After their son Seth Rich died, the cable network made an unsubstantiated link between his death and Wikileaks' disclosure of hacked DNC emails. The goal of the story, according to the Riches and Wheeler, was to take political heat off the Trump administration as investigators probed whether Russian-backed hackers leaked the emails to advance his candidacy.
Rich was killed in his D.C. neighborhood in July 2016 in what local police said was a botched robbery attempt, The Washington Post reported.
It claims that Zimmerman and a regular Fox News guest, Ed Butowsky, intentionally fabricated a story that portrayed Rich as the person who leaked thousands of internal Democratic National Committee emails to WikiLeaks in 2016, which released them to the public in an act that proved damaging to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
The lawsuit claims that Fox News, Zimmerman and Butowsky are liable for the harm caused by the report because they "aided and abetted the intentional infliction of emotional distress" caused by the story about Seth Rich and alleges that Fox News provided with a national platform to develop what the lawsuit dubs a "sham story".
"No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure", Joel and Mary Rich said in statement Tuesday night, according to CNN.
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Zimmerman and Butowsky published a story on May 16, 2017 claiming they spoke with multiple sources who had confirmed the conspiracy theory.
But Joel and Mary Rich say that the story has followed them ever since, wreaking irreversible damage on them and their son, whose legacy has become entangled in a conspiracy theory that Fox elevated "from the fringe to the front pages and screens of the mainstream media", the lawsuit says.
The story said private investigator Rod Wheeler learned WikiLeaks and Rich communicated before his death.
In a statement, Leonard A. Gail, the lawyer representing the Rich family, said: "Joel and Mary Rich have brought this case" to hold the defendants "accountable for their reprehensible actions". Seven days after it was published, the network retracted the story.
Butowsky, for his part, claims that he didn't write the piece, and that including him in the lawsuit is "baseless and frivolous".
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.