Fox News required its settlement with the family of killed DNC staffer Seth Rich remain undisclosed until after the 2020 election

Donald Trump Fox News
A close-up of the Fox News Channel website with a picture of President Donald Trump displayed on a smartphone.

  • In settling a lawsuit with the parents of Seth Rich, the DNC staffer murdered in 2016, Fox News stipulated the settlement remain private until after the 2020 election, The New York Times reported. 
  • The multi-million dollar settlement was announced at the end of November, more than a month after it was reached on October 12, according to the report.
  • Seth Rich was shot and killed in July 2016 in Washington, DC, and his death prompted numerous, baseless conspiracy right-wing conspiracy theories related to Wikileaks publishing of internal DNC emails.
  • His parents, Mary and Joel Rich, sued Fox News two years ago for emotional distress.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Fox News stipulated its multi-million dollar settlement with the family of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich remain undisclosed to the public until the November 3 election had passed, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The Sunday report came from Ben Smith, The New York Times’ media columnist. 

As The New York Times reported, the October 2020 settlement came not long before Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs were set to testify under oath in the case. Rich’s family agreed to the terms of the settlement, according to the report, including that it not be made public until after the election.

On Monday, a Fox News spokesperson declined to answer any of Insider’s questions regarding The New York Times’ reporting. The cable news network and its lawyer similarly declined to comment to The New York Times for its report.

Read more: Mitch McConnell is telling GOP senators their decision on a Trump impeachment trial conviction is a ‘vote of conscience’

Rich was shot in killed in July 2016 in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, DC. The 27-year-old’s death spawned a number of right-wing conspiracy theories, including that he had provided emails from the DNC to WikiLeaks as part of a 2016 leak. Those who propagated the unfounded theory, including Fox News on-air talent, speculated Rich’s death was somehow part of a cover-up.

According to The New York Times, the settlement from Fox News to Rich’s family was so extensive that it did not require the network to publicly apologize for a since-retracted May 2017 report on the network’s website that aired the theory that Rich had been involved in the DNC email leak.

There is no evidence to support the theory, and DC police previously said Rich’s death was likely part of a robbery gone wrong in a neighborhood that had experienced multiple armed robberies at the time, according to a previous Insider report by Jacob Shamsian.

The conspiracy theory helped President Donald Trump’s allies to distract from the fact that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC, Insider’s David Choi previously reported.

News of the settlement between Rich’s parents, Joel and Mary Rich, and Fox News was made public in late November last year, over a month after the October 12 settlement was reached. As Insider reported at the time, the settlement brought to an end a two-year legal battle that began when Joel and Mary Rich sued the cable news network for emotional distress.

“The settlement with Fox News closes another chapter in our efforts to mourn the murder of our beloved Seth, whom we miss every single day,” Joel and Mary Rich said in a statement in November 2020.

“It allows us to move on from the litigation we initiated in response to Fox News’ May 2017 article and televised statements concerning Seth’s murder. We are pleased with the settlement of this matter and sincerely hope that the media will take genuine caution in the future.”

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A judge will decide Julian Assange’s extradition case at a London court today, as free press advocates step up calls for his release

FILE PHOTO: WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Britain January 13, 2020.  REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster magistrates court in London.

  • A UK judge is set to rule today, January 4, on the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the US, where he would face an array of conspiracy and hacking charges. 
  • At 10 a.m. at London’s Old Bailey courthouse, a district judge is scheduled to deliver her decision on the extradition, according to The Associated Press
  • Press advocates are having difficulty gaining access to Monday’s hearing, said Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, on Twitter.
  • “Press freedom itself is in the dock,” said Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, on Twitter
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A UK judge is set to rule today, January 4, over the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the US, where he would face an array of conspiracy and hacking charges with a maximum sentence of 175 years. 

At 10 a.m. at London’s Old Bailey courthouse, Vanessa Baraitser, a district judge, is scheduled to deliver her decision on the extradition, according to The Associated Press. The case would then go to Priti Patel, home secretary, for a final call, per the AP. 

Press advocates were having difficulty gaining access to Monday’s hearing, said Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, on Twitter.

“Press freedom groups are trying to monitor the defining case for press freedom and investigative journalists in the UK and around the world. Press freedom itself is in the dock,” said Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, on Twitter

In June, US Department of Justice officials expanded their 18-count indictment, broadening the scope of the conspiracy charges against Assange. The 49-page indictment says Assange “risked the safety and freedom” of US forces and diplomats by obtaining and releasing secret US government documents. 

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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei joins supporters of Julian Assange during a silent protest, outside the Old Bailey in London.

For years, free press advocates have called for the charges against Assange to be dropped. 

“You don’t need to know the vagaries of extradition law to understand that the charges against Assange are not only classic ‘political offences’ and thus barred under extradition law, but more crucially, the charges are politically-motivated,” wrote Amnesty International’s Julia Hall in September.

