Mar 13, 2018, 9:43 PM ET

Family of slain DNC staffer sues Fox News over retracted story

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The family of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, who was killed in 2016, has filed a lawsuit against Fox News, an investigative reporter and one of the network's frequent guests over a story about Rich and allegations that he was involved in a conspiracy, according to the lawsuit.

Rich was shot and killed in Washington, D.C., in July 2016. Police said he was shot several times in the back and later died at a local hospital. Rich was 27 years old and worked as a voter-expansion data director for the DNC at the time.

The May 16, 2017, Fox News article, which allegedly contained "false and fabricated facts," according to the lawsuit, fueled conspiracy theories that Rich was murdered in connection with a massive WikiLeaks data dump of 20,000 DNC emails days after his death.

In the suit, which was obtained by ABC News, Rich's parents, Joel and Mary Rich, claim that Fox News investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman and Fox News commenter Ed Butowsky reached out to the family under false pretenses to support stories that Seth Rich leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

The lawsuit claims that Fox News, Zimmerman and Butowsky are liable for the harm caused by the report because they "aided and abetted the intentional infliction of emotional distress" caused by the story about Seth Rich and alleges that Fox News provided with a national platform to develop what the lawsuit dubs a "sham story."

The Rich family claims that the “defendants’ conduct was extreme and outrageous” in what they allege was a deliberate effort to portray Seth Rich as a “criminal and traitor to the United 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 Rich said in a joint statement.

Leonard A. Gail of Massey & Gail LLP, a lawyer representing the Riches, said: “Joel and Mary Rich have brought this case to hold Fox News, Fox reporter Zimmerman, and political operative and Fox News contributor Butowsky, accountable for their reprehensible actions. 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 in an interview with ABC News. “Mr. and Mrs. Rich should come forward and be honest with people,” he said, adding that he's reached out to them repeatedly to tell what he claims to be the truth.

“Nobody’s benefited from anything," he added. "To file a lawsuit to say that anybody has benefited just smells weird.”

Fox News told ABC News it had not seen the complaint yet and therefore would not comment.

ABC News has reached out to Zimmerman, but did not immediately hear back.

PHOTO: Seth Rich is seen in this undated Linkedin profile picture.Linkedin
Seth Rich is seen in this undated Linkedin profile picture.

Fox News retracted the story in late May 2017.

"On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich," Fox News said in a statement at the time. "The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed.

"We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted."

The U.S. intelligence community stated in October 2016 that the Russian government was behind the DNC email hacks blamed on Seth Rich in the retracted news report. Officials this week said they have not changed the intelligence assessment about the Kremlin-directed effort.

Joel Rich told ABC News shortly after his son's death that police told the family Seth Rich may have been a victim of a robbery but that none of his belongings were missing.

His murder remains unsolved.

News - Family of slain DNC staffer sues Fox News over retracted story

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  • John Galt

    Mueller needs to interview Assange. He is the only one who truly knows the source of the DNC computer hacking. He also knows if Seth Rich was involved or not. The robbery killing does not pass the smell test.
    Sessions also needs to fire FBI McCabe immediately for his role in the dossier. NO taxpayer funded benefits for this DC sewer rat.

  • shadow1100

    A civil trial. This will blow up in their faces because much can be entered into the fray and there are many people who believe this was a hit job.

  • concernedvoter

    Shawn Hannity and FAUX news was pushing this story for months... wouldn't surprise me if the Russians took out this poor kid to setup the story that he was involved in releasing emails.. as we see with the poisoning in the UK there's now low the Russians won't stoop to in order to provide Trump cover..

  • Punkrockbilly

    Katie Steinle's family should do the same thing. Fox "news" loves flogging corpses of innocents for perceived political gain.

  • Punkrockbilly

    Hannity should be named in this lawsuit as well.

  • mollydtt

    For is not "news". It is free speech, but hardly ever factual.

  • faze009

    It was entertaining at first but now this whole thing with news media outlets like Fox becoming the news is getting tiresome. Fox needs to brand themselves similar to Trump's National Enquirer so that no one is overly surprised when they run false and inaccurate stories.

  • Rick B

    I'm concerned about making a comment. I might get "Free speech attacked" by some layer somewhere, but here goes.
    Its a who done it case. Like a candle stick by the butler in the bedroom. Etc.
    One can not dismiss motive.
    So one should "round up the usual suspects and start asking questions.
    The death of this young man is so Clinton like.

  • tedpeters

    Hmmm... discovery in this case might go in directions that the Rich's will find uncomfortable.

  • The Master of Disaster

    Fahahaha oxnews. Good one.

  • Libby Rahl

    Just another confirmation that Fox News is now a propaganda agent for the Russian government. It's amazing to me that so many conservatives still watch it and believe anything they put forth. It's a strange reversal compared to the past, when all liberals were cast as closet communists, to see conservatives openly embracing a news organization that is spinning lies to defend the former communist country that tried to subvert our democratic process in the last election. I keep thinking they can't go any lower, and obviously I am underestimating them.

  • FarmFamily

    It has been proven repeatedly there is no depth that Faux news will not sink to, no lie they will not tell to advance their far right wing political agenda.

  • Wes Edwards

    Lots of trolls here, probably Russian oligarch agents. Life in Russia sucks. No upward mobility outside of nepotism. It's a shame that they want to bring that awful joblessness here. Go to Syria and attack American soldiers again trolls.

