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‘We Lost His Soul.’ Parents of Slain DNC Staffer Speak Out After Filing Lawsuit Over Conspiracy Theory About Their Son

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The parents of slain Democratic staffer Seth Rich are speaking out after filing a lawsuit against Fox News, claiming the network used their son’s death as a “political football” by linking it to a conspiracy theory.

The 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer was killed in Washington, D.C. in July 2016 in a random robbery, police said. But Rich’s death quickly became fodder for online conspiracy theorists and conservative commentators, who pushed the idea that the DNC staffer leaked emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. Police have not arrested a suspect in his death.

“They never called us to check any facts. They took a rumor and ran with it,” Seth Rich’s mother Mary Rich told Good Morning America on Thursday. “We lost his body the first time, and the second time we lost his soul. They took more from us with the lie, so we want our son’s life and his soul restored and I want our life back so we can move forward again.”

A May 16, 2017 article from Fox News claimed that Rich was the source of the hacked emails that WikiLeaks published 12 days after his murder. The article was retracted about a week later, after network host Sean Hannity heavily promoted the story on his show.

Hannity and other conservative pundits, such as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, speculated that Rich being linked to the WikiLeaks email dump would remove pressure from claims the DNC was attacked by Russian hackers and allegations of possible involvement of the Trump campaign. The CIA later said Russian officials, at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin, sent the hacked DNC information to WikiLeaks

“I want the people who started the lies, who are responsible for the lies, held accountable. This has gotta stop,” Seth Rich’s mother Mary Rich told Good Morning America on Thursday.

Rich’s parents said fringe political groups used the timing of their son’s death and the email dump to support their “other motives,” and that there was no proof their son was connected to WikiLeaks. In their lawsuit, the Rich family alleges that Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman and network contributor Ed Butowsky made up their story tying Rich to WikiLeaks, the AP reports.

Fox News declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com