Fox paid seven figures to settle a lawsuit over a fake Seth Rich conspiracy story

News Corporation headquarters
Fox News is headquartered in New York. (Richard Drew / AP)

WASHINGTON – Just as star anchor Sean Hannity and other renowned Fox News figures were supposed to give up on promoting a false conspiracy theory in connection with the death of a former Democratic National Commission staff member, the cable network threw in the towel last month and moved which has threatened to uncover plenty of new details about one of the most embarrassing twists of recent years.

An agreement between Fox News and Rich’s parents, Joel and Mary Rich, was made public on Tuesday, but with no details on the terms. But legal sources tell Yahoo News that the settlement includes the Rich family’s lucrative seven-digit payment, in line with the size of the payments, Fox News and related corporate units in other cases that have brought negative publicity to them.

The hasty settlement also had the advantage of sparing Hannity and other Fox News actors – including Network President Jay Wallace and contributor Newt Gingrich – in an attempt to swear allegations in the May 2017 series, which aired on the DNC. blamed emails on WikiLeaks on Rich. At the time, Hannity called a Fox News story that attributed the DNC leak to Rich an “explosive” development that “could reveal the single biggest scam in our history, a lie the American people are committing by the media and Democrats”.

In fact, Fox News retracted the story after eight days, and Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s investigation falsified allegations about Rich and concluded, along with the U.S. intelligence community and the FBI, that Russian military intelligence agents had broken it. forwarded the DNC and party emails to WikiLeaks through an online person called Guccifer 2.0.

“The deal with Fox News closes another chapter in our efforts to mourn our beloved Seth, whom we miss every day,” Joel and Mary Rich said in a statement released Tuesday. “This will allow us to move forward with the lawsuit we launched in response to Fox News’ May 2017 article and television statements about Seth’s murder. We are delighted with the resolution of this matter and sincerely hope that the media will be really careful in the future. “

Fox News said in a statement: “We are happy to hear the claims and hope this will allow Rich and Mr. to find a small degree of peace and comfort in advance.” Asking for further comments, the spokesman replied that it was “not true” that Fox News had initiated settlement talks to avoid a deposition by Hannity, but declined further comments.

Mary Rich
Mary Rich, the mother of the murdered DNC, is the mother of Seth Rich. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Washington Post via Getty Images)

Seth Rich’s story, the theme of last year’s Yahoo News six-part “Conspiracyland” podcast series, grew out of the fiercely debated presidential campaign of 2016 and became one of Donald Trump’s presidency’s leading conspiracy theories. Rich, a 27-year-old employee of the DNC, was killed while walking home from a bar early in the morning of July 13, 2016, and police in Washington DC quickly came to the conclusion that it was probably a spoiled street robbery.

But as the “Conspiracyland” podcast revealed, shortly after Rich’s death, Russian intelligence agents and Trump’s right-wing allies, including long-time political adviser Roger Stone, promoted the idea that Richer had been murdered by militants working for Hillary Clinton for alleged reasons. role in the leak of Democratic Party emails.

In fact, Rich played no role in the leak of DNC emails. Deborah Sines, a U.S. lawyer assistant in Washington at the time accused of investigating Rich’s murder, said in the podcast that the allegations that Rich did so were “complete fiction”.

Yet, when the FBI’s investigation gained momentum in the 2016 election due to Russian interference and focused in part on possible ties to the Trump campaign, Trump’s allies aggressively advocated Rich’s story as an alternative narrative.

“Huge story … the hit was obviously a contract murder,” then White House chief strategist Steve Bannon sent a message about Rich to producer CBS 60 Minutes on March 19, 2017, according to some text messages from Bannon that Yahoo News reviewed. during the production of the “Conspiracyland” podcast.

Then in May 2017, in close collaboration with another Trump ally, Ed Butowsky, Dallas-based financial advisor Malia Zimmerman, a Fox News reporter wrote and published a story on the network’s website – attributed to an anonymous federal investigator – claiming the FBI found evidence that Rich had leaked it. party emails to WikiLeaks on your laptop. The story was immediately and aggressively promoted by several Fox News personalities, including Hannity, Gingrich, Laura Ingraham and others, despite strong rejection by Washington police, the FBI and the Rich family.

The following week, Fox News withdrew the story and deleted it from its website, stating in a statement that the article “was not originally subject to the high-level editorial review we require for all of our reports”. Fox News later announced that it was conducting an internal investigation into publishing the story on its website, but never made the results public.

The link to Zimmerman’s profile page on the Fox News website has died and the Washington Post has reportedly left the network.

The confirmation of the conspiracy theory about the boys by Fox News and its continued dissemination on social media despite the retreat of Fox News caused anxiety for Rich’s family. “He’s used to lying, walking, or dying to his own son,” said Mary Rich, who was interviewed with her husband, Joel, on Yahoo News’s “Conspiracyland” podcast. “I wish they had a chance to experience the hell we’ve been through.” Because it’s worse than the first loss of my son. It’s like losing him again.

The Rich family sued Fox News, Butowsky and Zimmerman in federal court in New York for intentionally causing emotional anxiety. (Aaron Rich, Seth Rich’s older brother, filed a separate lawsuit against Butowsky and Matt Couch, the Arkansas Internet personality now in trial. Butowsky, for his part, later sued this journalist and Yahoo News for the podcast. But has since dismissed the case. Couch has also sued Yahoo News, but the case still exists.)

In a lawsuit filed by Seth Rich’s parents, Fox News was forced to hand over hundreds of internal emails and documents about its story. The documents were closed, but they could have become public by continuing the lawsuit. At least some of the communication materials were, according to Butowsky, occasionally with White House figures, including then White House press secretary Sean Spicer and President Trump himself (although Butowsky later insisted that none of them knew in advance about the story Zimmerman was developing). ) Lawyers for the Wealthy Family also sought information about the anonymous person Zimmerman claimed to be the source of the story.

However, the immediate trigger for the settlement talks appears to have been an increased deposit schedule that was filed with the court last September. He called for the deposit of Zimmerman on Oct. 26, Butowsky on Oct. 27, Hannity on Oct. 30, Fox News President Wallace on Nov. 10, and Fox News Vice President of Corporate Communications, Irena Briganti. At the time, according to sources familiar with the case, Fox News’s attorneys began negotiations to settle the lawsuit and offered a huge director’s personality, sparing his star anchors and leaders from having to answer questions about what they knew about the fake story. Although the terms of the settlement were soon adopted, sources said Fox News has decided to postpone the announcement until a week – three weeks after the presidential election.


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