Family of Slain DNC Staffer Demands Apology From Fox News for Pushing Baseless Smears About Their Son
The family of Seth Rich, a former staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was murdered last July, is demanding that Fox News and a local DC Fox affiliate retract and apologize for their reporting on Rich’s death. Fox alleged that the murder was somehow related to Rich’s alleged relationship with WikiLeaks despite finding no evidence that Rich had ever been in contact with WikiLeaks.
In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 quoted Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who was once hired by the Rich’s family to investigate his death, claimed that “a source inside the police department” told him that the department was “told to stand down on this case.” Wheeler also said it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. According to CNN, “no real evidence has been provided to support such claims and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department.”
Right-wing media seized on this story as a way to deflect from President Trump’s downward spiral. Fox personalities Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs reported on the story, despite Wheeler’s lack of evidence, or any evidence to support the WikiLeaks theory of Rich’s death. In fact, Hannity continued to push the conspiracy theory during his Wednesday radio program. Right-wing media’s tasteless exploitation of the Seth Rich spurred the family to demand a retraction. From the May 17 CNN report:
The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was fatally shot last July, is demanding retractions from Fox News and WTTG-TV on Wednesday for their inaccurate reports on the unsolved murder, a spokesman for the family told CNN Wednesday.
"The family is officially asking for a retraction and an apology from Fox News and from the Fox 5 DC affiliate for inaccurate reporting and damaging the legacy of their son," spokesman Brad Bauman said.
This week, both Fox News and WTTG-TV published and aired reports, sourced to private investigator Rod Wheeler, that said evidence showed Rich had been in contact with Wikileaks before his death. Wheeler later told CNN he had no such evidence and that he had, in fact, only heard of some information attributed to him from a Fox News reporter with whom he spoke.
A FoxNews.com story on the case also cited a "federal source" who said the FBI had conducted a forensic analysis of Rich's computer and discovered thousands of emails with Wikileaks. But a law enforcement official told CNN that the FBI never had possession of Rich's laptop and did not conduct a forensic analysis of its contents.
Neither Fox News nor WTTG-TV have issued corrections to their reports. Multiple requests for comment made to both outlets were not returned.
Update: Fox News issued the following statement in response to criticism of their reporting and sources changing their story. In an email statement to HuffPost, Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital said, "We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants":
Fox News and Fox 5 published separate stories about the supposed links on Tuesday. But since then, the main source has changed his story, D.C. police and the FBI have disputed the most explosive claims, and Rich’s family has called on the network and station to issue retractions, saying that “inaccurate reporting” is “damaging the legacy” of Rich, a 27-year-old DNC staffer who was slain as he walked to his D.C. home.
Fox News isn’t budging.
“We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants,” Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital, said in an email statement to HuffPost on Wednesday afternoon. The network has not addressed the questions and apparent discrepancies surrounding its story.
Fox 5 didn’t respond to multiple HuffPost requests for comment about its article. A spokesperson for the station told DCist it was standing by the story.