Two men who sought to advance allegations about the late Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich have retracted their claims and apologized to Rich’s family.
Rich was shot and killed in Washington in 2016, in what police have said was an apparent botched robbery.
Ed Butowsky, a wealth manager formerly with Morgan Stanley, frequently appeared on cable television and gave interviews to a range of outlets. According to a lawsuit filed by Rich’s brother, Aaron Rich, Butowsky contacted the family in early 2017 and offered to fund the hiring of a former Washington police investigator to lead a private investigation into the slaying.
Butowsky then pushed Fox News to publish a story about the homicide, which quoted Wheeler as having discovered proof that Seth Rich had leaked DNC documents to WikiLeaks. Butowsky was also the only listed source for a Washington Times article detailing “cover-up questions” about Seth and Aaron Rich.
In a recent statement on Twitter, Butowsky wrote: “I never had physical proof to back up any such statements or suggestions, which I now acknowledge I should not have made.
“I take full responsibility for my comments and I apologize for any pain I have caused. I sincerely hope the Rich family is able to find out who murdered their son and bring this tragic chapter in their lives to a close.”
Butowsky later deleted the statement.
Matt Couch, the founder of the now-dissolved America First Media, also promoted allegations that Rich was the source of DNC documents that WikiLeaks published, the suit said.
“Our reports about Aaron Rich were largely driven by information [given to] us by a single source, who we now believe provided us with false information and who, as of this date, has retracted his statements,” Couch said in a statement on his new website.
“Today, we retract and disavow our statements, and [we offer] our apology to Mr. Rich and his family.”
Couch has said before that the information he published about Aaron Rich and Wikileaks was sourced from Butowsky.
In response to the retractions, Aaron Rich told news outlets: “In the more than four years since we lost Seth, the accusations made against our family have only served to prolong our grief without bringing us any closer to finding Seth’s murderer.
“Although we will never be at peace until we obtain justice for Seth’s murder, I hope that these events may encourage others to pause and consider the impact of accusing strangers of wrongdoing, give law enforcement space to do their jobs, and let us remember Seth in peace and with privacy.”
The Washington Times previously retracted its article and apologized. Fox News retracted its article and settled with the Rich family in November 2020.
A flurry of lawsuits relating to claims about Seth Rich’s family have been filed, both against people and outlets who promoted certain claims about the homicide and against reporters and media outlets who reported on those who promoted the claims. Butowsky sued several outlets for their reporting on him, but they were all dismissed voluntarily or by a judge.
The allegations center around the source of DNC documents that Wikileaks posted in 2016. The DNC-hired CrowdStrike firm has blamed Russian hackers, as did the FBI, although the agency relied on CrowdStrike’s analysis and didn’t examine the servers itself.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has suggested he obtained the documents from Rich, whose death remains unsolved.
The FBI has files from Rich’s computer in its possession, it was revealed in an ongoing court case last month. That case, Huddleston v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, deals with a Freedom of Information Act request asking for records on Rich. The plaintiff has cited Butowsky in his effort to compel the bureau to hand over all files it has regarding Rich. The bureau argued earlier this month that it wasn’t misleading anyone when officials said multiple times that searches turned up no records of Rich, only for the latest search to uncover a number of records.
The serials “make brief references to Seth Rich but is voluminous due to the nature of the material (including an image of Seth Rich’s personal laptop),” the bureau wrote. It was granted a three-month extension to properly sift through the files.