Why did Seth Rich’s parents sue Fox News over his death?
It looks like the two-year legal battle between Seth Rich’s parents & Fox News is coming to an end.
Fox News was sued by Joel & Mary Rich for emotional distress back in March 2018. The couple accused the network of baselessly painting their son, Seth, as a traitor, which led to added suffering after his death. Seth Rich died in July 2016.
Who was Seth Rich?
Seth Conrad Rich was an employee of the Democratic National Committee since 2014, where he worked as the voter expansion data director. He came to prominence when he was murdered in 2016, at age 27, under undetermined circumstances.
Rich was shot in the back twice on Sunday, July 10, 2016, about a block from his apartment in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The reason behind his death remains unclear, but police investigators believe it was likely the result of a botched robbery. The neighborhood had been suffering from a rash of robberies at the time.
The perpetrators of Rich’s murder were never apprehended, despite numerous rewards being offered for their capture. In addition to the customary amount of $25,000 from the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, Wikileaks also announced a reward – this one for $125,000 – for information that would lead to a conviction.
Republican lobbyist Jack Burkman added a third reward to the proceedings, one that eventually increased to $130,000 as well. It was November 2016 and, by then, Seth Rich’s death had spawned complex conspiracy theories which Burkman claimed he wanted to help definitively confirm or debunk.
Fox News and the conspiracies
Weeks before Wikileaks offered a reward for information regarding Seth Rich’s death, it released thousands of leaked emails it claimed came from the DNC. Right-wing outlets like The Drudge Report and Breitbart News jumped on the potential connection between Rich’s murder and the data breach. Could it be retribution for collaborating with Wikileaks? Could it be part of a cover-up?
Fox News joined the fray in May 2017, when it published a story by Malia Zimmerman claiming multiple sources had confirmed Rich’s involvement with Wikileaks. Fox News hosts & contributors such as Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Newt Gingrich and Geraldo Rivera took the story and ran with it. The alleged connection between Rich & Wikileaks was amplified throughout the network.
Fox News retracted the story a week after it was posted, saying it wasn’t initially subjected to its “high degree of editorial scrutiny”. Fox personalities like Hannity eventually pulled back as well, claiming to do so out of respect for Rich’s family. But that was too little, too late for Joel & Mary Rich.
The Rich family versus Fox News
Joel & Mary Rich claimed the treatment of their son’s death by Fox News left them with symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. Referencing the original story by Zimmerman, they said the network had used “lies, misrepresentations and half-truths” when pushing the theory connecting Seth to Wikileaks.
Initially, the complaint was dismissed in August 2018, when a federal judge ruled that it was a defamation lawsuit disguised as an emotional distress claim – you can’t defame the dead according to New York law. However, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan revived the lawsuit in September 2019, concluding “the Riches plausibly alleged what amounted to a campaign of emotional torture.”
Fox News filed another motion to dismiss in February 2020, one that was partially granted in September. Still, Hannity & Dobbs were scheduled for a deposition in the case – though it’s unclear if that ever happened since a settlement seems to have been reached. Both parties, The Riches & Fox News, confirmed the settlement and made statements indicating satisfaction at being able to move on from litigation.
The terms of the settlement remain undisclosed in court filings. And it’s worth noting that Judge George B. Daniels, the federal judge overseeing the case, has not approved it yet.