“In a rather stunning turn of events, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a lawsuit brought by the parents of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich against Fox News,” The Hollywood Reporter’s THR, Esq., reports. “On Friday, the federal appeals court rejected the cable news outlet’s First Amendment arguments with a provocative opinion that suggests media companies can be held liable for inflicting emotional distress.”
THR adds: “Rich was fatally shot in July 2016 in what police said was a mugging gone wrong, but conspiracy theorists suggested that Rich was murder because he — and not Russian hackers — had leaked the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Although there was no evidence for Rich playing a role in the dissemination of the hacked emails that disrupted the 2016 presidential election, and while this theory was refuted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. intelligence community, who attributed blame to Russia, the conspiracy proved irresistible to some Trump supporters — and Fox News pundits — looking for any way to undercut a Trump-Russia connection and the investigations that followed.
“In May 2017, Fox News ran a story about Rich that quoted the family’s hired investigator, Rod Wheeler, who claimed to have evidence [that] Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks. After the story came out, the Rich family issued a statement condemning the article. Within 24 hours, Wheeler had retracted his claims. Fox News removed the article and promised an investigation but never apologized.”
The Riches filed suit alleging that they experienced post-traumatic stress disorder because of the reports. The latest decision reverses an August 2018 dismissal of the suit by a federal judge that THR says “seemed to confirm conventional wisdom in media law — that one can’t defame a dead person because that individual’s reputation goes to the grave. Dressing up a defamation claim by artfully pleading emotional distress doesn’t suffice.”
Click on the link above to THR for details about the case.