Fox News settled a lawsuit with Joel and Mary Rich, the parents of slain Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich by way of a joint stipulation filed in federal court on Tuesday afternoon.
“IT IS STIPULATED AND AGREED by and between plaintiffs Joel and Mary Rich and defendants Fox News Network, LLC, Malia Zimmerman, and Edward Butowsky, that pursuant to [the relevant rule] of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the claims by Joel and Mary Rich against all defendants are dismissed with prejudice, and each party waives all right to appeal and to seek attorneys’ fees and costs,” the brief filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) notes.
“The settlement with Fox News closes another chapter in our efforts to mourn the murder of our beloved Seth, whom we miss every single day,” the Rich family said in a statement. “It allows us to move on from the litigation we initiated in response to Fox News’ May 2017 article and televised statements concerning Seth’s murder. We are pleased with the settlement of this matter and sincerely hope that the media will take genuine caution in the future.”
The resolution of the lawsuit caps off a year-plus-long legal battle between the DNC staffer’s parents and the cable news channel.
In March 2018, Joel and Mary Rich sued Fox News over a 2016 story written by Zimmerman that alleged their then-recently deceased son had some sort of affiliation with Wikileaks. That story was titled: “Seth Rich, slain DNC staffer, had contact with WikiLeaks, say multiple sources.”
The first paragraph of that piece speaks for itself:
The Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down on July 10 on a Washington, D.C., street just steps from his home had leaked thousands of internal emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources told Fox News.
The story was retracted less than one week later. Fox News issued a statement in its place saying the piece “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting” and had “since been removed.”
Rich, as it turns out, did not have any such contacts with WikiLeaks and the entire concept was premised on a far-right conspiracy theory that crawled around the slimier corners of the internet before being given the imprimatur of respectability by the network’s online edition.
That conspiracy began when the younger Rich was murdered during an apparent robbery or attempted robbery in Washington, D.C. at the age of 27 during the summer of 2016–just as the presidential election between then-candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was finally beginning to be fought in earnest.
According to that conspiracy theory, Rich was gunned down over his alleged–but never once proven or even substantiated–connection to the 2016 DNC email scandal. The logic of the false narrative suggested that Rich provided WikiLeaks with a tranche of damaging DNC emails and was subsequently killed to keep his mouth shut.
Those untrue suppositions made their way across social media for awhile by the sheer momentum of wild-eyed disinformation and were later carried over into the realm of potential plausibility after Rich’s parents enlisted the help of third-party investigator and former homicide detective Rod Wheeler.
Butowsky, a GOP donor, is allegedly who pushed Fox to lend their name to the conspiracy theory in the first place. And, he is confirmed to be the person behind Wheeler offering his services to the Rich family in the first place. A separate lawsuit filed by Aaron Rich, the deceased’s brother, targeting Butowsky and conservative media maven Matthew Couch tangentially implicates Fox News as well–which filed a motion earlier this year asking a judge not to force Zimmerman to testify.
Showcasing the legal roller coaster the original Rich family lawsuit became is the fact that the case–which will dismissed soon–was actually already dismissed by the SDNY once in the summer of 2018 before being resuscitated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the summer of 2019.
“We are pleased with the resolution of the claims and hope this enables Mr. and Mrs. Rich to find a small degree of peace and solace moving forward,” Fox News said in a statement to Law&Crime.
The tidy resolution of the complaint may also produce a few sighs of relief for the network’s foremost primetime star Sean Hannity.
It was previously reported that the Fox News opinion host was scheduled to be deposed in October and that discovery was supposed to be completed by the end of the year.
[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
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