Rich, a voter-expansion data director for the DNC, was shot and killed in Washington, D.C. in July 2016. The motive for his murder was never uncovered, leading media outlets to promote a string of conspiracy theories, including an allegation that Rich was involved in the leak of thousands of internal DNC documents to WikiLeaks, which later played a role in Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign for the presidency.
Rich’s parents filed a lawsuit in New York Tuesday, seeking compensation for “mental anguish and emotional distress, emotional pain and suffering, and any other physical and mental injuries.” The lawsuit claims that reporter Malia Zimmerman and commentator Ed Butowsky developed a “sham” story about Rich’s death, which Fox News “aided and abetted” by providing the story a national platform on which to be disseminated.
Butowsky, according to the lawsuit, reached out to the family under false pretenses, persuading them to hire Rod Wheeler to investigate their son’s death. Unbeknownst to the family, however, Wheeler was working on an article about Rich’s death with Butowsky and Zimmerman. After reportedly finding that WikiLeaks had been in contact with Rich before his death, the reporters falsely suggested that Rich had been responsible for the massive DNC email leak.
Fox News first published the story in May 2017 and proceeded to reference it on-air several times. Seven days after it was published, the network retracted the story. However, the suit claims that the story fueled an erroneous theory about Rich, causing ongoing emotional suffering for his family. The suit calls the defendants’ actions “so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency.”
“Whether motivated by party politics, ratings, corporate profit, or personal gain, we hope to help prevent this kind of malicious and reckless behavior in the future so that others can be spared the hell the Riches have had to endure,” Leonard Gail, the Rich family’s attorney, explained.