hire Rod Wheeler, a purportedly independent investigator, to help "solve" their son's murder".
The 16 May 2017 Fox story was retracted by the network after a week.
According to the Riches' complaint, Butowsky, an occasional Fox guest and longtime Republican surrogate based in Texas, allegedly conspired with Zimmerman to promote the claims about Rich and Wikileaks.
In a statement, Leonard A. Gail, the lawyer representing the Rich family, said: "Joel and Mary Rich have brought this case" to hold the defendants "accountable for their reprehensible actions".
The suit claims the couple has developed post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, among other afflictions, as a result of the viral conspiracy theory about Seth.