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Update: Did Conservative Media Knowingly Push An Unsubstantiated Seth Rich Story?

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Yesterday was a wild Tuesday for news. We had Trump spilling classified intel to the Russians, Comey memos from Trump convos, a potential replacement for Sean Spicer… but before ALL THAT we had the conservative media running with this Seth Rich story.

Rich was a DNC staffer who was gunned down near his apartment in the wee hours of the morning last summer. Right-wing conspiracists have pushed that he was behind the DNC leaks ever since.

Yesterday, a report that Rich leaked 44,000 emails to Wikileaks before his death took over conservative media. Drudge led with it. Breitbart led with it. Fox News led with it.

As is tradition, readers were all over Libstool to cover it.

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Midway through the day Tuesday, it was one of the top trending stories in the country.

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There were red flags from the get-go. One, no outlets outside of conservative media outlets were covering it. I noted this in the blog:

Important to note, the only major news outlet reporting on this as of the time of this writing is Fox News. And Rich’s family has issued the following response to the report.

Another red flag, the family IMMEDIATELY refuted the claims (which I also put in the blog):

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The gist of the story/conspiracy was this: an investigator who’d been hired by the Rich family, as well as an “anonymous federal investigator” supposedly familiar with the case, were claiming evidence exists proving that Seth Rich had communication with Wikileaks. That he had sent thousands of DNC emails to Wikileaks.

However, as Tuesday rolled on, that narrative unraveled. Rod Wheeler, the investigator under contract with the family, who is also a Fox News contributor, said he only got information from a Fox News reporter.

But Tuesday afternoon, Wheeler told CNN he had no evidence to suggest Rich had contacted Wikileaks before his death.

Wheeler instead said he only learned about the possible existence of such evidence through the reporter he spoke to for the FoxNews.com story. He explained that the comments he made to WTTG-TV were intended to simply preview Fox News’ Tuesday story. The WTTG-TV news director did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“I only got that [information] from the reporter at Fox News,” Wheeler told CNN.

 

Now, CNN’s written an entire article about how the narrative fell apart. And it’s proving that essentially none of what this “report” was based on is true.

So where does this leave us? It’s a bad look for conservative media. I’m a firm believer that conservative media — as well as liberal media — is essential to a Democracy that promotes and encourages freedom of the press. I’m a believer that whether you’re conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, Fox News popping up and providing an outlet not dominated by liberal academics was originally a good thing for the media landscape as a whole.

But this is a far cry from the ideal concept of that. Fox presented this story like it was fact. If you’re one who relies only on Fox, and its sister conservative outlets, for your information, you’d have read that article believing it was a certified fact that a DNC staffer was murdered for leaking emails to Wikileaks. Turns out there’s no substantiated evidence whatsoever of that being true.

Fox knew that. Drudge knew that. Breitbart knew that. The conservative outlets aren’t alone in pushing shit that’s unsubstantiated — we’ve seen CNN, Buzzfeed, and others do it in recent months as well — so where does it leave us? Who do we trust?

BNN, of course. The only trusted name in news.

You don’t have to hide any secrets from the Russians if you tell them everything anyways

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Seriously, I think we might have to bring back BNN. Not because we want to — because we need to.