Fox News sued by family of slain DNC staffer over retracted reporting

A Fox News channel sign is seen on a television vehicle outside the News Corporation building in New York City in New York

A Fox News spokesperson told ABC News that it had not seen the complaint and could not offer any comment. This fueled a raft of conspiracy theories that suggested Rich was murdered by Hillary Clinton's henchmen for leaking DNC emails to the group. The goal of the story, according to the Riches and Wheeler, was to take political heat off the Trump administration as investigators probed whether Russian-backed hackers leaked the emails to advance his candidacy.

Police say Rich may have been the victim of a robbery when he was shot in the back several times and later died in the hospital in July 2016, but the murder of the 27-year-old still remains unsolved.

The lawsuit named Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman, who supposedly worked with businessman Ed Butowsky to develop what court documents charged was a "sham" story about Rich's death in May 2017, which was also referenced on air numerous times, CNN wrote.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY by Joel and Mary Rich, whose son, Seth, was murdered in July 2016, accuses Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman and frequent guest and political operative Ed Butowsky of "intentionally exploit [ing] this tragedy-including through lies, misrepresentations and half-truths-with disregard for the obvious harm that their actions would cause Joel and Mary".

Mary Rich and her husband, Joel Rich, hold a photo of their son in their home on January 11, 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska. The false claim, they said, led to their son's murder being treated as a "political football", and are suing the network, and Zimmerman and Butowsky, for their pain and suffering they say they've endured. Right-wing pundit Sean Hannity faced backlash for doubling down on the conspiracy theory despite Fox News' retraction. However, in the absence of definitive answers, conspiracy theories have proliferated online claiming-without evidence-that Rich was murdered under more suspicious circumstances. The introduction of the lawsuit states Rich's parents, Joel and Mary, are seeking justice for being "collateral damage in a political war".

Working with Wheeler, the pair then developed "a fiction" that Rich had leaked thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks, the attorney continued. The network ultimately retracted the story seven days after it was published.

Butowsky told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he did not write the article connecting Rich to Wikileaks and that it was "baseless and frivolous" to name him in the lawsuit.

The couple is suing for intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims, and say they've experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of the situation.



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