×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Seth Rich Family’s Lawsuit Against Fox News Dismissed

UPDATED: A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Fox News by the parents of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, finding that the suit did not meet the legal requirements to proceed.

Joel and Mary Rich sued the network in March, accusing it of fabricating a story that accused their son of conspiring with WikiLeaks. The suit alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with a contract, and negligent supervision.

In his ruling on Thursday, Judge George Daniels found that the complaint failed to satisfy the elements required under federal law.

“It is understandable that Plaintiffs might feel that their grief and personal loss were taken advantage of, and that the tragic death of their son was exploited for political purposes,” Daniels wrote. “However, a general allegation that Defendants had an ‘agreement to collaborate against’ Plaintiffs cannot form the basis of an IIED claim. … Plaintiffs’ complaint is dismissed in its entirety.”

Fox News published an article on its website on May 16, 2017, asserting that Seth Rich had leaked thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks before he was shot and killed in July 2016. The network later retracted the story, saying it did not meet its standards. Police have said that Rich was likely killed in an attempted robbery.

The suit alleged that political operative Ed Butowsky used the Rich family’s Jewish heritage to gain their trust, reaching them through their temple. Butowsky persuaded them to hire Rod Wheeler, a private investigator, to look into their son’s death, according to the suit. Wheeler was later quoted in the story alleging email exchanges between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks. He then sued the network, saying he was misquoted.

Were he alive, Seth Rich might have grounds for a defamation claim. But Joel and Mary Rich were not defamed in the article, and in order to prove infliction of emotional distress, they had to meet a higher burden, namely that the network’s conduct was “extreme and outrageous.” Daniels ruled that the network’s behavior did not rise to that level.

Judge Daniels also dismissed Wheeler’s suit against Fox News, Butowsky, and reporter Malia Zimmerman. Wheeler claimed that he had not given the quote linking Seth Rich and WikiLeaks in the Fox story, and argued that the fallout from the retracted story had harmed his reputation as an investigator. But the judge noted that Wheeler had given a similar interview to Fox 5, a local affiliate, in which he said a source had linked Rich and WikiLeaks.

The judge found that various other statements made by the reporter and Butowsky were also not defamatory because they were not provably false. Daniels summed up the case by concluding that Wheeler worked with Fox to advance the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, and therefore cannot accuse Fox of defaming him.

“In this case, Plaintiff and Defendants embarked on a collective effort to support a sensational claim regarding Seth Rich’s murder,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiff cannot now seek to avoid the consequences of his own complicity and coordinated assistance in perpetuating a politically motivated story not having any basis in fact.”

Daniels also refused Butowsky’s request for attorneys’ fees and sanctions against Wheeler, writing, “the situation in which all of the parties now find themselves hardly engenders sympathy.”

More TV

  • Michael Strahan

    Michael Strahan, Endemol Shine North America to Develop U.S. Version of 'Money Drop'

    Endemol Shine North America is teaming up with Michael Strahan’s SMAC Entertainment to develop a U.S. version of the game show “The Money Drop.” Originally launched in 2010 as “The Million Pound Drop Live” by Endemol UK’s Remarkable Television for Channel 4, the format has now been produced locally by Endemol Shine Group in 54 [...]

  • BBC Buys Australian Psychological Thriller Series

    BBC Buys Australian Psychological Thriller Series ‘Safe Harbour'

    The BBC has bolstered its international drama lineup, acquiring Australian limited series “Safe Harbour,” and inking deals for new seasons of shows from Canada, France, and Iceland. The shows will all run on the U.K. pubcaster’s BBC Four channel. “Safe Harbour” is a psychological thriller that played on pubcaster SBS in Australia. It follows a [...]

  • It's Time For Another 'Punisher' Video

    It's Time For Another 'Punisher' Video Game

    Last year saw the release of the most recent iteration of a Spidey game, “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” developed by Insomniac Games. “Marvel’s Spider-Man” smashed all kinds of records. It dethroned “God of War” as the fastest-selling Sony-exclusive of all time and it achieved launch month sales 37% higher than the launch month sales of every previous [...]

  • Endeavor Content Taps Tim Robinson as

    Endeavor Content Taps Tim Robinson as Chief Operating Officer

    Endeavor Content has named Tim Robinson as its chief operating officer, a newly created role. As COO, he will helm Endeavor Content’s overall operations, including business affairs, finance, human resources and corporate development. He will also play a “key role” in the acceleration of the its growth strategy both at home and abroad, according to [...]

  • Göteborg TV Drama Vision Expects 60

    TV Drama Vision Set to Take Pulse of Nordic Commissioners’ Wish List

    More than 360 international delegates are expected at Göteborg’s 13th Nordic TV Drama Vision (Jan. 30-31) described by head of industry Cia Edström as a ‘boutique event’, where top Nordic and international drama professionals gather each year to gauge the state of the Nordic market and hot content. For the first time, to comply with the [...]

  • Fate of 'Simpsons' Up in Air

    What Will Happen to 'The Simpsons’ as Disney Takes Over Fox?

    When “The Simpsons” ends its 30th and current season this spring, it will have racked up 663 original episodes — having a season ago passed “Gunsmoke” (635) as the longest-running scripted program in television history. But with the Walt Disney Co.’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox pending, one of TV’s least likely institutions could prove more [...]

  • Bret Baier

    Fox News Anchor Bret Baier in Montana Car Crash

    Fox News Channel anchor Bret Baier and his family are safe after being involved in what the news host described as a major car accident while traveling to an airport after taking a ski trip to Montana. “After a weekend of skiing with my wife and two boys in Montana, driving to the airport Monday morning on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content