The family of a slain Democratic National Committee staffer strongly criticised media outlets and individuals who they suggested used a new report about Rich’s contacts before his death as validation of their political ideology.
Late Monday, a private investigator affiliated with the Rich family told local Washington, DC, outlet Fox 5 that before his death, Rich had contacts with WikiLeaks, which released internal DNC emails last year.
Wheeler, an investigator who reports have said is paid by a third party, hinted at potential foul play in Rich’s death. He suggested the Metro Police Department had attempted to cover up the nature of Rich’s death on behalf of the DNC, a claim the police department vehemently denied on Tuesday.
The Fox 5 report was prominently featured by top right-leaning sites, including Breitbart News and the Drudge Report, and was featured prominently on FoxNews.com and on the “Fox & Friends” morning show.
Asked about the attention the new report received from right-leaning outlets, Brad Bauman, a spokesperson for the Rich family, said the family condemned the attempt to politicize Rich’s death.
“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,” Bauman told Business Insider. “I think there is a special place in hell for people like that.”
Many top right-leaning outlets have dismissed intelligence and law-enforcement findings that Russian intelligence hacked and leaked private DNC emails, in which top DNC staffers were openly hostile to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primary.
The insinuation that Rich may have leaked the emails has reignited the assertion online that Rich’s potential dissatisfaction with the DNC, not Russian interference, influenced the election. On Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange retweeted the Fox 5 story.
Rich’s family said private investigator Rod Wheeler’s assertions were “unsubstantiated claims,” saying that they “see no facts, we have seen no evidence, we have been approached with no emails and only learned about this when contacted 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 conspiracies will stop at nothing to do so,” the family said in a statement.
The family’s statement continued:
“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 services of the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorised by the family.”
Rich’s family has repeatedly attempted to quash online theorists who have suggested a conspiratorial motive behind the former staffer’s death, which police said came during a robbery gone wrong while Rich was walking home from a Washington, DC, bar last July.
In August, WikiLeaks promised a $US20,000 reward to whoever identified the culprit responsible for Rich’s death.
In a statement to Business Insider after WikiLeaks announced the reward, the family thanked investigators but said attempts to politicize Rich’s death by floating unfounded theories about the shooting “are actually causing more harm than good and impeding on the ability for law enforcement to properly do their job.”
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