Fox News has taken the striking step of retracting a story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, saying it did not meet the network’s “high degree of editorial scrutiny.”
“On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich. The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting,” the network said in a statement released Tuesday. “Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed. We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”
Fox News was one of many right-leaning media outlets that floated unsubstantiated theories that Rich provided WikiLeaks internal DNC emails, and that he may have been killed in retribution. Rich was shot to death last July in Washington, D.C., in what police have investigated as a robbery gone wrong.
Rich’s family blasted Fox News and other outlets for promoting unfounded versions of the story.
“It’s sad but unsurprising that a group of media outlets who have repeatedly lied to the American people would try and manipulate the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda,” a spokesman for the Rich family told Business Insider. “I think there is a special place in hell for people like that.”
Rich’s relatives weren’t the only ones who were appalled.
CNN reported Monday that some Fox News staffers were “disgusted” by the network’s recent coverage of Rich’s death. Last week, Fox News’ website ran a lead story about a “DC MURDER MYSTERY” that said Rod Wheeler, a private investigator and Fox News contributor, had claimed WikiLeaks had been in contact with Rich. The story also said an anonymous federal investigator corroborated that claim.
But Wheeler soon told CNN he had no evidence to suggest Rich had contacted WikiLeaks.
CNN also reported that Sean Hannity and the hosts of “Fox & Friends” pushed the baseless claims about WikiLeaks and Rich –“much to the dismay of the journalists who work at the network.”
The retraction comes as a trying time for Fox News.
In April, the network fired its biggest ratings magnet, Bill O’Reilly, after reports that he and the network had paid out $13 million to settle complaints accusing him of sexual harassment and other impropriety. The network’s visionary founder, Roger Ailes, died last week, months after he left in disgrace after facing his own accusations of sexual harassment.
Last week, MSNBC beat both CNN and Fox News in weekday primetime among both total viewers and the key news demo for the first time ever.