Fox News sued by parents of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich

Joel and Mary Rich say they have PTSD because of a Fox News story they claim painted their son as a traitor

Courtesy of the Democratic National Convention

A Fox News representative told NBC News that it did not intend to comment on the lawsuit since it was "pending litigation". Skeptics nonetheless claimed Rich may have been killed for allegedly leaking the DNC emails to WikiLeaks, despite US intelligence officials concluding that Russian hackers sourced the correspondence in question. However, according to PolitiFact, those leaked emails likely came about due to Russian interference in the 2016 election, and any claim that Rich was involved is, and was, "baseless". In May of 2017, the network published on its website an article that, according to the lawsuit, contained "false and fabricated" information about the 27-year-old's murder, which police say took place as part of a botched robbery.

Also sued were Malia Zimmerman, the reporter who wrote the story, and Dallas-area money manager Ed Butowsky, once a frequent Fox News guest.

Mary Rich and her husband, Joel Rich, hold a photo of their son in their home on January 11, 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska.

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In a statement, his parents described the "pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son's life and legacy treated as a mere political football".

By Fox News's own admission, a retracted report last May about the deceased Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was bad journalism. The nature of his death has led to conspiracy theories that insist he was targeted by Democrats for leaking emails to WikiLeaks.

Still, the theory about Rich persisted, cited by prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich and right-wing broadcasters like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones of InfoWars.

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The suit's allegations zero in on the role of Butowsky, a wealthy Trump supporter whose involvement in the Fox News coverage of Rich is already the subject of a separate lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in the Federal District Court of Manhattan, claims Fox spread the false story "through lies, misrepresentations, and half-truths - with disregard for the obvious harm that their actions would cause Joel and Mary". Unbeknownst to them, however, Wheeler was working with Butowsky and Zimmerman on the article at the same time, and Butowsky and Wheeler even briefed White House communications director Sean Spicer on the story's progress. Rod Wheeler, a private investigator and former Fox News contributor, has claimed he was defamed by allegedly made-up quotes attributed to him in the story.

Butowsky said that Joel Rich had been "very happy with the article" when it was initially published. In their suit, the Riches say they have exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder stemming from their son's death and the conspiracy theories that followed.

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