Fox News has scored a legal victory over the parents of slain Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich, with a judge granting Fox’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed against the news outlet by Joel and Mary Rich, according to court papers obtained by TheWrap.
Joel and Mary Rich had sued Fox News Network, Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman and financial adviser Ed Butowsky, alleging that they had caused the Riches severe emotional distress with a news article reporting that Seth Rich was murdered for leaking sensitive, private emails from DNC servers to WikiLeaks.
However, in papers filed in federal court in New York on Thursday, judge George B. Daniels sided with Fox and Butowsky, granting their motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
The article was retracted in May 2017, with Fox News issuing a statement saying that it was “not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.”
“Plaintiffs’ allegations fall short for stating a claim for [intentional infliction of emotional distress],” Thursday’s court papers read. “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. However, a general allegation that Defendants had an ‘agreement to collaborate against’ Plaintiffs cannot form the basis for an IIED claim, rather, ‘specific instances of each individual’s conduct’ are required.”
As the court papers note, while Rich’s 2016 murder remains unsolved, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s investigation points to a botched robbery.
Also on Thursday, a separate suit brought against Fox, by private investigator and former Fox contributor Rod Wheeler, was also dismissed. Wheeler’s suit contended that Fox News and Butowsky sought to shift public attention away from Russia and fabricated quotes to help the narrative. The suit claims that the retracted article was published to “establish that Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails to shift the blame from Russia.”
According to the legal filing, the fabricated quotes by Wheeler included: “My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and Wikileaks.”
“Wheeler was subsequently forced to correct the false record and, as a result, lost all credibility in the eyes of the public. Mr. Wheeler has suffered irreparable damage to his reputation and his career will likely never recover,” the suit claimed.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.