A New York judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought against Fox News by the parents of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich over the network’s coverage of a conspiracy theory involving their slain son, claiming that it was not portrayed as “sufficiently outrageous,” according to the ruling.
Rich was killed in what his family believes was a botched robbery attempt in July 2016 near his Washington, D.C., home. He was 27 and had just been offered a job on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in New York.
He became the focus of a right-wing conspiracy theory that he was targeted for supposedly leaking thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Fox News posted a story linking Rich’s death to the leak on its website and left it up for six days as anchors on the channel, including Sean Hannity, promoted the idea on air. (While the website retracted the story and issued a statement, Hannity showed less remorse for his role in spreading the baseless idea.)
According to U.S. District Judge George Daniels, claims in the suit brought by the parents, Joel and Mary Rich, “fail to adequately allege essential elements of the causes of action asserted.”
“It is understandable that Plaintiffs might feel that their grief and personal loss were taken advantage of, and that the tragic death of their son was exploited for political purposes,” the judge stated. “However, a general allegation that Defendants had an ‘agreement to collaborate against’ Plaintiffs cannot form the basis of an [intentional infliction of emotional distress] claim.”
The couple filed the lawsuit in March to seek unspecified compensation for emotional distress caused by the network’s coverage.
“No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure,” the Riches said in a statement at the time of the filing. “The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son’s life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension.”
Daniels also dismissed a similar lawsuit Tuesday brought by private investigator and Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler, who said the reporter for the website article attributed fabricated quotes to him linking Seth Rich to the email leak.