Fox News has retracted an online story promoting conspiracy theories about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, saying the May 16 article “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Despite the online retraction and objections from Rich’s family, leading Fox News host Sean Hannity and other personalities at the network continue to aggressively promote conspiracies about Rich’s death.
FoxNews.com originally posted a May 16 piece headlined “Slain DNC staffer had contact with WikiLeaks, investigator says.” The story relied on a report by D.C.'s Fox 5 and Rod Wheeler, a former D.C. homicide detective and Fox News contributor, for its sourcing. The Fox 5 story soon fell apart and Wheeler backtracked -- according to CNN, he told the network “he had no evidence to suggest Rich had contacted Wikileaks before his death.” Through a spokesperson, Rich’s family asked on May 17 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."
Six days later, Fox News has finally retracted its story.
The network’s May 23 statement reads: “On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich. 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. We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”
Just retracting the one online story hardly undoes the damage Fox News -- and specifically Sean Hannity -- has done by pushing baseless conspiracy theories about Rich’s death. For the past week, Hannity and his colleagues have repeatedly pushed the evidence-free conspiracy theory that former Democratic staffer Seth Rich was murdered for providing WikiLeaks with emails from the Democratic National Committee.
This afternoon, Rich’s brother sent a letter to Hannity’s executive producer calling on Hannity to stop pushing the conspiracy, writing in part: “As the family, we would hope to be the first people to learn about any such evidence and reasons for Seth's death. … It is a travesty that you would prompt false conspiracy theories and other people's agendas rather than work with the family to learn the truth.”
CNN reported that Brad Bauman, spokesperson for the Rich family, “told CNN the family was grateful for the retraction.”