Fox News Sued by Slain DNC Worker's Parents Over Retracted Story

Erika Holt
March 15, 2018

Wheeler himself has sued Fox News, Zimmerman, and Butowsky, claiming that an article included false quotes to make it seem that there was stronger evidence of the connection between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks than what he actually found. The article linked Rich to the leak of the emails to WikiLeaks, but the US intelligence community said in October 2016 that the Russian government was behind the hacks.

Rich, a voter-expansion data director for the DNC, was shot and killed in Washington, July 2016.

Also named in the suit is former Hawaii reporter Malia Zimmerman, who wrote the story for Fox News.

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".

The story quoted Wheeler saying there had been contact between Rich and WikiLeaks. Aaron Rich, the brother of Seth Rich, sent a letter to Hannity days after Fox News published its story, telling him that continuing to cover the story would "cause us additional pain, suffering and sorrow". The couple claims they have become "collateral damage" in a political war. Wheeler alleged in his lawsuit that the comments were false and were put in the story at the behest of President Donald Trump to discredit investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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.

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Yet a week later, Fox retracted the story after the Rich family filed a complaint and the sources for Zimmerman's report refuted what she had written.

The Riches also allege that the network, through its story, made it seem like they were involved in the story and confirmed its substance.

Butowsky told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he did not write the article connecting Rich to Wikileaks and that it was "baseless and frivolous" to name him in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that Joel and Mary are experiencing symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and Mary is experiencing symptoms consistent with Social Anxiety Disorder.

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that Fox, Zimmerman, and Butowsky created a "smear campaign" against the family and manipulated Rich's parents by inducing them to hire Rod Wheeler, an independent investigator Fox used to back up its claim, to help solve their son's murder.

In a statement, Leonard A. Gail, the lawyer representing the Rich family, said: "Joel and Mary Rich have brought this case" to hold the defendants "accountable for their reprehensible actions".

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