Infowars and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi have retracted a nearly year-old column of his that baselessly tied murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich to the hacking and leaking of DNC documents to WikiLeaks.
On Monday, Corsi issued a retraction and apology to the Rich family, and, later in the day, the Infowars story he wrote was replaced with the same statement. In it, Corsi says it was a story in The Washington Times (which was also retracted), not any reporting of his own, that led to the blunder:
On March 5, 2018, Infowars published an article by Dr. Jerome Corsi titled Anti-Trump Left Tries to Revive Dying ‘Russia’ Narrative by Blaming Roger Stone. In that article, Dr. Corsi alleged that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, were involved in downloading and leaking emails from the DNC to WikiLeaks.
Dr. Corsi acknowledges that his allegations were not based upon any independent factual knowledge regarding Seth or Aaron Rich. Instead, Dr. Corsi relied primarily on, and quoted from, a column by Adm. James Lyons (Ret.) that was published in the Washington Times on March 2, 2018, but was retracted on September 30, 2018.
It was not Dr. Corsi’s intent to rely upon inaccurate information, or to cause any suffering to Mr. Rich’s family. To that end, Dr. Corsi retracts the article and apologizes to the Rich family.
The initial stories were in defense of Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone, who has denied coordinating with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and then-candidate Trump to gather material that was damaging to the Democrats’ 2016 presidential campaign.
To be sure, the retraction doesn’t appear to be coming from the goodness of Corsi’s heart, or any editorial policy from Alex Jones’ Infowars, which deals almost exclusively in pro-Trump conspiracy theories. CNN’s Oliver Darcy reports that Rich family lawyers had been pressuring organizations that spread the lies ― including Fox and The Washington Times ― to remove them.
Still, the retraction marks a huge victory for the Rich family, which has been repeatedly victimized by conspiracy theories surrounding Seth’s murder. Rich, 27, was fatally shot on July 10, 2016, near his apartment in Washington, D.C., in what police suspect was an attempted robbery.
“Today, Infowars and Dr. Jerome Corsi joined the Washington Times in admitting that the conspiracy theory about Aaron’s purported involvement in the unlawful transfer of DNC documents to WikiLeaks is, and always has been, utterly baseless,” Michael Gottlieb, a Rich family lawyer, told Rolling Stone. “We will continue our fight on Aaron’s behalf until justice is served on each of the dwindling proponents of this discredited fantasy.”
The successful litigation could also pave the way for other complainants against Jones. He faces at least six other defamation cases at the moment, including several filed by parents of children who were killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting, which Jones has called a hoax.
As The Daily Beast pointed out, however, the Rich family’s fight against Infowars may not be over. The site is still running with several stories that accuse Rich of involvement in the DNC hack.
All three parts of Corsi’s “investigative series” into the right-wing conspiracy theory—including articles titled “Seth Rich Mystery: DNC Leaks Came from Inside, Not Russian Hackers” and “New Evidence Suggests Seth Rich Was DNC Leaker”—remain on the InfoWars website.
UPDATE: March 5 ― Splinter’s Anna Merlan noted Tuesday that Corsi’s book Killing the Deep State, published in 2018, contains similar allegations against Rich, apparently without attribution to The Washington Times. In the book, Corsi writes that Rich is “most likely” to have taken DNC emails “from the inside, leaking copies to Julian Assange at WikiLeaks,” according to Splinter.