Fox News is asking that the lawsuit filed against them by the parents of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich be dismissed. After Rich was killed in July 2016, the network published an article that assigned responsibility for the WikiLeaks email leak to the DNC. The story gained traction among people who saw it as shifting blame for election collusion away from the Russians and Trump. The Fox News story later fell apart.
Two lawsuits have been filed against the cable news network in relation to their Seth Rich WikiLeaks story. One was filed by a man named Rod Wheeler, a former homicide detective who investigated Rich’s death. The other was filed by Seth’s parents and is the one Fox News is trying to squash.
In their lawsuit, Rich’s parents charge that the news network’s exploitation of their son’s murder caused them emotional distress. The grounds upon which Fox News is seeking dismissal of the suit include the assertion that it isn’t possible to defame someone who is deceased, which is the basis of the lawsuit filed by Seth’s parents according to the Hollywood Reporter. This argument has been successful in these kinds of suits in the past. In a statement, Fox News also states that nothing about their report was “outrageous.”
There is one more element to the Riches’ suit. Seth’s parents hired Rod Wheeler to investigate the murder of their son. They are charging that Fox News interfered with a confidentiality agreement they had with Wheeler by pushing him to reveal information about the investigation to their reporter. Fox News argues that the First Amendment protects their right to publish news as well as to gather the news. They acknowledge that this sometimes involves speaking with “secret” sources, some of whom wish to not be identified because of confidentiality agreements. Fox News states in their request for the dismissal of the lawsuit that these actions do not make the publication of information gathered in this manner or this kind of encouragement of sources a crime. They cite common law in arguing against Seth Rich’s parents and say that these actions are a crime only if they are done “without reasonable justification” or “for the sole purpose of harming the plaintiff.”