In response to days of right-wing conspiracy frenzy, the parents of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich on Tuesday pleaded for an end to the lies and speculation surrounding his death, which they said have made their grief even more of a nightmare.
In an emotional op-ed published by the Washington Post Tuesday, Mary and Joel Rich condemned those who have turned their son's death into a "political football" with no regard for the family's pain. They pleaded for those spreading conspiracy theories to allow police in Washington, DC, to continue their investigation.
"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," they wrote. "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."
The theory that Rich's death was ordered by the Clintons for leaking DNC emails to WikiLeaks was reignited last week by Fox 5 DC and Fox News reports claiming there was evidence of email contact between Rich and a WikiLeaks associate.
Those reports were quickly discredited, and on Tuesday, Fox News deleted its story and released a statement admitting that the piece had not met editorial standards.
Even after that, however, Fox News' Sean Hannity continued to speak about the supposed conspiracy on his radio show and tweet his theories on Rich's death.
The Riches' op-ed reiterated what the family has said for months: that police believe Seth Rich's death was the result of a botched robbery, that there has been no evidence of email communication between Rich and WikiLeaks, and that his job at the DNC did not give him access to the emails ultimately released by WikiLeaks.
On his Fox News program Tuesday night, Hannity ignored those statements. But he said he had sympathy for the family's loss and would refrain from speaking about Rich's death for now.
"Out of respect for the family's wishes for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time," he said. "Now let me explain this: There are so many issues here, not the least of which is the Democratic push of their Russia narrative — 'Collusion. Trump. Russia narrative. Trump Russia narrative.'"
"There's something clearly happening here," he added. "The Destroy Trump media, the Democrats, they have been pushing that Russia tinfoil-hat conspiracy with zero evidence."
The US intelligence community has concluded that WikiLeaks obtained the DNC emails from Russian hackers bent on influencing the US election in 2016. Whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russians in that effort is not yet known; the matter is currently under investigation by both the FBI and congressional committees.
As for the people who have spread conspiracy theories about Rich's death on social media, the Riches allowed that some have had good intentions. But they added that the outrage has been taken advantage of by people spreading lies for political gain.
"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," they wrote. "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."
Meanwhile, the progressive group Media Matters described Hannity as "a bigot, sexist, and conspiracy theorist," and published a list of his advertisers, as the group previously did to put pressure on former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly.
On Twitter, Hannity's supporters and detractors shared dueling hashtags: #SaveHannity and #FireHannity.
Hannity also tweeted that he had spoken with his lawyers, but he would continue to seek the truth.
"Please do not interpret what I'm saying tonight to mean anything. Don't read into this," he told viewers Tuesday. "I promise you I'm not going to stop doing my job. To the extent of my ability, I am not going to stop trying to find the truth."