Enough with the Seth Rich conspiracy theories
Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered on a DC street in the erly morning hours of July 10, 2016. His murder was a tragedy for his family, friends, and co-workers, and a crime that must be solved.
Regrettably, his murder has also become an unhealthy and potentially destructive fixation for some who call themselves conservatives.
This needs to stop.
The evidence that we have -- facts, not rumors, allegations, or theories -- gives no support whatsoever to the idea that Rich was feeding information to WikiLeaks, or that his killing was acually an orchestrated hit.
Snopes has a thorough takedown of the WikiLeaks portion of the theory, which, among other items, shows the sourcing used to push the Rich was killed as payback for handing DNC emails to WikiLeaks is not just thin, it is largely fraudulent.
Some folks think Snopes -- a long-time debunker of the odd, the wild, and the hare brained -- is unreliable. We could turn to Dave Weigel's equally thorough debunking of some of the myths taken as gospel in the Rich conspiracy theory. Included in the list: that this story will make the whole Trump/Russia narrative disappear:
That's pretty clearly what Sean Hannity thinks. "If Seth was wiki source, no Trump/Russia collusion," the Fox News host tweeted this past weekend, as he promoted the out-of-almost-nowhere arrival of Internet celebrity Kim Dotcom to the story. The theory is simple: If someone could prove that WikiLeaks had a mole inside the DNC, the table-banging about Russia-linked hacking would be debunked, whoosh, just like that.
The problem, which really should be more obvious, is that the DNC wasn't the only Democratic campaign organization hacked in 2016. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was hacked. Podesta's email was hacked. In the fantasy where the Rich obsessives are vindicated, they end up with no rebuttal to the federal investigators who say that hackers penetrated the DCCC and Clinton's campaign chairman. And, not incidentally, the emails that did the most intra-Democratic Party damage, like the proof that then-DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile shared two questions that were going to be asked at Clinton-Sanders televised events, came from the Podesta hack.
But some will say the Post and Mr. Weigel are enemies of Trump and conservatives alike, so of course they will dismiss the Rich story. Then what of Rich's own family? Rich's father has spoken out forcefully, and on the record, as you can see in the video at the link.
There is also the family's statement, provided to BuzzFeed:
We see no facts, have seen no evidence, we have been approached with no evidence and only learned about [Wheeler's claims] when approached by the press.
Even if tomorrow, an email was found, it is not a high enough bar of evidence to prove any interactions as emails can be altered and we've seen that those interested in pushing conspiracy theories will stop at nothing to do so.
We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the void and distract law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth's murderers.
The statement concluded: The services of the private investigator who spoke to the press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party and contractually was barred from speaking to the press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family.
Some may dismiss those statements as well. But the problems don't end there:
The family of slain Democratic staffer Seth Rich is threatening legal action against a private investigator after his "outrageous behavior" has given fuel to right-wing conspiracy theories about the unsolved murder of their son.
An attorney representing the family of Rich, who was 27 when he was killed last July, sent a cease and desist letter Friday to Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former Washington, D.C., homicide detective who was employed by the family and earlier this week told a Fox affiliate that he believed police were covering up details about the crime.
"Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous, and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the Family," wrote Joseph Ingrisano of the law firm Katuk Rock, according to a copy of the letter shared exclusively with NBC News.
"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," Ingrisano continued.
The letter demands Wheeler "immediately and permanently" cease and desist from making any comments about Seth Rich or his death and suggests he could face further legal action either way.
The Rich family complained to Fox News about its coverage of Seth's death. Aaron Rich wrote "We appeal to your decency to not cause a grieving family more pain and suffering by allowing your platform to be used by someone to drag our family name through the mud."
Seth’s death has been turned into a political football. Every day we wake up to new headlines, new lies, new factual errors, new people approaching us to take advantage of us and Seth’s legacy. It just won’t stop. The amount of pain and anguish this has caused us is unbearable. With every conspiratorial flare-up, we are forced to relive Seth’s murder and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth’s memory is torn away from us.
To those who sincerely want to get to the bottom of Seth’s murder, we don’t hold this against you. We don’t think you are monsters, and we don’t think you are terrible people. We know that so many people out there really do care, don’t know what to think and are angry at the lack of answers.
We also know that many people are angry at our government and want to see justice done in some way, somehow. We are asking you to please consider our feelings and words. There are people who are using our beloved Seth’s memory and legacy for their own political goals, and they are using your outrage to perpetuate our nightmare. We ask those purveying falsehoods to give us peace, and to give law enforcement the time and space to do the investigation they need to solve our son’s murder.
On Tuesday, Fox News issued a retraction of its story on the Rich murder that pushed the conspiracy angle, saying "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 could go on, and on, and on. But those who insist, for whatever reason, that Rich was murdered as part of a grander conspiracy will refuse to believe any of it.
Conservatives have long prided themselves on the respect they have for facts, evidence, and truth. We must do the same in this case. If not -- if some remain immune to evidence, ignorant of established facts, and willing to indulge the fantasies of con men and hucksters, they will have turned their backs on a key pillar of conservatism.
Seth Rich's murder is being investigated by law enforcement, as it should be. But his family does not deserve, and conservatives should not indulge, the unsubstantiated, illogical, and harmful absurdities peddled to explain his death.