Seth Rich’s parents continue to suffer grief inflicted by Fox News’ far-right conspiracy theorists: interview

Seth Rich’s parents continue to suffer grief inflicted by Fox News’ far-right conspiracy theorists: interview

After Democratic aide Seth Rich was shot and killed in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, July 10, 2016, it didn’t take right-wing media outlets long to promote bogus conspiracy theories about his death. Police believe that Rich was the victim of a street robbery, but Fox News persisted in pushing conspiracy theories about his death — inspiring Rich’s parents, Joel and Mary Rich, to file a lawsuit against the right-wing cable news outlet. And a new interview with National Public Radio (NPR) is the first public interview they have granted since reaching a settlement with Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corp. in 2020.

Joel Rich told NPR, "We're just beside ourselves. With all the international stories and all the national media, how do you live with that, when you know it's all false about your son and his legacy?"

Under the terms of the settlement they reached with Fox News/Fox Corp. in 2020, Joel and Mary Rich could not speak directly about Fox News or any of its hosts during the NPR interview. But they talked about their son and the pain that conspiracy theorists brought them after his death.

“After Seth's death,” NPR reporter David Folkenflik explains, “figures friendly to former President Donald Trump portrayed him as a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter. They peddled false claims that he had secretly stolen thousands of e-mails and given them to WikiLeaks to try to stop Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. They suggested Clinton and the Democrats had arranged his killing, and that the Riches themselves were in on some kind of cover-up. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange fueled the suspicions, aided by such extremist blogs as Gateway Pundit. None of this was true.”

Folkenflik adds, “As intelligence agencies in the Obama and Trump Administrations, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee and Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded, hackers were deployed by the Russian government to disrupt U.S. elections. But the falsehoods helped deflect growing evidence that the Russians had interfered in Trump's election win.”

Folkenflik notes that Sean Hannity, Eric Bolling and former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs were among the hosts at Fox News or Fox Business who “baselessly suggested that Seth Rich had been the leaker and that he was murdered because of those leaks.”

Seth Rich’s death wasn’t the first time Fox News’ willingness to promote nonsense conspiracy theories created legal problems for them. Fox News is presently facing a $1.6 billion lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems for promoting the false claim that its voting equipment was used to help now-President Joe Biden steal the 2020 presidential election. A civil trial in that case is set for April 2023.

Fox News has also been sued for defamation by Smartmatic, a Dominion competitor. Smartmatic’s voting equipment was never used to help Democrats steal any votes in 2020, but that didn’t prevent Fox News hosts from promoting that false claim just as it promoted false claims involving Dominion. And Smartmatic asked for $2.7 billion in its lawsuit.

Although Joel Rich couldn’t get into the specifics of the settlement with Fox News/Fox Corp., he told NPR, “We are still glad we did this, because you get a settlement. It may not have the words 'I'm sorry.' But (in effect), you have the admission they did something wrong.”

Fox News, not surprisingly, declined to be interviewed for NPR’s article on Joel and Mary Rich. During the interview, they reiterated that the ludicrous conspiracy theories involving their son had no basis in fact.

Mary Rich told NPR, “We thought that when the lawsuit was over, our lives would be able to go back (to a sense of normalcy)…. People would know and understand that there was a big lie. And I have realized since then, our lives will never ever be able to return.”

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