The true story of an untrue story– how the murder of a DNC political staffer spawned conspiracy theories, fanned the culture wars, and pitted one family against a media empire.
In the small hours of June 16th, gunshots rang out and a young man lay bleeding and fatally wounded on a downtown Washington, DC, street. But who killed Seth Rich? When he was buried in his hometown, his rabbi declared: “There are no answers for a young man gunned down in the prime of his life”. But the rabbi was wrong. There were in fact many answers, way too many.
The police had a suspect but they could not find evidence to charge him, and into the void hurtled the howling mob. Within 36 hours Reddit had thrown up an explanation: “given his position & timing in politics … Seth Rich was murdered by corrupt politicians for knowing too much information on election fraud”. A month later Julian Assange hinted that Rich might have been the source for stolen DNC emails provided to Wikileaks and offered a $20,000 reward for information. An investigator claimed a Romanian hitman had killed Rich, and that the motive was a political coverup. If this sounds like a great News story then soon it was. Rich’s family had viewed the first wild conjecture with morbid curiosity, but soon the story became turbocharged as FOX News began broadcasting segment after segment exploring the murder and the theories surrounding it, no matter how unfounded.
Rolling Stone's Washington bureau chief, Andy Kroll, relives one of the foundational conspiracies at the heart of the conspiracy-theory industrial complex, one that would ensnare Hillary Clinton, a pizzeria in northwest DC, Alex Jones, the Drudge Report and a high-level cast of provocatuers from Laura Ingraham to Sean Hannity. He shows how one young aspiring twenty-six-year-old political staffer became a tragic victim of the culture wars, until his family determined that they would save his name, expose the lies and put an end to the distortions and deep web fantasies that had surrounded his death. This then, is the definitive, and true story of Seth Rich, and of those who tried to weaponize him in a war of words unlike any other.