EXCLUSIVE: Grieving Family Speaks to Us about Battling Fake News to Find Seth Rich’s Killer
Seth Rich was shot and killed on July 10, 2016 near his home in Washington, D.C. Ever since his senseless murder, many have wondered who is responsible for the murder of Seth Rich. His family, along with their representatives, are leading an effort to find the truth.
Rod Wheeler Ignites Conspiracy Theories Into The Death Of Seth Rich
Rod Wheeler, the private investigator hired by Seth Rich’s family, made definitive claims which led to what many thought was a revelation into the murder of the former DNC staffer. In an interview on Monday, Wheeler had the following exchange with Fox 5 DC:
FOX 5 DC: “You have sources at the FBI saying that there is information…”
WHEELER: “For sure…”
FOX 5 DC: “…that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks?”
WHEELER: “Absolutely. Yeah. That’s confirmed.”
The firestorm led to an interestingly timed tweet from the Russian Embassy in the UK.
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) May 19, 2017
Thousands flocked towards the comments made by Wheeler – some hoping for a break in the case – with others looking to use the news for their political agenda.
Wheeler’s Quickly Recants Story, Family Releases Comments
Wheeler would change his story less than 24 hours after making the allegations. He told Buzzfeed, “That story on Fox 5 last night was inaccurate, I don’t even know where the computers are.” He only knew of possible emails linking Rich to WikiLeaks because of a Fox News story by Malia Zimmerman. He further admitted that he did not uncover any evidence of the sort during his investigation. Wheeler, a Fox News contributor, was hired by Ed Butowsky of Dallas, Texas – who is also a Fox News Contributor, and has penned articles for Brietbart.
On Friday, Joseph Ingrisano, the attorney representing the Rich family, sent a cease and desist order to Rod Wheeler stating. It alleged Wheeler’s comments had caused, “severe mental anguish and distress.” Wheeler’s contract with the Rich family prohibited him from speaking to the media without the family’s permission.
The order continued: “Your improper and unauthorized statements, many of which are false and have no basis in fact, have also injured the memory and reputation of Seth Rich and have defamed and injured the reputation and standing of the members of the Family.”
Brad Bauman, representative of the Seth Rich family, stated the following to Business Insider when asked specifically about outlets who continued to run with the original comments from Rod Wheeler, despite his quick retraction:
It’s sad but unsurprising that a group of media outlets who have repeatedly lied to the American people would try and manipulate the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda, I think there is a special place in hell for people like that.
Bauman gave the following remarks to CNN when speaking about outlets who ran the story without seeing proper evidence:
[They] have shown over and over again that they are willing to lie and manipulate the facts to further their own political end. I think it’s important for everyone at Fox News to be careful with this information and how this story breaks because using the legacy of a murder victim in such an overtly political way is morally reprehensible.
Employees of Fox News have been outspoken about their frustration with Sean Hannity, in particular, who continues to push the story. They told CNN, “It is disappointing because it drags the rest of us down,” adding their disappointment in Fox News officials for allowing him to continue to spread an unproven theory. The unnamed senior employee would continue, “It hurts those of us who are legitimately focused on journalism. We have a chance to turn the corner at Fox, and perpetuating this conspiracy theory damages our integrity.”
On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich. The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed.
We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.
Aaron Rich, Seth’s brother, sent a heartfelt letter to Hannity executive producer Porter Berry. The family also provided a copy to CNN, excerpts from the document read:
Think about how you would feel losing a son or brother. And while dealing with this, you had baseless accusations of your lost family member being part of a vast conspiracy. As the family, we would hope to be the first people to learn about any such evidence and reasons for Seth’s death. It is a travesty that you would prompt false conspiracy theories and other people’s agendas rather than work with the family to learn the truth.
In private communication with Rich family representative Brad Bauman, he confirmed the authenticity of the letter and that the CNN story was accurate. On Tuesday’s airing of Hannity, Sean Hannity stated that he had exchanged letters with the Rich family and would cease speaking about the story, further confirming the credibility of the letter CNN quoted.
