Fox News has followed others in right-wing media in suggesting that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich may have been murdered because he had helped WikiLeaks gain access to the DNC’s email servers. These conspiracy theories were floated after WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information on Rich’s murder, and after Trump ally Roger Stone suggested Rich was murdered for talking to the FBI about election fraud.
DNC Staffer Seth Rich Murdered In Apparent Robbery, Leading To Internet Conspiracies
Rich Killed While Walking Home In The Early Morning; Police Suggest He Was The Victim Of Robbery. Washington, D.C.’s NBC affiliate reported on July 12:
A 27-year-old man who worked for the Democratic National Committee was shot and killed as he walked home early Sunday in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C., police and his family said.
Seth Conrad Rich died after he was shot multiple times on the 2100 block of Flagler Place NW, three blocks east of Howard University Hospital, police said.
“Worst nightmare,” Rich's mother, Mary Rich, said by phone.
Mary Rich said police told her family her son may have been the victim of an attempted robbery. [NBCWashington.com, 7/12/16]
Wash. Post: “Some On The Internet” Linked Rich’s Death To His Work At The DNC. The Washington Post reported on August 9:
The speculation started within days of Seth Rich being gunned down in what D.C. police believe was an attempted robbery near his townhouse in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Northwest Washington.
Some on the Internet wondered if Rich was killed because of his work as a staffer with the Democratic National Committee, even suggesting he had handed WikiLeaks the 20,000 emails that embarrassed the DNC and forced the ouster of its chairwoman. Others suggested he was helping the FBI expose wrongdoing in the presidential election, and that made him a target. [The Washington Post, 8/9/16]
Trump Ally Roger Stone Accused Clintons Of Murdering Rich Over Election Fraud
Stone: “Four More Dead Bodies In The Clinton’s (sic) Wake. Coincidence? I Think Not.” In an August 8 tweet, Roger Stone pushed a conspiracy theory that the Clintons murdered four people, including DNC staffer Seth Rich. Stone shared an image that alleged that Rich was killed “on his way to meet with the FBI to discuss election fraud.” [Media Matters, 8/9/16]
WikiLeaks Offers Reward For Information On Rich’s Death
Wash. Post: WikiLeaks Offering “A $20,000 Reward For Information Leading To A Conviction.” On August 9, The Washington Post reported that WikiLeaks was offering a reward of $20,000 for any information leading to a conviction in Rich’s murder. Rich’s parents criticized WikiLeaks’ reward offer for “legitimiz[ing] the rumor mill” about their son’s death:
On Tuesday, WikiLeaks shoved those conspiracy theories into the mainstream when it announced on Twitter a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in Rich’s killing on July 10 in the 2100 block of Flagler Place NW.
On Tuesday, Joel Rich said that the WikiLeaks reward seemed to legitimize the rumor mill. “I don’t think I want to comment,” he said at first, then added, “I hope the additional money helps find out who did this.” But, he said, “I don’t want to play WikiLeaks’ game.” [The Washington Post, 8/9/16]
Right-Wing Media Use WikiLeaks Reward To Promote Conspiracies About Rich’s Death
TheBlaze: “Many … Have Suggested That Rich’s Death May Be Linked” To DNC Emails. On August 10, Tré Goins-Phillips of TheBlaze wrote that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “seemed to vaguely suggest” that Rich was an informant for him and that “many on the social media platform Reddit” are suggesting that “Rich’s death may be linked to the release of thousands of unflattering DNC emails last month.” From the article:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seemed to vaguely suggest Tuesday that a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer was an informant for his famous watchdog outlet.
Seth Rich was staffer (sic) for the DNC who worked in voter outreach until he was fatally shot last month early in the morning in Washington, D.C. The case has so far remained unsolved by law enforcement, though police have said it may have been a robbery gone bad.
Though Assange offered no evidence that Rich could be an informant and didn’t actually confirm anything, it piqued the interest of interviewer Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal, who asked the publisher what he might be suggesting with the apparent hint.
Many on the social media platform Reddit have suggested Rich’s death may be linked to the release of thousands of unflattering DNC emails last month. While intelligence officials have suggested the hack was committed by Russians, there has been no formal conclusion stating so. [TheBlaze, 8/10/16]
WND Highlights Assange’s “Suggest[ion]” That Rich “Was The Source Of The Wikileaks-Exposed DNC Emails.” Conspiracy website WND used Assange’s interview not only to suggest that Rich was murdered because of DNC emails, but that Rich is one of several “people with connections to Bill and Hillary Clinton” who have “died in unusual circumstances over the last few weeks.” WND added Rich to “‘the body count,’ a collection of names of people associated with Clinton administration scandals who died mysterious and often violent deaths.” From the August 9 article:
Three people with tangential connections to Bill and Hillary Clinton have died in unusual circumstances over the last few weeks, sparking a renewed interested in the so-called “body count” of people who allegedly got in the way of the “Clinton machine.”
And even Wikileaks founder Julian Assange appeared to suggest Tuesday that recently murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich, a 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot near his townhouse in Washington, D.C. last month, was the source of the Wikileaks-exposed DNC emails.
Is there something to the talk of a growing body count, or is it all just in the minds of “conspiracy nuts” who intersect with reality only on rare occasion?
