The parents of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was murdered in 2016, sued Fox News over its reporting on him. The Rich family lawsuit claims that Fox News, reporter Malia Zimmerman and guest Ed Butowsky “sought to take the conspiracy theory from the fringe to the front pages and screens of the mainstream media.”
Last year, Fox News published and then retracted a controversial story on Rich that claimed, based on private investigator Rod Wheeler’s claims and an anonymous “federal source,” that Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks and leaked DNC e-mails and that was why he was murdered, as iMediaEthics previously reported.
“Within hours, however, the Fox News story fell apart when Wheeler, who is now suing Fox News over the story, told CNN he had no evidence to suggest Rich had contacted Wikileaks before his death,” CNN reported. (Wheeler’s suit claims that Fox News faked quotes attributed to him; Fox News denies it, and is trying to have the lawsuit dismissed.)
Mother Jones published a copy of the lawsuit against Fox News, Zimmerman and Butowsky, who the suit identifies as a Fox News contributor. They are suing all three parties for intentional infliction of emotional distress, aiding and abetting intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy to commit intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with contract; they are also suing Fox News for negligent supervision and/or retention.
A Fox News spokesperson told iMediaEthics, “We can’t comment on this pending litigation.” The spokesperson added that Butowsky was never a contributor, but only a guest. Butowsky told CNN he didn’t “understand this lawsuit at all” and that “this whole thing has caused unbelievable damage to my life and my family.”
“The simple answer is I didn’t write the article, nor did I participate in writing the article so the idea that somehow the lawsuit against me for causing emotional distress from an article that I didn’t write is kind of bizarre,” Butowsky told iMediaEthics by phone. Butowsky added that he empathized with the Rich family, but maintained that all he offered to do was pay for a private detective for the family. Butwosky confirmed he only was a guest for Fox News and has never been a contributor.
iMediaEthics has messaged Zimmerman via social media.
Seth Rich’s parents, Joel and Mary Rich, argued they have “become collateral damage in a political war” and that Fox News “intentionally exploited this tragedy — including through lies, misrepresentations, and half-truths.”
The lawsuit claims that Fox News, Zimmerman and Butowsky “induced” the Richs “to hire Rod Wheeler, a purportedly independent investigator, to help ‘solve’ their son’s murder.”
Further, the lawsuit argues that “Fox continued to exploit the sham story because it was good for ratings.”
“Joel and Mary have been irreparably harmed because whatever opportunity that existed to investigate and find closure with regard to their son’s murder was taken away from them,” the lawsuit continues. “Defendants’ outrageous conduct prevented them from coming to terms with his murder because they were repeatedly forced to relive it.”
Because of the false reporting, the lawsuit claims the Richs have symptoms of PTSD and obsessive compulsive behavior, noting “they feel compelled to review the news stories, tweets, and internet material falsely stating that Seth was WikiLeak’s source for the DNC emails.” iMediaEthics has written to the Rich family’s lawyer for further comment.
Read the lawsuit here.
UPDAETD: 3/14/2018 11:28 AM