  • xofpmaws

    another distraction from the democrats. Lets focus on who killed him and why. Answer those questions. He was gunned down in cold blood, they did not so much as take his watch or phone, so no robbery. They should be searching for Justice, rather than going after people who were actually looking for a suspect and motive for his death.

  • David Easton

    The DNC killed Seth Rich on order of Podesta the Molesta, who with hiw brother Tony abducted raped and murdered Madeline McCann. Podesta in wikileaks email is "in favor of making an example of any leaker whether there is proof or not" Seth Rich was the person who at 22/mbits per second which proves the DNC hack was an inside data transfer, leaked the contents of those emails to Julian Assange, by way of Kim DotCom. Hillary Clinton needs to answer for the gigantic circle of dead bodies that follows her every where she goes. She is a monster

    ABC MODS, GO AHEAD AND BAN ME WHEN YOU DELETE THIS COMMENT FOR THE 3RD TIME BC I WILL JUST KEEP POSTING IT

    FAKE NEWS HACKS

  • tj

    Good for them. The man-child currently tainting the Oval Office has been inciting uncivil behavior and violence since it's campaign days. Warning signs weren't hard to find yet a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances have led to where we are today. Hopefully justice will prevail. Soon, maybe not soon enough, the US can start to heal and grow from the negative effects of the current administration and the complicit GOP.

  • dancer92136

    Why not sue Hannity? He was the ring leader.

  • Wes Edwards

    Fox influenced a lot of voters with their fake propaganda including some of my friends. This is just the tip of the iceberg for what they have done. The Rich's should get millions. Fox provided cover for Russian interference/collusion - Mueller should go after the fox news network next. Burn to the ground faux newz.

  • New name for this stor(e)y

    Faux news is a steaming pile of feces. Incidentally so are its viewers.

  • KristenSuzanneM

    Perhaps we'll find out what really happened and who really murdered this young man through true investigative reporting. The MSM was sadly incurious when it came to this. That's why the western media and the American Fourth Estate does not do its job any longer.

  • JungleCogs

    Do you people really want to go there? The Discovery process could be quite revealing.

  • Ben

    One way to clear up all the Seth Rich conspiracy theories is to finally provide to the public any hard evidence that Russia was responsible for the hacking of the DNC. All we ever got was a flimsy report by a third party company, Crowdstrike. They provided what they claimed were malware samples from the DNC servers, but we have to take their word that's where they got them. The FBI was NOT ALLOWED to look at the servers. Even worse, the connection between the malware samples given and the FSB (Russia) relied on a separate hacking incident in Ukraine which the Ukrainian gov't says never happened! So not only could we clear up the Seth Rich allegations, but we could stop looking so foolish as a country, if we could provide some real actual proof of Russian hacking, rather than book reports on RT or Ads on Facebook or trolls on twitter...

  • ladychurchillusa

    Very strange that the family does not seem to have any curiosity about who killed their son. I don't view him as a traitor if he leaked the dnc docs I would say he was a hero and a whistle blower. Most IT people agree that the hack came from inside the DNC because of the volume of docs, The Russian hack is a fantasy. I think the Rich family and the DNC may just regret this suit since it will in fact require thorough investigation to prove the truth one way or the other.

  • 1richardbagg1

    The story was true.. Problem with the Democrats pushing the lawsuit is that now the truth will come out with all information having to be turned over the the defense lawyers which of course will be working on the side of good compared to the lying, anti-American Democrat party.

  • Tralfaz Gottrockets

    Good. People & outlets pushing fake or sketchy stories need to be held legally accountable for their words.

  • Iqiniso Alisabalulekile

    Fox News is nothing if not the home of manufactured Caucasian outrage, right wing lies, fake news and contrived, elaborate excuses for the lies and perversions of Cadet Bone Spur.

    Almost two decades ago, Fox lost any credibility it had among non-white Americans, non-conservative Americans and Americans who are NOT a fan of the magical 'blue-eyed, white Baby Jesus' preferred by right wing hypocrites like Jeffress, the Huckabees, Cruz, Santorum and Bachmann.

    Fox News is nothing but a shill for the angry Alt-White, the NRA, regressives, white supremacists in three piece suits and outright liars like Hannity and O'Reilly.

  • cowdogpete

    I hope they are successful. It's not just Fox News that is too quick to run with little info. All news organizations these days strive to be first with the story in pursuit of ratings or clicks. Having facts or the complete information is no longer necessary....."we'll just print a correction later' is the norm.
    Maybe if this succeeds all news sources will rethink before running with a half-assed story.

  • ohyes2011

    Good for them. Good luck!

  • floridalegal

    Per the decades old US Supreme Court Opinion, NY Times v. Sullivan, to find a reporter libelous or slanderous, you have to prove for a fact that the specific reporter at the time of the news story knew for a fact that what they were reporting was false and reported it knowing it was false. There is NO reasonable person standard. If every other reporter in the world knew or should have known that the reporting was false but this specific reporter did not know, you can not find the reporter to have committed libel and slander. This is a very high bar and standard to meet.

  • RichardOwens

    "...a deliberate effort to portray Seth Rich as a “criminal and traitor to the United States.”

    FOX destroys reputations every stinking day and has stalked and terrorized anyone they thought could be an effective opponent of their reactionary Republican goals.

    Seth Rich's legacy is worth more than FOX and all its sexual predators combined.