Last month, editors at The Guardian, one of three papers that worked with Assange on the first big WikiLeaks leak in 2010 and 2011, urged UK officials to deny the extradition request. 

“No publisher covering national security in any serious way could consider itself safe were this extradition attempt to succeed – wherever it was based; the acts of which Mr Assange is accused (which also include one count of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network) took place when he was outside the US,” the Guardian said in an unsigned editorial. 

The New York Times, which also published documents from WikiLeaks, said in a 2019 editorial that Assange’s indictment “could have a chilling effect on American journalism as it has been practiced for generations. It is aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment.”

The case against Assange sets a “dangerous precedent” for press freedom, wrote Ben Cohen in a Saturday opinion piece on Business Insider. 

 “These semantic arguments over whether someone is a journalist or not miss the point. Journalism isn’t about where you work. It’s about what you do,” Cohen said. 

A question that’s popped up repeatedly is whether President Donald Trump, in his final days in office, might pardon Assange. If Trump were to pardon him, he’d be following the 2017 lead of then-President Barack Obama, who commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army private who leaked 700,000 documents to Assange.  

“I feel very comfortable that justice has been served,” Obama said on Twitter, days before he left office. 

Meanwhile, one of Assange’s celebrity friends, Pamela Anderson, has also spoken out on the issue.  “Everyone should be asking Mr. Trump to pardon him,” she told The Post. “Anyone with influence should speak up for his freedom because it is our freedom, too. Take to Twitter and start a storm of requests.”

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If we care about a free press, we must defend Assange

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange posts a sign on the Woolwich Crown Court fence, ahead of a hearing to decide whether Assange should be extradited to the United States, in London, Britain February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
A judge will rule on January 4, 2021 on whether Assange should be extradited to the US.

  • The US wants to extradite Julian Assange from the UK to face unprecedented charges for publishing government documents leaked by Chelsea Manning in 2010.
  • The indictment could put Assange in prison for 175 years and could mark the end of First Amendment protections on journalism everywhere.
  • Prosecuting Assange for exposing war crimes and human rights abuses is a threat to free speech, press freedoms, the public’s right to know, and the ability to hold our government accountable.
  • Ben Cohen is an activist, businessman, and cofounder of Ben and Jerry’s. He divides his time between AssangeDefense.org, @DropTheMic2020, and working to end qualified immunity.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With each passing day, it becomes more obvious that President Donald Trump views the media as his enemy. But with the pandemic, criminal justice reform, the presidential election, and now COVID-19 relief bill talks dominating headlines, little attention has been paid to the long-term damage caused by Trump’s hatred of a free press.

Right now, Julian Assange, the publisher of WikiLeaks, is facing an extradition trial in England because Trump’s Justice Department has hit him with an unprecedented indictment – seeking 175 years in prison for what experts consider customary newsgathering and publishing activities. 

The Trump Justice Department is seeking to criminalize WikiLeaks’ revelations that exposed war crimes, civilian casualties, torture, illegal surveillance, government lies, and corporate corruption. While the US government misled the country into tragic wars and concealed its actions, brave whistleblowers turned to WikiLeaks to share the truth with the public. For their efforts, WikiLeaks and Assange have received numerous journalism and human rights awards

Charging Assange sets a dangerous precedent for the freedom of press

I had the privilege of meeting Assange during his time in the Ecuadorian embassy. Assange cares deeply about the public’s right to know what governments do in their name. He cares about peace. He thought that by bringing this information to light, he could make the world a better place by bringing an end to foolish wars. Call him naive if you want, but he is not our enemy. The world needs individuals with Assange’s passion and commitment to truth.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Ben Wizner warns that the charges against Assange are “an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism, and a direct assault on the First Amendment.”

The Trump Justice Department and its defenders rationalize this assault on press freedom with smoke and mirrors. They distract the public by changing the subject with what Noam Chomsky and Alice Walker call “inconsequential personality profiles.” They downplay the danger of this indictment by suggesting that Assange is not a journalist. Even if you ignore the countless journalism awards WikiLeaks received and the full-throated condemnation of the charges from journalism organizations, this rhetorical sleight of hand is easy to see through. WikiLeaks is a journalistic enterprise that takes a more transparent approach than most, providing readers with curated source documents alongside more conventional reporting.  

These semantic arguments over whether someone is a journalist or not miss the point. Journalism isn’t about where you work. It’s about what you do. Trevor Timm, founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, testified at Assange’s extradition: “In the US, the First Amendment protects everyone. Whether you consider Assange a journalist doesn’t matter, he was engaging in journalistic activity.” Most importantly, the conduct Assange has been indicted for is textbook “journalistic behavior“: communicating with sources and gathering, possessing, and publishing sensitive information. 

The danger of criminalizing journalistic behavior extends far beyond WikiLeaks. This is why the Obama Justice Department did not indict Assange. They “looked hard” at him, but decided that charging Assange would create a “New York Times problem” – opening up to prosecution all news organizations who receive leaks or publish stories based on them.

