Fox News and Joel and Mary Rich disclosed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York that they have reached a settlement in the lawsuit the Rich family filed against the network over a false story it published and promoted about their son, Seth Rich. Seth Rich was a 27-year-old staffer at the Democratic National Committee when he was shot dead in Washington, D.C., in July 2016, in what D.C. police determined was likely a botched robbery.
FoxNews.com published an article in May 2017 falsely claiming Rich had leaked damaging DNC emails to WikiLeaks, feeding a frenzy of conspiracy theories that Democratic Party leaders had him murdered. Russian military hackers had stolen and distributed the DNC emails, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation later confirmed. Fox News retracted the story after a week, saying it did not meet "editorial standards."
But Fox News opinion hosts, notably Sean Hannity, continued to bolster the claim, suggesting it helped disprove the conclusion that Russian intelligence helped President Trump during the 2016 election. "Fox News announced it was conducting an internal investigation into how the story came to be posted on its website, but it has never released the results," Yahoo News reports.
Joel and Mary Rich filed suit in 2018, saying Fox News "intentionally exploited" their son's murder for political gain, causing them extreme emotional distress. A U.S. district judge dismissed the lawsuit but a federal appellate judge reinstated it, and Fox News decided to settle last month, right before Hannity and Fox News executives were scheduled to be deposed under oath about what they knew about the fake story, Yahoo News reports.
The terms of the settlement weren't made public, but Yahoo News says it "includes a lucrative seven figure payment to the Rich family consistent with the size of payouts Fox News and related corporate entities have made in other cases that have brought them negative publicity." Fox News said in a statement it is "pleased with the resolution of the claims and hope this enables Mr. and Mrs. Rich to find a small degree of peace and solace moving forward."
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