Following the tragic murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich in 2016, FOX News and other conservative outlets began sharing conspiracy theories about his death. Right-wing pundits attempted to baselessly link his murder to the DNC e-mail hack by WikiLeaks that arguably doomed the Clinton campaign.
In response, Rich’s parents published a powerful and raw op-ed in The Washington Post, aptly titled “We’re Seth Rich’s parents. Stop politicizing our son’s murder.” In the article, Mary and Joel Rich try to appeal to humanity’s inherent goodness by putting readers into their own shoes:
Imagine living in a nightmare that you can never wake up from. Imagine having to face every single day knowing that your son was murdered. Imagine you had no answers — that no one has been brought to justice and there were few clues leading to the killer or killers. Imagine that every single day, with every phone call you hope that it’s the police, calling to tell you that there has been a break in the case.
Imagine that instead, every call that comes in is a reporter asking what you think of a series of lies or conspiracies about the death. That nightmare is what our family goes through every day.
Today, FOX News did withdraw the story with this arguably disingenuous retraction:
“The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed.”
Via a spokesperson, the Rich family duly thanked FOX News for the retraction:
“The family would like to thank Fox News for their retraction on a story that has caused deep pain and anguish to the family and has done harm to Seth Rich’s legacy. We are hopeful that in the future Fox News will work with the family to ensure the highest degree of professionally and scrutiny is followed so that only accurate facts are reported serving this case.”
Despite their retraction, however, FOX News’ Sean Hannity continues to perpetuate those very conspiracy theories that the Rich family railed against.
In their op-ed, the Rich family explained, in clear and obvious terms, how their son could not have been party to the ridiculous and unfounded conspiracy theories that people like Hannity continue to disseminate.
We know that Seth’s personal email and his personal computer were both inspected by detectives early in the investigation and that the inspection revealed no evidence of any communications with anyone at WikiLeaks or anyone associated with WikiLeaks. Nor did that inspection reveal any evidence that Seth had leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks or to anyone else. Indeed, those who have suggested that Seth’s role as a data analyst at the DNC gave him access to a wide trove of emails are simply incorrect — Seth’s job was to develop analytical models to encourage voters to turn out to vote. He didn’t have access to DNC emails, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails, John Podesta’s emails or Hillary Clinton’s emails. That simply wasn’t his job.
With his conduct, Sean Hannity has thus far proven himself as nothing more than a coward who hides behind his title of “journalist” while simultaneously disregarding all ethical standards that govern their conduct. It seems as though the final line in Seth Rich’s parent’s piece was directed at Hannity himself:
We ask those purveying falsehoods to give us peace, and to give law enforcement the time and space to do the investigation they need to solve our son’s murder.
Of course, the likelihood that Hannity and other right-wing conspiracy theorists will respect any journalistic standards or even basic human decency is low. The levels that these people will stoop to in their interminable attempt to distract from Trump’s illegal and treasonous activities are not only unprecedented in journalism but a stain on American history.
Brian Tyler Cohen is a political writer, actor, and comedy sketch director. He graduated from Lehigh University with a dual degree in English and Business. He currently lives in Los Angeles.