WND also reported earlier this year on “the body count,” a collection of names of people associated with Clinton administration scandals who died mysterious and often violent deaths. [WND, 8/9/16]
Townhall: “Some Are Speculating That Hillary Clinton Is Behind The Murder.” Townhall’s Rachel Alexander wrote that “some are speculating that Hillary Clinton is behind the murder, because Rich could have been the DNC staffer responsible” for the email leak. Alexander added that allies of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “convinced Rich to leak the data.” Since Rich was a data analyst, Alexander alleged that “it is very possible he could have had access to the DNC’s emails.” From the August 9 article:
DNC staffer Seth Rich was mysteriously murdered in the streets of Washington, D.C., on July 10. Although it is being investigated as a robbery, his wallet, credit cards and watch were not taken. The 27-year old was shot in the back on July 10 at 4:15 a.m. near his affluent neighborhood, while he was reportedly walking home from his girlfriend’s apartment. Police still have no suspects, witnesses or motive. His mother told the local NBC station that there were bruises on his face, knees and hands, apparently from trying to fend off his attackers.
Some are speculating that Hillary Clinton is behind the murder, because Rich could have been the DNC staffer responsible for leaking the 20,000 damaging DNC emails to Wikileaks. The allegation is that powerful Sanders allies convinced Rich to leak the data. He had previously worked on the U.S. Senate campaign for Nebraska businessman Scott Kleeb, who lost his election. The Clinton Global Initiative provided funds for a clean energy business started by Kleeb, which had come under investigation after losing $300,000 in 2010 and another $300,000 in 2011 despite the subsidies. Rich was also previously employed at a data firm that had worked with the Clintons. After news of possible corruption emerged between the Clinton Global Initiative and Kleeb, supposedly that led to Sanders’ cronies pressuring Rich to leak what was going on.
Rich was a data analyst, so it is very possible he could have had access to the DNC’s emails. Julian Assange of Wikileaks said recently on TV that it wasn’t Russian hackers who intercepted the emails, as the Hillary Clinton campaign has alleged; instead, any one of a number of staffers within the DNC could have leaked them. [Townhall, 8/9/16]
Matt Drudge: “Assange Fingers Murdered DNC Staffer.” On August 10, the Drudge Report ran a headline asserting “It wasn’t the Russians! Assange fingers murdered DNC staffer.” [Drudge Report, 8/10/16]
Fox Highlights Right-Wing Media's Fraudulent Conspiracies About Rich’s Death
Fox’s Steve Doocy: “Some On The Internet Are Suggesting ... Was [Rich] The Source Of The WikiLeaks DNC Leak?” On the August 10 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy noted that “some on the internet are suggesting, wait a minute, was [Rich] the source” of the leaks. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt added to the speculation, saying “it sounds like ... [Rich] could have been a source.” Co-host Pete Hegseth claimed “one could argue” that WikiLeaks’ selection of Rich’s murder “out of the dozens of unsolved murders” in D.C., is “saying just as much.”
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Now, WikiLeaks is offering a $20,000 reward and some on the internet are suggesting, wait a minute, was [Rich] the source of the WikiLeaks DNC leaks?
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Sounds like it -- [Assange] was saying it sounds like -- it sounds like when you listen to that that [Rich] could have been a source.
PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): Still, you have to protect your sources even in death as a journalist, but considering that WikiLeaks picked this one murder out of the dozens of unsolved murders in Washington, D.C., and hundreds around the country, they picked this one murder of Seth Rich and said, okay, we're going to offer a $20,000 reward. One could argue that's saying just as much. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/16]
Fox 5 DC’s Melanie Alnwick: “Does WikiLeaks Really Have Some Information” From Seth Rich? Fox & Friends featured reporter Melanie Alnwick from Fox’s D.C. affiliate, WTTG 5, to report more on Rich’s murder and alleged links to WikiLeaks and the DNC emails. Alnwick noted that “there are a number of, let’s just call them intriguing things about his murder,” including that he was killed “12 days before WikiLeaks dumped that cache of damaging DNC emails.” From the August 10 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Well, here’s a new twist. Was that DNC staffer [Seth Rich] assassinated?
MELANIE ALNWICK: This is really jaw dropping developments here. Now, Seth Rich worked as the voter expansion data director here at DNC headquarters. And there are a number of, let's just call them intriguing things about his murder a month ago. Now you add this interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that has really thrown gasoline on all of these internet theories.
So here is a little bit of the back details here. It was 4:00 AM on a Sunday, 12 days before WikiLeaks dumped that cache of damaging DNC e-mails. Seth Rich was walking home. He was blocks from his house. There were gunshots and police say signs of a struggle, and though Rich was alive when police arrived, he couldn't tell them anything. Now, there had been several armed robberies in that neighborhood, but Rich's wallet and cellphone were still with him when he died at the hospital. So here is the question -- does WikiLeaks really have some information here or is this nothing more than a distasteful publicity stunt? DC police for their part have said that there is no information to suggest that Seth Rich's murder was connected to his job. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/16]
Police And Evidence Undermine Conspiracy Theory
Snopes: Seth Rich Murder “Conspiracy Theory” Shared On WhatDoesItMean.com Is False. Fact-checking website Snopes.com debunked the conspiracy theory that Rich was murdered by “a Clinton ‘hit team’” because of his role at the DNC and the potential that he leaked information to Wikileaks. Writing about the story that appeared on WhatDoesItMean.com, Snopes noted that there “were myriad conflicting claims” about the homicide, including that Rich was “imminently to testify against Hillary Clinton when he was gunned down. (No ongoing court case we could locate would involve any such testimony from Rich.)” Snopes also highlighted a recent string of robberies in the area, which police believe “was connected to with his death,” and noted that RationalWiki describes WhatDoesItMean.com as “‘sensational’ and ‘outrageous.’” [Snopes.com, 8/10/16]
D.C. Police: “At This Time” There Is No Evidence Rich’s Death And WikiLeaks Data Are Linked. The Washington Post quoted Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham saying that “‘at this time we don’t have any information to suggest’ a connection between Rich’s killing and the WikiLeaks data or other theories raised online.” [The Washington Post, 8/9/16]