The parents of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer whose unsolved murder became the basis for right-wing conspiracy theories, settled their lawsuit with Fox News on Tuesday.
“The settlement with Fox News closes another chapter in our efforts to mourn the murder of our beloved Seth, whom we miss every single day,” the parents, Joel and Mary Rich, said in a statement through their attorneys.
The Rich parents added that the settlement will allow them to “move on from the litigation” and that they “are pleased with the settlement of this matter and sincerely hope that the media will take genuine caution in the future.”
“We thank everyone who has counseled us and given us strength,” Joel and Mary Rich said, adding, “We now look forward to devoting as much time and energy as we can to family and to preserving Seth’s memory as a blessing.”
A Fox News spokesperson commented, “We are pleased with the resolution of the claims and hope this enables Mr. and Mrs. Rich to find a small degree of peace and solace moving forward.”
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed by either party.
The Riches filed a lawsuit in March 2018 against Fox News, a Fox News reporter, and a Texas businessman.
The lawsuit alleged that Malia Zimmerman, the reporter named in the lawsuit, worked with Ed Butowsky, the Texas businessman, to develop a “sham” story about Rich’s death that Fox News published online in May 2017 and referenced on-air multiple times.
Zimmerman’s story said Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who was at the time a Fox News contributor hired by Butowsky on behalf of the Rich family to look into Rich’s death, had learned that Wikileaks had been in contact with Rich prior to his death.
The story suggested without real evidence that Rich had leaked a trove of DNC emails to Wikileaks and further suggested that his death, which police suspect was a botched robbery, was retribution for the supposed leak. Within hours, however, the Fox News story fell apart.
The Rich family sought compensation for “mental anguish and emotional distress, emotional pain and suffering, and any other physical and mental injuries.”
Judge George B. Daniels of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the case in its entirety in August 2018. However, in September 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned Daniels’ decision.
The appeals court said that, upon review, it had determined that the lawsuit contained “sufficient facts” to survive a motion to dismiss based on failure to state a claim.
Several Fox News personalities and executives had been scheduled to undergo depositions in recent weeks, including prominent hosts such as Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs. It’s not clear whether those depositions took place and the Fox News spokesperson did not reply to an email asking for clarification.
An attorney for Butowsky declined to provide a comment. An attorney for Zimmerman did not respond to a request for comment, but the Fox News spokesperson confirmed a Washington Post report that said Zimmerman is no longer with the network. The spokesperson did not respond to an email asking when she departed Fox News and under what circumstances.