Judge Tosses Seth Rich Family Lawsuit Against Fox News

Judge Daniels also tossed out the lawsuit against Fox News filed by private detective and Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler

By Al Perrotta Published on August 2, 2018

A federal judge has tossed out the lawsuit filed against Fox News by the family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich. Joel and Mary Rich filed the suit last March, accusing the network of fabricating a news story that suggested Rich supplied DNC emails to WikiLeaks, and that act may have led to his still-unsolved murder. 

Fox News pulled the May 16, 2017 story, saying it did not meet its standards. Nearly a year later, the Rich family sued, alleging “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” caused by the publication of what they said was a baseless conspiracy theory regarding the 2016 murder. They said the network made the young DNC staffer out to be “a traitor and a criminal.”  (Actually, more like a whistleblower.)

As I wrote back in March, the suit seemed a long-shot at best. 

[L]egal experts tell The Washington Post the chances of success are dubious at best. The family must prove Fox News’ behavior was “outrageous” in the legal sense. That’s a nearly impossible bar to reach. Even the liberal-leaning Columbia Journalism Review says winning an emotional distress case against a media outlet is a long shot.

On Thursday, Judge George Daniels agreed, saying the Fox News story did not meet the standard of being “extreme and outrageous.” 

“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 said in his ruling. However, “each of the Plaintiffs’ claims failed to adequately allege essential elements of the causes of action asserted.”

He dismissed the suit in its entirety.

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Judge Daniels also tossed out the lawsuit against Fox News filed by private detective and Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler. He accused Fox News of defamation when it blamed Wheeler for the problems with the Rich story. The former cop had been hired by the Rich family to investigate the murder. He later worked on the Fox News story. (Wheeler has backed away from his claim the FBI found Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks. However, he still holds Rich’s work likely played a part in his murder. His refusal to rule that possibility out led to his dismissal by the Rich family.)

Why This Suit Was Always Going to Be Trouble

The Rich lawsuit has been used as a bludgeon against Fox News. Other media outlets use “Seth Rich” as a catch-all antidote against charges of Fake News against them.

Still, as I argued in March, this case would have been a disaster for Democrats had it gone to trial.

The suit and its supporters argue that Fox News coordinated with the White House to push the Seth Rich story to deflect attention from the Trump Russia collusion investigation. As we now know, the Trump Russia collusion story was a fiction created by the Hillary campaign and paid for via the law firm of Perkins Coie. Why’s that important? When the DNC finally investigated the loss of the emails, they refused to let the FBI investigate their computers. They refused to let Homeland Security examine them either. Instead, a liberal tech firm was brought it called CrowdStrike. Who brought them in? Not Donna Brazille or any other DNC official. It was Perkins Coie.

In other words, Fox News can argue that rather than creating the Seth Rich story to distract from Trump Russia Collusion, the Russian involvement in the DNC hack was created to deflect attention from the scandalous doings at the DNC.

And Still No Arrests

It’s now been two years since Seth Rich was shot down on a DC street. No one has been charged. No suspects have been named by police. In fact, the Metropolitan Police Department has not released any new information in nearly two years. Nearly $500,000 in reward money sits unclaimed.

Researchers continue to push for answers, seeking evidence to understand how a bright young man ended up shot to death in the wee hours of a summer night. And a family continues to grieve.

And we continue to pray they find peace. And the killers face justice. 

And we continue to pray that Fox News — all news organizations — will cherish truth … wherever that truth may lead.

 

Al Perrotta is Managing Editor of The Stream. He is also co-author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration.

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