The parents of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich are suing Fox News for a retracted story they say fueled conspiracy theories about his death.
Joel and Mary Rich have filed a lawsuit against the network, along with investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman and commenter Ed Butowsky, for including “false and fabricated facts,” according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by ABC.
Rich, a voter-expansion data director for the DNC who was offered a new job on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, was talking on the phone on July 10, 2016, when he was gunned down on the street.
While his parents believe he was killed in an attempted robbery, Fox News published a story in May 2017 claiming Rich was killed after he leaked work emails to WikiLeaks. Police have found no evidence to support that theory.
But the Fox News report was promoted by Sean Hannity before it was retracted a week later for failing to meet a “high degree of editorial scrutiny,” the network said in a statement.
According to the lawsuit filed in the Federal District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday, the defendants “intentionally exploited” Rich’s death “through lies, misrepresentations and half-truths — with disregard for the obvious harm that their actions would cause Joel and Mary.”
The lawsuit also claims both Zimmerman and Butowsky reached out to the couple on false pretenses.
Butowsky “sought to gain a favorable introduction” to Joel and Mary, and reached out to the couple on Facebook by claiming he was “looking to connect with anyone Jewish in Omaha, Nebraska,” the lawsuit states.
He managed to get ahold of the couple and later followed up in an email with a subject line that read, “Please call Ed Butowsky. We met through Jeremy from your temple,” the lawsuit states.
Zimmerman, on the other hand, emailed Joel for information on Seth claiming she would “bring further attention to his case.” Joel sent her information and photographs “without knowing the Defendants’ true intentions,” the lawsuit states.
“And they published, republished, and publicized the sham story…painting [Seth Rich] as a criminal and a traitor to the United States,” the lawsuit states.
“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” Joel and Mary said in a joint statement.
Their lawyer Leonard Gail said, “Whether motivated by party politics, ratings, corporate profit, or personal gain, we hope to help prevent this kind of malicious and reckless behavior in the future so that others can be spared the hell the Riches have had to endure.”
Butowsky called the lawsuit “one of the dumbest” he’d ever seen, and told ABC, “Nobody’s benefited from anything. To file a lawsuit to say that anybody has benefited just smells weird.”
Fox News declined to issue a comment to the Daily News, citing the pending litigation.
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