Conservative news giant Fox News is finding itself in yet another scandal. This time, it is based on their journalistic integrity.
Two years ago Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer, was tragically slain outside his home in Washington, D.C. Although the killer was never found, D.C. police believe that his death was the result of a botched robbery. While covering the story, however, Fox reported that his killing was a political assassination.
Correspondents Malia Zimmerman and Ed Butowsky drew vague correlations between their false report that Rich leaked private DNC emails and his untimely death. One year after Rich’s death, Zimmerman penned a story defaming Rich titled “Slain DNC Staffer Had Contact with WikiLeaks Say Multiple Sources.” With assistance from a quote she made up, allegedly coming from Rod Wheeler, who later sued the same parties for fabricating quotes, she was able to create the narrative that Rich sent “44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments between Democratic National Committee leaders, spanning from January 2015 through late May 2016.”
After the publication of the story, it appears that Butowsky was using it to push his own agenda. In an internal memo to Fox News producers and talent, Butowsky wrote, “One of the big conclusions we need to draw from this is that the Russians did not hack our computer systems and steal emails and there was no collusion like Trump with the Russians.”
Some of the charges that are being put on Fox and the two defendants are intentional infliction of emotional distress as well as aiding and abetting intentional infliction of emotional distress due to their “disregard for the obvious harm that their actions would cause Joel and Mary [Rich’s Parents].” The lawsuit also alleges that, as a result of Fox’s coverage, Rich’s parents are “exhibiting symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” It also takes issue to Zimmerman and Butowsky’s contact with Rod Wheeler, who was hired by the Rich family as a private investigator.
Fox News, in a statement, refused to comment on the pending litigation. Butowsky, however, referred to the lawsuit as “one of the dumbest” and said that “Mr. and Mrs. Rich should come forward and be honest with people.” The Rich family is looking to receive monetary compensation for their hardship, which they hope will be determined by the upcoming trial.
The Rich conspiracy theory already cost Fox money last year, when Fox News personality Sean Hannity would not stop pushing the story on his fans. Companies including Cars.com, Leesa Sleep, Peloton, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ring, Casper and USAA all pulled their advertisements from his show on Fox News.