The parents of Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer whose murder has been connected to a conspiracy theory, have sued Fox News, claiming that the network’s coverage of their son’s death amounted to “malicious and reckless behavior,” the Guardian is reporting.
Rich was murdered on July 10, 2016, in Washington, D.C., in what police are calling a botched robbery. As of this writing, there have been no arrests and no suspects have been named in the case.
Since his death, he’s been tied to various conspiracy theories, most notably the theory that he had leaked thousands of DNC to WikiLeaks. 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.”
Nevertheless, in May 2017, Fox News ran a story making the claim that Rich had leaked the emails. Fox News commentator Sean Hannity promoted the story frequently on his show; it also came up on Alex Jones’ InfoWars broadcast, although Jones is not a part of the Fox News network.
A week later, the network withdrew the piece, claiming that it hadn’t been given the necessary “high degree of editorial scrutiny.”
SCOOP: The family of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich just filed a lawsuit against Fox News, reporter Malia Zimmerman, and Ed Butowsky https://t.co/YYlS6tAKEj
— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) March 14, 2018
In their lawsuit, Joel and Mary Rich claim that reporter Malia Zimmerman and frequent network guest Ed Butowsky intentionally fabricated the story connecting Rich to WikiLeaks. The false claim, they said, led to their son’s murder being treated as a “political football,” and are suing the network, and Zimmerman and Butowsky, for their pain and suffering they say they’ve endured.
“No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure. The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son’s life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension.”
Butowsky, for his part, claims that he didn’t write the piece, and that including him in the lawsuit is “baseless and frivolous.”
The suit faces an uphill battle in court. Defamation cases are notoriously difficult to win in court. Further, U.S. case law has held that it’s impossible to defame the dead. And while Mr. and Mrs. Rich claim that it is they themselves that have suffered from the posthumous defamation of their son, legal experts say that “creatively suing around” a dead defamation victim rarely works out for the plaintiffs, according to MSN.
As of this writing, Fox News has declined to comment on the case, citing pending litigation.