NEW YORK — When Fox News claimed that Omaha native Seth Rich had been murdered after leaking DNC documents to Wikileaks, they were turning him into a hero, the network said in a new court brief filed Tuesday.
“Although Plaintiffs assert that the Fox News article caused them pain, other readers might well consider their son to be a hero,” the brief, filed in the Southern District of New York, reads.
“Far from condemning Seth Rich for the purported leak, the Fox News article portrayed him as a whistle-blower who released the DNC emails to expose that ‘top party officials conspired to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont from becoming the party’s presidential nominee.’ ”
In mid-March, Rich’s parents, Joel and Mary Rich of Omaha, filed a lawsuit against Fox News, saying the network had “intentionally exploited” their son’s death “through lies, misrepresentations and half-truths — with disregard for the obvious harm that their actions would cause Joel and Mary” and caused them “emotional distress.”
Rich, a 27-year-old voter-expansion data director for the DNC, was shot and killed on July 10, 2016. His death was ruled the result of a botched robbery.
In May 2017, however, Fox News began reporting that Rich had leaked work emails to Wikileaks, despite no evidence from the police. Anchor Sean Hannity widely publicized the allegations before the network retracted the report, saying it failed to meet a “high degree of editorial scrutiny.”
Fox, in Tuesday’s brief, also argued that using a photo of Rich “in an American flag ensemble” and the caption that described him as “fiercely patriotic” gave readers “markedly different views of Rich’s alleged leak.”
“A handful of desultory statements over a seven-month period by guest commentators hardly constitutes the type of sustained malicious conduct necessary to sustain an intentional infliction claim,” the network argued.