Fox News has reached a settlement with the parents of slain Democratic aide Seth Rich.
Joel and Mary Rich filed a federal lawsuit in 2018 accusing the network of fabricating a conspiracy story about their son and WikiLeaks to drive ratings, and seeking unspecified damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress and other claims.
Both sides acknowledged the settlement on Tuesday, but no terms were disclosed.
Seth Rich, 27, was shot and killed near his home in Washington, D.C. in July 2016. Authorities have said that the unsolved murder may have been a failed robbery attempt.
In May 2017, Fox News posted an article on its website by reporter Malia Zimmerman that cited unnamed sources suggesting that Rich had leaked Democratic National Committee emails to Wikileaks prior to the 2016 presidential election, and had been killed in retaliation.
The claim was picked up and used by other right-wing news media looking to discredit accusations about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. U.S. intelligence officials determined that Russia was actually behind the D.N.C. email hack used to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The lawsuit named Zimmerman and investment advisor Ed Butowsky, a frequent Fox News guest at the time of the report, as co-defendents, charging that they used lies and half-truths to portray Seth Rich as a criminal and traitor, reports The New York Times.
The online story was “discussed at length” on “Fox & Friends” and shows led by Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, according to NPR.org.
Fox News retracted the story a week after its initial publication, saying the article “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting,” and was “found not to meet those standards.”
Hannity told viewers he would stop talking about Rich on his show “for now,” out of “respect for the family's wishes,” but told listeners to his radio show: “I am not Fox.com or FoxNews.com. I retracted nothing.”
According to NPR, the entire suit was dismissed as part of the settlement. “That ensures that Fox stars, including Hannity and Dobbs, will not have to give sworn testimony to the court that could be made public,” NPR reports. “Another lawsuit, brought by Seth's brother Aaron against Butowsky and others, is still pending.”
Rich’s parents, of Omaha, Nebraska, issued a statement saying: "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. We are pleased with the settlement of this and sincerely hope that the media will take genuine caution in the future."
Fox News supplied the following statement: “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.”