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  • Seth Rich's family sends cease and desist to Fox News contributor behind evidence-free smears

    Rich family: “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress”

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    According to NBC News, the family of murdered DNC employee Seth Rich sent a cease and desist order to Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler after his recent allegations led right wing media figures to smear Rich as the person responsible for providing WikiLeaks with DNC emails. Wheeler alleged that the murder was somehow related to a purported relationship between Rich and WikiLeaks, despite finding no evidence that Rich had ever been in contact with WikiLeaks. The Rich family previously demanded an apology but did not receive one.

    In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 quoted Rod Wheeler as saying  “a source inside the police department” told him the department was “told to stand down on this case.” Wheeler also claimed it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. According to CNN, “no real evidence has been provided to support such claims and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department.”

    Right-wing media seized on this story with Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs smearing Rich as potentially being behind the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.  The right-wing One America News Network has also fueled the conspiracy, even offering $100,000 for information about Rich’s death during a conspiracy-fueled report.

    Conservative media’s exploitation of the Seth Rich murder spurred the family to threaten Wheeler with legal action, saying, “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the family.” From a May 19 NBC News report:

    The family of slain Democratic staffer Seth Rich is threatening legal action against a private investigator after his "outrageous behavior" has given fuel to right-wing conspiracy theories about the unsolved murder of their son.

    An attorney representing the family of Rich, who was 27 when he was killed last July, sent a cease and desist letter Friday to Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former Washington, D.C., homicide detective who was employed by the family and earlier this week told a Fox affiliate that he believed police were covering up details about the crime.

    "Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous, and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the Family," wrote Joseph Ingrisano of the law firm Katuk Rock, according to a copy of the letter shared exclusively with NBC News.

    "Your improper and unauthorized statements, many of which are false and have no basis in fact, have also injured the memory and reputation of Seth Rich and have defamed and injured the reputation and standing of the members of the Family," Ingrisano continued.

    The letter demands Wheeler "immediately and permanently" cease and desist from making any comments about Seth Rich or his death and suggests he could face further legal action either way.

  • Family Of Slain DNC Staffer Demands Apology From Fox News For Pushing Baseless Smears About Their Son

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The family of Seth Rich, a former staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was murdered last July, is demanding that Fox News and a local DC Fox affiliate retract and apologize for their reporting on Rich’s death. Fox alleged that the murder was somehow related to Rich’s alleged relationship with WikiLeaks despite finding no evidence that Rich had ever been in contact with WikiLeaks.

    In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 quoted Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who was once hired by the Rich’s family to investigate his death, claimed that “a source inside the police department” told him that the department was “told to stand down on this case.” Wheeler also said it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. According to CNN, “no real evidence has been provided to support such claims and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department.”

    Right-wing media seized on this story as a way to deflect from President Trump’s downward spiral. Fox personalities Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs reported on the story, despite Wheeler’s lack of evidence, or any evidence to support the WikiLeaks theory of Rich’s death. In fact, Hannity continued to push the conspiracy theory during his Wednesday radio program. Right-wing media’s tasteless exploitation of the Seth Rich spurred the family to demand a retraction. From the May 17 CNN report:

    The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was fatally shot last July, is demanding retractions from Fox News and WTTG-TV on Wednesday for their inaccurate reports on the unsolved murder, a spokesman for the family told CNN Wednesday.

    "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," spokesman Brad Bauman said.

    This week, 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 and that he had, in fact, only heard of some information attributed to him from a Fox News reporter with whom he spoke.

    A FoxNews.com story on the case also cited a "federal source" who said the FBI had conducted a forensic analysis of Rich's computer and discovered thousands of emails with Wikileaks. But a law enforcement official told CNN that the FBI never had possession of Rich's laptop and did not conduct a forensic analysis of its contents.

    Neither Fox News nor WTTG-TV have issued corrections to their reports. Multiple requests for comment made to both outlets were not returned.

    Update: Fox News issued the following statement in response to criticism of their reporting and sources changing their story. In an email statement to HuffPost, Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital said, "We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants":

    Fox News and Fox 5 published separate stories about the supposed links on Tuesday. But since then, the main source has changed his story, D.C. police and the FBI have disputed the most explosive claims, and Rich’s family has called on the network and station to issue retractions, saying that “inaccurate reporting” is “damaging the legacy” of Rich, a 27-year-old DNC staffer who was slain as he walked to his D.C. home.

    Fox News isn’t budging.

    “We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants,” Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital, said in an email statement to HuffPost on Wednesday afternoon. The network has not addressed the questions and apparent discrepancies surrounding its story.

    Fox 5 didn’t respond to multiple HuffPost requests for comment about its article. A spokesperson for the station told DCist it was standing by the story.

  • Comey Firing Coverage Shows Right-Wing Media Has Lost Its Grip On Reality

    Fake News Purveyors Joined Conservatives In Lauding Comey's Firing

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Right-wing media praised the Trump administration’s egregious decision to fire FBI director James Comey. Conservatives trumpeted the move as long overdue, while other media outlets lamented Trump’s move as “obstruction” and called his rationale for the firing “implausible.”

  • In 100 Days, Trump Has Attacked The Press Over 100 Times. Here’s How Fox News Cheered Him On.

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been defined, in part, by his administration’s hostility to the press. As Media Matters has documented, Trump has attacked the press well over 100 times to date. As Trump vilifies the press, Fox News hosts, contributors, and guests help cheer him on by supporting, enabling, and condoning his attempts to discredit mainstream media outlets.

  • With Tax March Looming, Watch Fox’s Absurd Defense Of Trump Hiding His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Donald Trump broke with decades of precedent in 2016 by refusing to release his tax returns in the midst of his presidential campaign, a stubborn refusal he has maintained since taking office in January. On April 15, the day tax filings are traditionally due, Americans will march in over 100 cities around the country to demand that the president fully disclose his tax and financial records. Before the Tax March, take a look at some attempts by Trump's team of Fox News sycophants to defend his unprecedented refusal to disclose his tax returns.

  • Right-Wing Media Refuses To Blame Trump For GOP Health Care Defeat 

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Republicans “abruptly” withdrew their health care bill, which signaled the first legislative defeat for President Donald Trump. After the bill's failure, media figures blamed Democrats, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), and legislators instead of  Trump who adopted and pushed for the bill’s passage.