Nearly two years after his death, Seth Rich’s family is still dealing with a nightmare from the conservative media that continues pushing conspiracy theories surrounding his murder. But they’re not taking it lying down.
Aaron Rich, Rich’s brother, is suing the Washington Times and America First Media as well as Ed Butowsky, a friend of Fox News, and Matt Couch, founder of America First Media. According to the suit, the defendants behaved “with reckless disregard for the truth” when pushing stories about Rich’s death.
Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer, was shot and killed in July 2016. His murderer has still not been caught; authorities believe it was a robbery gone wrong. Meanwhile, despite the lack of evidence, Rich quickly became the subject of a conspiracy theory among conservatives, which states he was murdered for his work with the Democratic National Committee and for sharing private emails with WikiLeaks. The far-right theory was favored as it rejected the notion that it was actually Russia that hacked the DNC.
Butowsky, a wealthy businessman and Republican donor, approached the Riches several months after Rich’s death and offered to hire Rod Wheeler, a private investigator, to look into the murder, the lawsuit states. Meanwhile, Butowsky wrote a piece for Fox News in which he quoted Wheeler as confirming evidence linking Rich to WikiLeaks. Wheeler insisted these quotes were fabricated, and Fox retracted the piece.
But to this day, right-wing media is still spreading information about Rich and his family with no factual basis to back up any claims. The Washington Times reported just this month:
“Interestingly, it is well known in the intelligence circles that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, downloaded the DNC emails and was paid by Wikileaks for that information.
“While Wikileaks doesn’t expose sources, Julian Assange gave a clear clue during an Aug. 9, 2016 interview on Dutch television when he implied that Mr. Rich was killed because he was the Wikileaks source of the DNC emails. Mr. Assange offered a $20,000 reward leading to the arrest of Mr. Rich’s killers. Also, why hasn’t Aaron Rich been interviewed, and where is he?”
According to his lawsuit, Aaron Rich “is an intensely private person” and therefore “has kept private his disagreement with scores of individuals who took to social media and Internet discussion forums to accuse Seth of having conspired with WikiLeaks.”
While not making public interviews, Aaron Rich has actively assisted law enforcement in solving his brother’s murder, the lawsuit states, providing officials with as much information and evidence as possible, and even testified under oath before a grand jury.
The America First Media website is still filled with false information about Rich. On its homepage is an August 2017 Periscope video cited in the lawsuit, in which Butowsky says, “Aaron Rich needs to come out and admit money [from WikiLeaks] is in his account.”
In the same broadcast Couch accused Aaron Rich of “try[ing] to stop this investigation.”
“The family wants to know who killed Seth Rich. They know everything else. They know about the money. They know about the leaks. They know Aaron and Seth did the leaks together. They know all of this information,” Couch said.
The lawsuit says that not only is this information false but it has had severe repercussions for Aaron Rich.
“Defendants’ accusations had an immediate impact. One viewer called Aaron a ‘snake’ who ‘threw his own brother under the bus’ and asked ‘How does Aaron sleep at night?’” the lawsuit states. “Another wrote ‘AARON RICH GOT PAID.’ A third wrote: ‘aaron had seth killed.’”
The suit comes on the heels of another one filed by Rich’s parents against Butowsky and Fox News. Following the latest legal action, Butowsky told CNN he has no idea what the Riches are talking about and said, “I have nothing else to say, other than how many more family members do the Riches have that want to sue me?”
Still running his mouth on social media, Couch said in a new Periscope video on Tuesday regarding the suit, “We’re just reporting the truth. We’re doing what’s right. … You’re not going to deter us from investigating this and reporting the truth.”