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Appeals Court Reinstates Lawsuit Against Fox News Over Seth Rich Story

A federal appeals court is allowing a lawsuit by Seth Rich's parents against Fox News and two other defendants to proceed.
Shannon Stapleton
A federal appeals court is allowing a lawsuit by Seth Rich's parents against Fox News and two other defendants to proceed.

A federal appeals court Friday reinstated a lawsuit against Fox News and two other defendants over its coverage of the death of Seth Rich, a 27-year-old Democratic Party aide who was murdered in July 2016.

The suit was filed by Rich's parents over a Fox News story from May 2017. The story reported that Rich had been linked to the leak of thousands of Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks and suggested his death might be related to the release of those emails. The police department in Washington, D.C., believes Rich's shooting death was the result of a botched robbery. Fox retracted its story a week later, saying "the article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all of our reporting."

The suit by Seth Rich's parents, Joel and Mary Rich, was dismissed last year by Judge George B. Daniels, of the Southern District of New York. Now, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has overturned that ruling on the suit surrounding Fox News' reporting about Rich's death.

The Riches have sued Fox News and Malia Zimmerman, the reporter on the story, and Ed Butowsky, a Texas investment manager and former unpaid Fox News commentator, for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Lenny Gail, an attorney for the Riches, said Friday's decision "clears the way for a thorough investigation into the facts. We will now obtain documents from Fox News and other parties and take testimony under oath from those involved."

Fox News, in a statement, said that "while we extend the Rich family our deepest condolences for their loss, we believe that discovery will demonstrate that FOX News did not engage in conduct that will support the Riches' claims. We will be evaluating our next legal steps."

In a statement, Joel and Mary Rich said, "We would not wish what we have experienced upon any other parent – anywhere. We appreciate the appellate court's ruling and look forward to continuing to pursue justice."

Editor's note: Ed Butowsky has filed a defamation suit against NPR and NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik for their reporting on Fox News' story about Seth Rich. NPR has said it stands by its reporting and will defend the case vigorously.

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