Dive deep into the unsolved murder of DNC staff member Seth Rich. From the creators of Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery,” host and Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff reveals startling new insights and exclusive interviews in this true-crime podcast. He explores why conspiracy theories continue to have such a powerful hold on the American psyche and who, if anybody, can be held accountable for the harm they cause.
Episode 1: “The last days of Seth Rich”
Rich’s friends and family remember the idealistic political staffer and the last few days of his life. The shooting of Rich at 4:19 on Sunday morning, July 10, 2016, was viewed by Washington, D.C., police as the result of a botched robbery for good reason: There had been seven armed robberies in D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood in the six weeks prior to Rich’s death, a crime spree that the cops believed was linked to a gang of drug dealers in a nearby housing project. And yet, three days after his death, the first fake story appeared: a wild claim on an obscure website that the former DNC staffer was gunned down by a squad of assassins dispatched by Hillary Clinton. But as investigators soon discovered, there was much more to that phony report than anybody suspected.
Episode 2: “The Russia connection”
Julian Assange fans the conspiracy flames, implying Rich could have been a source of the DNC leaked emails. Russia’s propaganda outlets and its notorious troll farm pump out the story, and “alt-right” websites latch onto it. Deborah Sines, the prosecutor in charge of the case, digs into where the conspiracy claims are coming from and makes a startling discovery: The original website report about Rich’s being assassinated by a Clinton hit squad was planted by the Russian SVR, the country’s version of the CIA, infecting social media with an operation that a former top CIA official calls a “100 percent continuation of active measures” — the term used to describe Soviet disinformation operations during the Cold War.
Episode 3: “Fake news theater”
Publicity-hungry D.C. lobbyist Jack Burkman takes the unsolved murder on a wild spree, casting and filming a reenactment of the killing for his own promotional purposes. He does so as another bizarre conspiracy theory takes root — “Pizzagate,” the claim that the Clintons were linked to the sex trafficking of children in the basement of a popular D.C. pizza parlor. The episode explores the indispensable role of “super spreaders” who perpetuate conspiracy theories on social media.
Episode 4: “Fox News fiction”
Dallas money man Ed Butowsky decides to change the narrative of Russian meddling in the presidential election, working behind the scenes to get Fox News to go big on a story that Rich was the leaker to WikiLeaks.
Episode 5: “Fox News fallout”
Sean Hannity heads an extensive campaign on Fox News with an explosive story that quickly crumbles in the face of facts.
Episode 6: “Collateral damage”
Even after the discredited story is retracted, the internet, unwilling to let the story go, takes the case in an entirely new direction, targeting Rich’s brother, Aaron, as a co-conspirator. The D.C. police explain how the conspiracies are hampering the official investigation into the murder, and author Anna Merlan explains why we are living in a modern golden age for conspiracy theories.