Alex Jones and Fox News face lawsuits for their wild theories

Conspiracy theories about DNC staffer Seth Rich and a Charlottesville demonstrator are haunting right-wing media

Published March 14, 2018 11:31AM (EDT)

Alex Jones (Getty/Ben Jackson)
Alex Jones (Getty/Ben Jackson)

Fox News and Alex Jones' Infowars are two symptoms of the same disease — and they're facing similar treatment.

The major conservative network and the "alt-right" online media outlet have been slapped with separate lawsuits for their baseless conspiracy-peddling. For Fox News, the suit comes from the family of the slain 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer, Seth Rich, after the network endlessly promoted a baseless theory that there was a connection between him and WikiLeaks, according to ABC News.

The Rich family claimed a May 16, 2017 Fox News article contained "false and fabricated facts." The story connected the murder of the staffer to Wikileaks' publication of thousands of emails from the DNC. The suit was filed against Fox News, investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman and commentator Ed Butowsky, alleging they "aided and abetted the intentional infliction of emotional distress."

The parents of Rich released a statement in which they expressed disgust for the story and those who promulgated it.

"No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure," Joel and Mary Rich said in a statement, according to ABC. "The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son’s life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension."

Jones is being sued for defamation after he allegedly spread false conspiracy theories about a counterprotestor, Brennan Gilmore, who witnessed the deadly attack at a Charlottesville white nationalist rally last August.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Gilmore explained he "was verbally attacked by Infowars’s Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists, who wanted to portray me as a 'deep state' operative motivated by a desire to undermine President Trump and his administration. As a result, my family and I have been attacked and threatened."

He continued, "My footage was covered on cable news and ran all over the internet. During interviews, I spoke clearly about the hatred and violence on display that day. After that, websites such as Infowars and the Gateway Pundit started pushing conspiracy theories."

Gilmore pointed to examples of the Infowars reporting: "They had known CIA and State Department officials in Charlottesville, first tweeting, first being on MSNBC, CNN, NBC. The mayor is involved. Everybody is a cut-out. . . One guy is paid $320,000 a year on the payroll of [George] Soros. He doesn’t just get money from Soros, he personally is paid $320,000 a year, and then he is there — CIA, State Department — and he is on the news."

The conservative site Gateway Pundit also ran with the narrative and said that Gilmore "turns out to be a deep state shill with links to George Soros. It looks like the State Department was involved in Charlottesville rioting and is trying to cover it up. But after Deep State got caught they are trying to erase this guy from their records."

Gilmore went on to detail the ongoing harassment he and his family are faced with to this day, including "threats, hate mail and hacking attempts."

He explained, "Someone mailed an envelope containing a suspicious white powder residue and a four-page diatribe describing how I would burn in hell."

The lawsuits against both Fox News and Jones convey a similar message: how news is covered matters.

Both have expressed overt support for the Trump administration and Trump's radical agenda. Both have also deeply fed into the Trump narrative that the mainstream media is an enemy that spreads "fake news." The lawsuits highlight that the true broadcasters of "fake news" have been those who have screamed it in the opposite direction the loudest.

"We can't comment on this pending litigation," a Fox News spokesperson told Salon.

By Charlie May

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Alex Jones Conspiracy Theories Fox News President Donald Trump Sean Hannity Seth Rich