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Politics Fox paid seven figures to settle lawsuit over bogus Seth Rich conspiracy story

03:15  25 november  2020
03:15  25 november  2020 Source:   news.yahoo.com

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The family of murdered Democratic staffer Seth Rich have settled their lawsuit against Fox News over its conspiracy theories about his murder. Fox said: “We are pleased with the resolution of the claims and hope this enables Mr. and Mrs. Rich to find a small degree of peace and solace moving

Seth Rich 's death spawned right-wing conspiracy theories, but the Fox News scandal may help unearth what happened to the Democratic National A lawsuit by one of the people quoted in the article alleges Fox News published it to draw attention away from President Donald Trump and the

WASHINGTON — Just as star anchor Sean Hannity and other high-profile Fox News figures were due to be deposed about their promotion of a bogus conspiracy theory about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich,  the conservative cable network last month threw in the towel and moved to settle a lawsuit brought by Rich’s parents that threatened to expose a wealth of new details about one of its most embarrassing screw-ups in recent years.

a sign on the side of a building: News headlines scroll above the Fox News studios in the News Corporation headquarters building in New York. (AP/Richard Drew) © Provided by Yahoo! News News headlines scroll above the Fox News studios in the News Corporation headquarters building in New York. (AP/Richard Drew)

The settlement between Fox News and Rich’s parents, Joel and Mary Rich, was publicly disclosed Tuesday, but with no details about the terms. But legal sources tell Yahoo News that the settlement includes a lucrative seven figure payment to the Rich family consistent with the size of payouts Fox News and related corporate entities have made in other cases that have brought them negative publicity.

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The family of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Fox The network ultimately retracted the story seven days after it was published. Related: Fox News asks court to dismiss lawsuit filed over Seth Rich story . Neither a Fox News spokesperson

story of how Seth Rich leaked DNC emails to Julian Assange at WikiLeaks, and was murdered for it. The lawsuit is demanding a jury trial, charging that by Their lawsuit is detailed — and shows not just how much the Seth Rich conspiracy theories deeply wounded the grieving couple, but also how Fox

The hastily arranged settlement also had the benefit of sparing Hannity and other Fox News figures — including network president Jay Wallace and contributor Newt Gingrich —  the ordeal of being grilled under oath about  claims in a series of broadcasts in May 2017 that blamed the leak of DNC emails to WikiLeaks on Rich. At the time, Hannity called a Fox News story attributing the DNC leak to Rich an “explosive” development that “might expose the single biggest fraud, lies, perpetrated on the American people by the media and the Democrats in our history.”

In fact, Fox News retracted the story after eight days and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation declared the claims about Rich were false, concluding — along with the U.S. intelligence community and the FBI — that it was Russian military intelligence agents  who had hacked the DNC and pass the party’s emails to WikiLeaks through an online persona called Guccifer 2.0 .

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The conspiracy theory around Seth Rich ’s death, one of Sean Hannity’s favorites, wasn’t just organic Internet rumor. This version of the story of Rich 's death, the version that strongly implies that Hillary Clinton had a hand in Over the next two and a half years, the Russian government–owned media

In May 2017, Fox News reported that Seth Rich , a Democratic National Committee staffer who was slain Lawyers for Fox News found a parallel with the Rich case. Since the Westboro protesters “A handful of desultory statements over a seven -month period by guest commentators hardly constitutes

“The settlement with Fox News closes another chapter in our efforts to mourn the murder  of our beloved Seth, whom we miss every single day,” Joel and Mary Rich said in a statement released Tuesday. “It allows us to move on from the  litigation we initiated in response to Fox News’ May 2017 article and televised statements concerning Seth’s murder. We are pleased with the settlement of this matter and sincerely hope that the media will take genuine caution in the future. “

A spokeswoman for Fox News did not respond to a request for comment. The network released a statement saying “We are pleased with the resolution of the claims and hope this enables Mr. and Mrs. Rich to find a small degree of peace and solace moving forward.”

Mary Rich, the mother of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich, gives a press conference in 2016. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! News Mary Rich, the mother of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich, gives a press conference in 2016. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The story of Seth Rich – the subject of a Yahoo News six episode Conspiracyland podcast series last year — grew out of the hotly contested 2016 presidential campaign, becoming one of the most iconic conspiracy theories of Donald Trump’s presidency. Rich, a 27 year old staffer for the DNC was murdered while walking home from a bar early on the morning of July 13, 2016 in what Washington D.C. police quickly concluded was most likely a botched street robbery.

