The Washington Times Retracts Column About Seth Rich in Lawsuit Settlement

Posted October 1, 2018 3:16 p.m. EDT

The Washington Times on Sunday retracted and apologized for a column about Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staff member whose unsolved murder sparked right-wing conspiracy theories about the 2016 election.

In the retraction, The Times wrote that the column, which was published in March, had included statements about Rich’s brother, Aaron Rich, that the publication now believed “to be false.”

“The Washington Times apologizes to Mr. Rich and his family,” the retraction said. “All online copies of the column have been deleted and all online content referencing the column has been deleted to the extent within The Washington Times’ control.”

The retraction was part of a settlement of a lawsuit, according to Michael Gottlieb, a lawyer for Aaron Rich, who said he welcomed the apology.

“The last two years have brought unimaginable pain and grief to my family and me,” Aaron Rich said in a statement. “I lost my only brother to a murder that to this date has not been solved, only to then have politically motivated conspiracy theorists falsely accuse me of grotesque criminal acts.”

“I accept the Washington Times’ retraction and apology,” he continued, “and I am grateful that the Washington Times has acknowledged the indisputable truth that these allegations are, and always have been, false.”

In the column, James A. Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, had asserted that “it is well known in the intelligence circles” that the Rich brothers were responsible for sharing a cache of committee emails with WikiLeaks. He also questioned why Aaron Rich had not been interviewed after his brother’s death.

In the retraction, The Times disavowed both allegations, writing that it had no basis to believe the statement about the intelligence community and acknowledging that Aaron Rich had been interviewed by law enforcement officials after his brother’s death.

Seth Rich was 27 when he was shot in the back near his Washington home in 2016. While police have theorized that he may have been killed in a botched robbery attempt, right-wing commentators have repeatedly connected the death to the leaked Democratic National Committee emails, spawning an enduring conspiracy theory.

In July, Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, secured an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers, accusing them of hacking the committee and working with WikiLeaks to spread the stolen emails.

The Times was not the first news organization to retract such assertions about Seth Rich. Fox News last year also retracted a story that linked his murder to the emails.

Lawyers and a spokeswoman for The Times did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.