Fox News reaches settlement with parents of Seth Rich
By Katie Robertson
The parents of Seth Rich, a Democratic aide whose unsolved murder became fodder for right-wing conspiracy theories about the 2016 election, reached a settlement Tuesday with Fox News, whose coverage linked Rich to email hacks that aided President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential run.
Joel and Mary Rich, the parents of the murdered aide, had filed a lawsuit against Fox News in 2018, accusing the news organization of “extreme and outrageous” conduct in its coverage of their son’s death, claiming that it had fueled damaging rumors about him.
The couple said in a statement Tuesday that they could now move on. “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. “We are pleased with the settlement of this matter and sincerely hope that the media will take genuine caution in the future.”
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staff member, was shot in the back and killed July 10, 2016, near his home in Washington. The case is unsolved, and authorities have said they believed it was a failed robbery.
In May 2017, Fox News published an article on its website by reporter Malia Zimmerman that suggested, citing unnamed sources, that Rich was killed in retaliation for leaking damaging DNC emails to WikiLeaks in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. Fox News host Sean Hannity repeatedly promoted the false theory on his prime time program.
The coverage played into a baseless narrative that had been pushed by conspiracy theorists and conservative pundits looking to blame the WikiLeaks email dump on anything but Russian political interference in the election. (U.S. intelligence officials determined that Russia was responsible for the hack of the DNC networks.)
Fox News retracted the article a week after it was published, saying in a statement at the time that the article had not been subjected to editorial scrutiny and did not meet its standards.
Hannity was defiant, even after the retraction. “All you in the liberal media,” he said on his show, “I am not Fox.com or FoxNews.com. I retracted nothing.” But he later backed off the story.
Joel and Mary Rich sued Fox News over the retracted article and TV coverage. The lawsuit also named the reporter, Zimmermann, and Ed Butowsky, then a frequent Fox News guest, as co-defendants, claiming that they used “lies, misrepresentations, and half-truths” to paint “Joel and Mary’s son as a criminal and a traitor to the United States.”
On Tuesday, Fox News 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.”