WASHINGTON (JTA) — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the parents of Seth Rich, the Jewish Democratic National Committee staffer killed near his Washington, D.C., home in 2016, against Fox News for a story saying he was part of a conspiracy involving WikiLeaks.
The ruling Thursday in Manhattan District Court said the lawsuit did not meet the standard of “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” one of several claims made by the family. The judge, George Daniels, said the legal standard was much tougher than it is for defamation.
Defamation was not available to the Riches, as it does not apply to a deceased person.
Daniels also dismissed claims in the suit against Fox investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman and guest commenter Ed Butowsky. The lawsuit named a story posted on the Fox News website in May 2017. Fox later retracted and removed the article.
Rich, 27, a Nebraska native, was shot dead while walking home before dawn on July 10, 2016. Police have speculated that he was the victim of a robbery gone awry. Rich’s body was found about a block from his home with his wallet, watch and cellphone still in his possession. His murder remains unsolved.
His death sparked several conspiracy theories falsely suggesting that he was targeted by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign because he had leaked damaging emails.
Several days after Rich’s death, WikiLeaks dumped a collection of DNC emails that U.S. intelligence officers now say was related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Rich’s killer.
Fox within a week of its posting retracted and removed the article, which treated as substantive some of the conspiracy theories.