More than four years have passed since the right-wing, pro-Donald Trump conspiracy machine – fueled by theorists from 4Chan and Reddit, WikiLeaks impresario Julian Assange, and finally by Fox News – began to spread fantasies. toxic about the death of Seth Rich.
The machine continues to pull away – as with the recent fall of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani into Seth Rich’s rabbit hole – even as the 45th president’s political future is threatened by the election results of next Tuesday.
Rich was the 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staff member who was gunned down by unknown assailants in a seemingly botched robbery on a Washington, DC sidewalk one block from his home in the wee hours of 10 July 2016.
Almost alone among the conspirators, who pushed for variations on the theme that Rich could have been murdered by a successful Democratic Party team hired by Hillary Clinton in retaliation for leaking a damaging DNC email cache to Assange, Fox News is still grappling with the fallout while defending in Federal Court.
Last Friday, for example, prime-time star Sean Hannity, one of the worst offenders in the Seth Rich fiasco, was scheduled to sit for a lengthy deposition in a March 2018 lawsuit brought by Mary and Joel Rich. , Seth’s parents, alleging “ intentional infliction. of emotional distress ”against Fox News and one of the digital reporters of Trump’s sympathetic cable company Malia Zimmerman, with Fox News commentator Ed Butowsky.
“It is very important that the Rich family continue their trial because it is really important to understand how this story got its way on the Hannity show, which is the main mainstream media platform for spreading false stories,” said documentary director Andrew Rossi, whose recent HBO movie, After the truth: Misinformation and the cost of fake news, featured a rare on-camera interview with Seth Rich’s brother Aaron. “That’s the goal of all these conspiracy theorists and propagandists. They would like to spread their hoaxes and false information on a platform that people visit frequently and seem to trust.
Rossi added, “The lawsuit is about respecting the memory of Seth Rich and a form of closure for the Rich family, but it’s also about understanding the propaganda pipeline and how Fox News plays a role as false information launderer. “
Hannity is one of at least 17 Fox News personalities, executives, contributors and managers – including Lou Dobbs, Laura Ingraham, Newt Gingrich, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News President Jay Wallace and Senior Executive Vice President Irena Briganti – that the lawyers of the Rich have cited in court documents people they would like to question under oath.
“Thank you for your request, but I am not authorized to speak on the matter,” one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Elisha Barron of Susman Godfrey LLP, sent Friday to The Daily Beast in response to a question on the matter. find out if Hannity’s deposition had been scheduled. Meanwhile, others involved in the litigation have not responded to an investigation into whether the lawsuit was rumored to have recently gone into settlement negotiations.
“We don’t comment on active litigation,” a Fox News spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
The tangled story of Fox News involvement began on May 16, 2017, with the posting on the outlet’s website of Malia Zimmerman’s error-filled story – which was reportedly cobbled together with help from Butowsky, among others, and headlined “Seth Rich, Killed DNC Staff Member, Had Contact with WikiLeaks, Multiple Sources Say.” “
On his syndicated radio show, on Twitter, and on his Fox News show, Hannity enthusiastically repeated and embellished the story’s false statements, prompting Aaron Rich to write to Fox News star’s executive producer Porter. Berry: losing a son or a brother. And while facing that, you had baseless accusations that your lost family member was part of a large conspiracy … It is a travesty that you are promoting false conspiracy theories and agendas. other people rather than working with the family to learn the truth.
A week after the Zimmerman story was published – amid expressions of dismay and disgust both from inside and outside Fox News – the cable channel officially retracted it, claiming that it “ had not been initially subjected to the high degree of editorial control that we require for all of our reporting, ” and adding, “ Upon proper review, the article was found not to meet these standards and has since been deleted. “
That night on TV, Hannity said he would not be promoting the debunked story for the foreseeable future, but suggested that it might still be valid. Indeed, as The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer reported, 17 days after the cable channel retracted Zimmerman’s story, FoxNews.com associate editor Greg Wilson emailed Butowsky: “ I hope all is well and I am sorry for the way things turned out. . I still believe that we will be justified. To which Butowsky replied: “Thank you and I agree.”
Hannity, meanwhile, told viewers, “I totally understand how upset it is, how hard it is on this family – especially the recent coverage of Seth’s death. .. Now I am communicating with them. I received a very sincere note. I also returned a sincere note to them. I personally contacted Seth’s brother Aaron today. I expressed my condolences for the difficulty, the difficulty, it has been for him and his family and, as I said to Aaron, my soul, my prayers, everything is on to them at this very difficult time.
Yet when it came to oxygenating poisonous lies, Hannity was no outlier on Fox News. On the day that Zimmerman’s story first broke, Laura Ingraham – then a Fox News contributor – appeared on Fox and friends and not only linked Rich’s murder to the DNC, but also suggested that Rich’s parents were such hard-core supporters that they didn’t want his murder investigated lest he involves the Democrats.
“And he was shot in the back,” she said. “He was shot in the back, nothing was taken from him. That’s right – anyone at the time thought it was weird? … He happened to be working for the DNC, rumored to have had contact with WikiLeaks, then he was shot in the back; nobody takes their cell phone, their wallet, which we just found on the street in Washington, DC ”
When co-host Ainsley Earhardt said it was “interesting” that “the parents didn’t chase him,” Ingraham replied, “I don’t know what to say about this. When people don’t want news out there, and when an election is at stake, you know, again, reading between the lines, a lot of people will do a lot of things that they wouldn’t do otherwise when things go wrong. hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. “
Lou Dobbs, Fox Business host and informal advisor to Trump, also messed up the Rich family. On May 16, 2017, the day the Fox story was published, Dobbs guest Republican strategist Ed Rollins said the motive for the murder “was clearly someone who pulled 40,000 documents from the DNC and gave them to WikiLeaks ”.
Dobbs followed by blowing up the Rich family. “You now have a partisan shroud around the family. You have an investigation that leads nowhere … [Washington, D.C., police] the department admits that. And the FBI investigator is the one with a specific number, 44,053 emails that were transferred from his computer to WikiLeaks, and guess what? The police department, federal investigators, none of them know where this computer is. (As legitimate media reported, the FBI never investigated the murder and never gained access to Seth Rich’s computer.)
Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich during an appearance on Fox and friends Sunday on May 21, 2017, claimed that Rich was “murdered” for allegedly working with WikiLeaks.
“And what does that tell you about what was going on?” Because it turns out it wasn’t the Russians, it was this young man who I guess was disgusted with the corruption of the Democratic National Committee, ”Gingrich said. “He was killed and apparently nothing serious was done to investigate his murder.
Gingrich has yet to quash his bogus allegations, even after July 13, 2018, when investigators for Special Adviser Robert Mueller indicted a dozen agents from the Russian Intelligence Directorate for hacking Democratic National Committee emails.
After Fox News’s embarrassing retraction, Hannity and others on the channel generally stopped talking about Seth Rich’s conspiracy theories on the air – although they do get revived every now and then. In one case, during a Jan. 10, 2018 appearance on the Fox Business Network, senior forensic analyst Andrew Napolitano linked Rich’s murder to the infamous Steele case, speculating that Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, could have referred to the murdered DNC. member of staff when he said that someone had been killed as a result of the Steele document.
“WHO?” Napolitano wondered aloud. “We really don’t know who he’s talking about. Is the reference to Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staff member who was killed as an assassination in Washington, and who is believed to have somehow facilitated the DNC email hack?
Fox News, meanwhile, has yet to apologize to the Rich family.
“I have no idea why they won’t say it – rejecting false statements and not wanting to accept that they were false,” Aaron Rich said in After the truth. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
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