Seth Rich’s family can sue Fox News over the retracted story it ran on a far-right conspiracy theory surrounding their son’s death.
A federal appeals court in Manhattan on Friday ruled against a previous district court’s order to dismiss their lawsuit complaint, arguing that the family, Joel and Mary Rich, could in fact sue over emotional distress they claim was caused by the May 2017 article. The article alleged that Seth Rich had leaked Democratic National Committee emails to WikiLeaks and implied that that move had resulted in his murder. The article was retracted a week later for not meeting Fox News’ journalistic standards.
Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi argued in the Friday ruling that the Riches had “sufficiently pleaded extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Fox News defendants.
In a statement shared with TPM Friday, Fox News expressed its condolences to the family but maintained the network was innocent of the allegations.
“The court’s ruling today permits Mr. and Mrs. Rich to proceed with discovery to determine whether there is a factual basis for their claims against FOX News,” the spokesperson said. “And while we extend the Rich family our deepest condolences for their loss, we believe that discovery will demonstrate that FOX News did not engage in conduct that will support the Riches’ claims. We will be evaluating our next legal steps.”
Police believe that Seth Rich was shot and killed near his Washington, D.C. home following a botched robbery in July 2016. At the time, he was working for the DNC. The Rich family sued Fox News and the reporter Malia Zimmerman, as well as Fox News guest Ed Butowsky, over the retracted story, but the lawsuit was dismissed in August 2018 when U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan ruled in favor of longstanding media law that argues a dead person cannot be defamed and said the argument of emotional distress was not sufficient.
The appeals court ruling will kick the suit back to Daniels.
Read Calabresi’s full ruling below:
Correction: This post initially reported that Rich was killed in his home in Washington, D.C.