The parents of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich prevailed in an effort to sue Fox News Channel over allegations that employees of the network helped promote unproven theories the young man’s death was tied to a leak of emails from the DNC to WikiLeaks in 2016.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Friday reversed a lower court decision to dismiss the case, and now Joel and Mary Rich can continue pursuing legal remedy for what they allege includes intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with contract and negligent supervision.
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“This decision now clears the way for a thorough investigation into the facts,” said Lenny Gail, an attorney for the Rich family. ” We will now obtain documents from Fox News and other parties and take testimony under oath from those involved.”
Rich was killed in 2016, and Washington, D.C. police have determined he was shot during a robbery. Different fringe groups seized upon the murder to advance unproven theories that he was involved in the WikiLeaks hack. Right-wing outlets including Breitbart and The Drudge Report suggested with items and links that Rich could have been killed in retribution for the leak of DNC emails during last year’s presidential campaign, an act that has largely been attributed to Russian interference. That theory about Rich’s murder, which remains unsolved has yet to be proven. Theories around Rich helped fill segments on “Hannity,” Fox News 10 p.m. primetime mainstay.
The Rich family has claimed Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman and guest Ed Butowsky prevailed upon them to hire private investigator Rod Wheeler to probe Rich’s death. They allege the two Fox News operatives then used that connection to the lend ballast to “false accusations” about him. Fox News in 2017 retracted a story by Zimmerman it had published on Rich’s murder, noting at the time that it was “not initially subjected to [a] high degree of editorial scrutiny.”
The retraction was believed to be one of the first made of a Fox News story.
In a statement, Fox News said the new ruling “permits Mr. and Mrs. Rich to proceed with discovery to determine whether there is a factual basis for their claims against Fox News. And while we extend the Rich family our deepest condolences for their loss, we believe that discovery will demonstrate that Fox News did not engage in conduct that will support the Riches’ claims. We will be evaluating our next legal steps.”
The Riches said in a statement that they “look forward to continuing to pursue justice,” adding “We would not wish what we have experienced upon any other parent – anywhere.”