UPDATED with Fox News statement: Allegations that slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was involved in a conspiracy with Wikileaks to create a massive data dump have landed Fox News Channel, an investigative reporter and a Fox guest in legal hot water.
Joel and Mary Rich claim that Fox News investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman and FNC guest Ed Butowsky reached out to the family under false pretenses to support their contention that Seth Rich leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks.
The lawsuit, obtained by ABC News, contends that Fox News, Zimmerman and Butowsky are liable for the harm caused by the report. The defendants allegedly “aided and abetted the intentional infliction of emotional distress” with the story and that Fox provided a national platform for what was termed a “sham story.”
The suit further claims that the conduct was a deliberate effort to portray Seth Rich as a “criminal and traitor to the United States.”
“No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure. The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son’s life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension” Joel and Mary Rich said in a joint statement.
Leonard A. Gail of Massey & Gail LLP, a lawyer representing the Riches, said: “Joel and Mary Rich have brought this case to hold Fox News, Fox reporter Zimmerman, and political operative and Fox News contributor Butowsky, accountable for their reprehensible actions. Whether motivated by party politics, ratings, corporate profit, or personal gain, we hope to help prevent this kind of malicious and reckless behavior in the future so that others can be spared the hell the Riches have had to endure.”
A Fox News spokesperson said the network “can’t comment on this pending litigation.”
Rich was killed in a purported street robbery in 2016. The case has never been solved, and since then, many media have hinted that he was a source of DNC emails that were leaked, many of them damaging to the Democrats in the 2016 presidential election race.
The May 16, 2017, Fox News article that is the subject of the lawsuit allegedly contained “false and fabricated facts,” according to the lawsuit, andfueled conspiracy theories that Rich was murdered in connection with a massive WikiLeaks data dump of 20,000 DNC emails days after his death.