Actors On Social Media Twist The Families Comments
Seth Rich’s family took to YouTube last month in order to thank those who donated to the GoFundMe fundraiser to help with the investigation in finding Seth’s murderer. The campaign was set up by Seth’s brother, Aaron, and is clear about his thoughts on the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the death of his brother:
His murder remains a mystery, and despite the hard work of the detectives at the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, we have still been unable to get the answers to the questions surrounding his death. Because of the lack of clear evidence in the case, Seth’s job working for the Democratic National Committee and the caustic political environment we find ourselves in today, many people have used my brother’s murder for their own agendas. Every few weeks another conspiracy theory surfaces, another promise of credible information and another lack of evidence to support the crazy claims being made.
However, despite comments from the family, many continue to push unproven theories without providing evidence, or simply twisting comments from the family to support their agenda.
— Jennifer Brea (@jenbrea) May 21, 2017
Bad Actors Attempting To Use The Name of Seth Rich For Publicity
David Weigel of the Washington Post published a story – the accuracy of which was confirmed by family representative Brad Bauman – concerning hackers’ attempt to use Seth’s Gmail account. He writes:
When Seth Rich’s Gmail account received an alert this week from Mega.com, attempting to start a new account on a website created by the New Zealand-based Internet businessman and convicted hacker Kim Dotcom, his family knew that something was off.
Seth’s father, Joel Rich maintains his son’s Gmail account and was alerted by the e-mail invitation from [email protected] Thankfully, Joel did not click the link. In his article, Weigel quotes James Lewis, cybersecurity expert and a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies regarding the authentication process at Mega:
It looks like someone set up a fake Gmail account, then used that Gmail account to create the Mega account. This part is pretty standard. Mega then checks with Gmail to see if the account exists, which is Mega’s somewhat cheesy way of authenticating identity. You then get to set up the Mega account. It’s a system designed to enable pseudonyms and fake identities.
Mega.nz is a company founded by Kim Dotcom, who just recently began tweeting about the Seth Rich case.
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) May 19, 2017
He tweeted the following after stating that he was indeed the evidence proving Seth Rich was a source to WikiLeaks.
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) May 21, 2017
When individuals began questioning his credibility, he would continue tweeting:
The competition is
"Iraq has WMDs" CIA
"Hillary is above the law" FBI
"Your privacy belongs to us" NSA
I win. https://t.co/TF9Kr631J3
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) May 24, 2017
As of the publication of this article, Kim has not responded to his cancelled appearance on the Hannity program, nor the attempted hacking of Seth Rich’s e-mail from his site. There has yet to be any proof that Kim had anything to do with the attempt.
Interview With Rich Family Representative
On Tuesday, I spoke with Brad Bauman, the representative of the Rich family. Bauman stated that he has worked with the Rich family since July 2016 on a pro-bono basis. Several of Seth’s closest friends recommended Brad to the Rich family in July of last year in order to deal with the number of media requests they were receiving.
During my conversation with Brad, he informed me that Seth’s parents are not at this time speaking to the media, but he stays in contact with the Rich family on an almost hourly basis. “They are living a nightmare,” he stated when asked about how the family was coping with some taking the GoFundMe video out of context, and those using their son’s death to push a political agenda.
“Pattern of various conspiracy theories emerged began around 2-3 week after Seth’s death. Julian Assange began pushing the first connections,” Baumen explained when asked about the timeline of emerging theories around Seth’s death. He detailed other theories he and the family have heard since Seth’s death ranging from Russian assassins, to members of the Democratic Party, “Without a thread of evidence being offered,” he continued.
In response to the families intent of the GoFundMe video, Bauman stated:
They were legitimately thanking those who donated to the GoFundMe to continue the case. They were not in any way, shape, or form referring to any theory on anything that has happened to their son [on the night of his death].
Bauman made it clear that the family has “nothing to hide,” and wants to do everything possible to assist the Metro Police Department in helping find those responsible for Seth’s death. Bauman went on to clarify that the investigation is definitely still ongoing and that the family is in communication with those investigating the case.
“As a progressive, we can have a conversation about the the Democratic Party actually represents, without conflating the senseless murder of Seth Rich to some ridiculous theory,” Bauman stated on his own behalf. He continued, “It’s really harmful to those of us who want to make sure the Democratic Party doesn’t stand for corporate interests.” He again reiterated that comments related to the Democratic Party were his comments and to not be attributed to the family.
The Metropolitan Police Department were contacted regarding this story, they reiterated that the investigation was ongoing, but the investigations department did not wish to make a public statement at this time regarding any recent developments.
Watch Seth Rich’s Parents Thank GoFundMe Supporters For Their Donations
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Photo Credit: Democratic National Committee