Seth Rich was a Democratic National Committee employee who was murdered in July 2016. His murder is unsolved; Washington police say there is evidence that he was killed in a botched robbery. Because Rich worked for the DNC, though, his death has been the subject of a baseless conspiracy theory which suggests he was murdered because he was going to, like, bring down Hillary Clinton. This week, said theory trickled its way upward from the sewers of the internet to Sean Hannity's highly rated Fox News show. Hannity's iteration of the story is based on a claim by "private investigator" Rod Wheeler, first made on Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG, that Rich was in touch with WikiLeaks before he died. Here's Hannity on Tuesday night:
Another massive, breaking news story: Explosive developments in the mysterious murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich that could completely shatter the narrative that in fact WikiLeaks was working with the Russians or that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Now, if true, this could become one of the biggest scandals in American history and could mean that Rich could have been murdered under very suspicious circumstances.
The rub here is that:
- Rod Wheeler is a known weirdo who has in the past appeared on Fox News to claim that hundreds of lesbian gangs across the United States are recruiting children as young as 10 years old, coercing them into "doing sex acts," and providing them with pink-colored handguns with which to commit crimes.
- Wheeler and Fox's evidence that Rich was in touch with WikiLeaks is extremely, extremely dubious and may not actually exist. In CNN's words: "Both Fox News and WTTG-TV published and aired reports, sourced to private investigator Rod Wheeler, that said evidence showed Rich had been in contact with Wikileaks before his death. Wheeler later told CNN he had no such evidence." A FoxNews.com article, meanwhile, cites a "federal source" describing an FBI examination of Rich's computer. The actual FBI says this examination never took place.
- Seth Rich's family says that while they agreed to let a third party pay for Wheeler's "investigation" they did not hire him directly, have not authorized him to speak on their behalf, and do not believe he has uncovered any evidence relevant to their son's murder.
CNN reports that Rich's family has demanded an apology from Fox News and from the local Fox station that originally aired Wheeler's claims:
"The family is officially asking for a retraction and an apology from Fox News and from the Fox 5 DC affiliate for inaccurate reporting and damaging the legacy of their son ... They need to retract the story or issue an apology or the family will consider other options, including legal, to clear their son's name and get Fox to do what's right."
Will Fox News "do what's right"? My guess is probably not!