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( Seth Rich , former DNC staffer.LinkedIn) The family of Seth Rich , a slain former Democratic National Committee staffer, responded to a new lawsuit that may shed light on the source of conspiracy theories about Rich 's death. On Tuesday, former Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler sued the

The lawsuit alleges Fox News 'intentionally exploited' Seth Rich 's death 'through lies, misrepresentations and half-truths'(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton). The parents of a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer have sued Fox News over a retracted report claiming their

But, as the Conspiracyland podcast revealed, shortly after his death Russian intelligence agents and right wing allies of Trump such as longtime political advisor Roger Stone promoted the idea that Rich was assassinated by gunmen working for Hillary Clinton because of his supposed role in leaking the Democratic party’s emails.

In fact, Rich had played no role in the leak of the DNC emails. Deborah Sines, then the assistant U.S. attorney in Washington charged with investigating Rich’s murder, said in the podcast that the claims that Rich had done so were a “complete fabrication.”

Yet as the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election gained steam, and focused in part on potential links to the Trump campaign, Trump’s allies aggressively pushed the Rich story as an alternative narrative.

“Huge story … hit was a contract kill, obviously,” then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon texted to a CBS “60 Minutes” producer about Rich on March 19, 2017, according to some of Bannon’s text messages that were reviewed by Yahoo News during the making of the Conspiracyland podcast.

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Then, in May of 2017, working closely with another Trump ally, Dallas-based financial advisor Ed Butowsky, Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman wrote and published a story on the network’s website — attributed to an anonymous federal investigator — asserting that the FBI had found evidence that Rich had leaked the party’s emails to WikiLeaks  on his laptop computer. The story was immediately and aggressively promoted by multiple Fox News personalities, including Hannity, Gingrich, Laura Ingraham and others despite forceful denials by the Washington police, the FBI and the Rich family.

The following week, Fox News retracted the story and wiped it from its website, saying in a statement the article “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Fox News later announced it was conducting an internal investigation into how the story came to be posted on its website, but it has never released the results.

The link to Zimmerman’s profile page on the Fox News website is dead, and the Washington Post has reported she has left the network.

The amplification of the conspiracy theory about their son by Fox News, and its continued circulation on social media despite the Fox News retraction, caused anguish for Rich’s family.  “You’re used, you’re lied to, you’re a pawn in your own son’s death,” said Mary Rich, who, along with her husband, Joel, was interviewed for the Yahoo News Conspiracyland podcast. “I wish they had the chance to experience the hell we have gone through. Because this is worse than losing my son the first time. This is like losing him all over again.”

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The Rich family pursued a lawsuit in federal court in New York against Fox News, Butowksy and Zimmerman for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Aaron Rich, Seth Rich’s older brother, has filed a separate lawsuit against Butowsky and Matt Couch, an Arkansas based Internet personality, that is now in settlement talks. Butowsky, for his part, later sued this reporter and Yahoo News over the podcast but has since dropped the case. Couch has also sued Yahoo News but that case remains outstanding.)

In the course of the lawsuit brought by Seth Rich’s parents, Fox News was forced to turn over hundreds of internal emails and documents relating to its story. The documents were sealed but could have become public if the lawsuit proceeded. At least some of that material related to communications Butowsky had claimed at times to have had with White House figures, including then White House press secretary Sean Spicer and President Trump himself (although Butowsky later insisted neither had any advance knowledge of the story he was helping Zimmerman develop.) Lawyers for the Rich family also sought information about the identity of the unnamed person Zimmerman claimed was the source for her story.

But the immediate trigger for the settlement talks appears to have been a stepped up deposition schedule that was filed with the court last September. It called for depositions of Zimmerman on October 26, Butowsky on Oct. 27, Hannity on October 30, Fox News president Wallace on November 10 and Fox News executive vice president for corporate communications Irena Briganti. At that point, sources familiar with the matter say, Fox News lawyers began negotiations to settle the lawsuit and offered a hefty settlement figure, thereby sparing its star anchors and executives from having to answer questions about what they knew about the bogus story. Although the settlement terms were soon agreed to, the sources say, Fox News arranged to delay any announcement until this week — three weeks after the presidential election.

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Fox News needs to reinvent itself for the post-Trump era. Here’s one radical idea. .
The media giant, long dominant in cable news, is feeling ratings pressure from both the right and the left. Quite simply, it dominated. And it has been hugely influential in American politics, giving an essential boost to Donald Trump as birtherism conspiracy theorist, then fueling his presidential bid, and finally serving as perhaps his most dependable — and certainly loudest — megaphone throughout his presidency. But now, with the political tectonic plates shifting, Fox is feeling some new pressure.

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