Fox News Settles With Family of Murdered DNC Staffer Seth Rich

Fox News Settles With Family of Murdered DNC Staffer Seth Rich
People pass the News Corporation headquarters building and Fox News studios in New York on Aug. 1, 2017. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)
Zachary Stieber

Fox News and the family of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich settled a lawsuit, the parties announced Tuesday.

“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. 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,” Joel and Mary Rich, the parents of Seth Rich, said in a statement issued through their attorneys.

“We now look forward to devoting as much time and energy as we can to family and to preserving Seth’s memory as a blessing,” they added.

A Fox spokesperson told news outlets 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.”

The terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed.

Rich worked for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) when he was murdered on July 10, 2016 near his home in Washington. Rich’s murder has never been solved.

The case centered on a story published that same year by Fox, reported by Malia Zimmerman.
Rich had leaked thousands of committee emails to WikiLeaks, Zimmerman reported, citing law enforcement sources, including a federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report.

According to the investigator, Rich transferred some 44,053 emails to WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a former investigative reporter who is now deceased.

Fox also cited Rod Wheeler, a retired homicide detective and former Fox News contributor, who said his probe into what happened for the Rich family pointed to “some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.”

A representative for Rich’s family disputed a connection to Wheeler, even though he had a contract signed by Rich’s father, according to Fox. Wheeler later sued Fox, alleging quotes attributed to him by the network were fabricated.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Feb. 5, 2016. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Feb. 5, 2016. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
Seven days after publication, Fox retracted the story.

“The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed,” the outlet said in a statement at the time.

WikiLeaks, a transparency nonprofit that releases secret documents, in 2016 published scores of internal DNC emails that were said to have been accessed through a hack. A number of conflicting claims have been made about the emails.
Joel Rich and Mary Rich filed the suit against Fox in 2018, alleging Zimmerman and Ed Butowsky, a Fox guest, “intentionally exploited” the death of their son “through lies, misrepresentations, and half-truths.”

The suit claimed that Zimmerman and Butowsky “induced” the Riches to hire Wheeler and worked with Wheeler “to pursue and develop a fiction that Seth had leaked thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks.” The defendants also intentionally made it look like the Riches were involved in and had confirmed the substance of the narrative, according to the suit.

A  federal judge dismissed the suit in 2018 but an appeals court overruled the decision.

Butowsky referred a request for comment to his attorney, who declined to comment.

The case in question is Joel Rich and Mary Rich v. Fox News Network LLC et al., Civil Action No. 18-cv-02223, S.D.N.Y.

Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately described Butowsky’s role, and the year Rich was killed. The Epoch Times regrets the errors.