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Fox News retracts unfounded story about DNC staffer's death
By MADELINE CONWAY
05/23/2017 03:56 PM EDT
Updated 05/23/2017 04:34 PM EDT
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Days after it was debunked, Fox News retracted on Tuesday an unfounded story it ran last week alleging that the 2016 death of a Democratic National Committee staffer may have been a murder in retaliation for communicating with the website WikiLeaks.
According to D.C. police, the staffer, Seth Rich, was killed last summer during a robbery attempt, but a conspiracy theory has circulated online claiming that he had really been murdered because he leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks. The police have said there is no evidence to support the claim, and Rich’s family also denied that Rich had communicated with anyone from WikiLeaks before his death.
But Fox News picked up the story and ran an article about it online, and conservative host Sean Hannity promoted the unfounded claims on his primetime program and through social media, spurring widespread condemnation from other media.
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The network released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that the May 16 story “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,” the statement said. “We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”
The statement did not mention Hannity, who as recently as Tuesday afternoon had continued to share tweets about it. And after Fox issued the retraction, he said on his radio show, "For those accusing me of pushing a conspiracy theory, you are the biggest phony hypocrites in the entire world."
Hannity also acknowledged Rich's family, saying, "I feel so badly for this family and what they have been through and what they are going through.”
On Monday evening, he had shared a link to a Daily Beast story reporting that other Fox News employees were dismayed by his embrace of the unfounded story and indicated that he had no regrets. “Very interesting,” he wrote. “My heart is not troubled in the least.”
Rich’s family thanked Fox for retracting the story in a statement sent through a spokesman on Tuesday.
“The family would like to thank Fox News for their retraction on a story that has caused pain and anguish to the family and has done harm to Seth Rich’s legacy,” the family said. “We are hopeful that in the future that Fox News will work with the family to ensure the highest degree of professionality and scrutiny is followed so that only accurate facts are reported surrounding this case.”
The Daily Caller, a conservative website, has also taken down a story promoting the conspiracy theory.
Hadas Gold contributed reporting.