Experts agree that a successful prosecution of Assange would undermine the First Amendment, and would particularly cripple investigative journalism. All journalism aims to inform the public, but what makes investigative journalism so vital to democracy is its power to inform us about what is deliberately hidden from our view.

Criminalizing journalism is ‘killing the messenger’

The saying “don’t kill the messenger” is as old as civilization itself, but we forget to take it to heart sometimes. People blast the bearers of bad news for “blaming America,” as if being honest with ourselves is something shameful. Greatness depends on our willingness to look ourselves in the mirror and right the wrongs in our lives and in our society.

Without a free press shining light on the government, we are unable to hold our government accountable. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are necessary for us to form opinions and choose leaders. Without the information that a free press provides, we can only stumble around in the dark, blind to the realities of the world and the conduct of our government. A blind public is unable to see society’s problems, let alone fix them.

If we care about a free press, we must defend Assange

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward’s revelations that Trump misled the public on the dangers of COVID-19 should serve as a stark reminder of the important role journalists play in our democracy. And the reports that Trump offered Assange a pardon if he would publicly exonerate his campaign (and Russia) over the DNC leaks are a huge red flag. 

If the reports are true, then Assange chose to not lie for Trump, and as a result he is now the first journalist in our history to be indicted for publishing truthful information. You don’t have to like Assange personally or be happy with the stories WikiLeaks has broken, but if we care about a free press, we must defend Assange.

As we transition to a new administration, we should remember the previous one. The Obama-Biden record on war, transparency, and whistleblowers was not perfect, but President Obama respected democracy. He did not make the press his enemy. And even though the WikiLeaks disclosures embarrassed his administration, Obama showed restraint by not prosecuting Assange.

All citizens, regardless of their politics, should be outraged. But I don’t want to tell people that they should be outraged; I want to give them information that makes them outraged – that their government is escalating its war on journalism. 

After all, a war on journalists is not just a war on the messenger. It is a war on some of America’s most important legal, cultural, and political traditions. It is a war on our right to know and our ability to participate in important debates. It’s a war on democracy itself. 

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Sarah Palin filmed a YouTube video calling for Julian Assange to be pardoned, despite being previously targeted by WikiLeaks

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin speaks during her appearance at Politicon at Pasadena Convention Center.

  • Sarah Palin, who herself was a victim of WikiLeaks, has called for founder Julian Assange to be pardoned in a YouTube video.
  • The former governor of Alaska said the WikiLeaks founder “deserves a pardon, he deserves all of us to understand more about what he has done in the name of real journalism.”
  • In 2008, Wikileaks posted family photos, private messages and government emails from Palin’s Yahoo account. 
  • At the time, Palin questioned why he had not been pursued with the same urgency as Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders but later apologized in a Facebook post in 2017.
  • Assange was arrested in April 2019 after seeking asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over six years and is facing a potential extradition to the US. 
  • Trump is said to be considering pardoning him, calls for which have intensified ahead of Biden being sworn in as president, since he has previously referred to Assange as a “high-tech terrorist.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sarah Palin, who was herself a victim of WikiLeaks, has called for Julian Assange to be pardoned in a YouTube video posted yesterday.

The former governor of Alaska begins the video asking for the pardoning of the WikiLeaks founder with: “I am the first one to admit when I make a mistake and I admit that I made a mistake some years ago, not supporting Julian Assange, thinking that he was a bad guy… that he leaked material and I’ve learned a lot since then.”

She said she believed that Julian did the world a favor by fighting for what he believed was right and “what was ultimately proven to be right.”

She added that he deserved a pardon and “all of us to understand more about what he has done in the name of real journalism and that’s getting to the bottom of issues that the public really needs to hear about and benefit from.”

In 2008, Wikileaks posted family photos, private messages, and government emails from Palin’s Yahoo account, weeks after John McCain named her his vice-presidential running mate.

At the time, Palin questioned why he had not been pursued with the same urgency as Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

However in 2017, she apologized in a Facebook post that read: “This important information that finally opened people’s eyes to democrat candidates and operatives would not have been exposed were it not for Julian Assange.” It closed: “Julian, I apologize.”

In Saturday’s YouTube video, Palin continued: “Some years ago I publicly spoke out against Julian and I made a mistake. I want more Americans to speak out on his behalf and to understand what it is that he has done, what has been done to him as he has been working on the people’s behalf to allow information to get to us so we could make up our minds about different issues of different people.

“He did the right thing and I support him. And I hope that more and more people, especially as it comes down to the wire, will speak up in support of pardoning Julian. God bless him,” she ends with.

Assange was arrested in April 2019 after seeking asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than six years. He is facing a potential extradition to the US, where he would face conspiracy and espionage charges, which carry a sentence of up to 175 years.

Trump is said to be considering pardoning him, calls for which have recently intensified ahead of Joe Biden being sworn in as president, since he has previously referred to Assange as a “high-tech terrorist.”

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