The parents of Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer whose murder has been connected to a conspiracy theory, have sued Fox News, claiming that the network's coverage of their son's death amounted to "malicious and reckless behavior", The Guardian is reporting.
The story quoted Wheeler saying there had been contact between Rich and WikiLeaks.
In May, a D.C. Fox station published a report that claimed the staffer's computer showed he had been in touch with WikiLeaks before he died and had leaked thousands of emails to the site. The article linked Rich to the leak of the emails to WikiLeaks, but the US intelligence community said in October 2016 that the Russian government was behind the hacks.
Fox News's May 2017 story, which it later retracted, cited unidentified law-enforcement sources for such a claim. "The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son's life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension" Joel and Mary Rich said in a statement.
Mary Rich and her husband, Joel Rich, hold a photo of their son in their home on January 11, 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Fox News' conduct has severely and "irreparably harmed" Rich's parents, the lawsuit argues, "because whatever opportunity that existed to investigate and find closure with regard to their son's murder was taken away from them".
In the suit, which was obtained by ABC News, Rich's parents, Joel and Mary Rich, claim that Fox News investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman and contributor Ed Butowsky reached out to the family under false pretenses to support stories that Seth Rich leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks.
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The lawsuit claims that Fox News, Zimmerman and Butowsky "induced" the Richs "to hire Rod Wheeler, a purportedly independent investigator, to help "solve" their son's murder".
Mr Butowsky, a wealthy Texas businessman sued by the Riches, told CNN on Tuesday night that he did not "understand this lawsuit at all".
The other source was a private investigator hired by the Rich family, who later said Fox News fabricated quotes attributed to him.
The suit, filed on Tuesday in the Southern District of NY, alleges that the network, Zimmerman, and Butowsky acted "with disregard for the obvious harm that their actions would cause Joel and Mary" Rich.
The suit claims the couple has developed post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, among other afflictions, as a result of the viral conspiracy theory about Seth. They are suing all three parties for intentional infliction of emotional distress, aiding and abetting intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy to commit intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with contract; they are also suing Fox News for negligent supervision and/or retention.
Butowsky called the lawsuit "one of the dumbest" he'd ever seen in an interview with ABC News.