Murder of Seth Rich

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Some dare call it
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What THEY don't want
you to know!
Sheeple wakers
It just won’t stop. The amount of pain and anguish this has caused us is unbearable. With every conspiratorial flare-up, we are forced to relive Seth’s murder and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth’s memory is torn away from us.
—Seth Rich's parents on these conspiracy theories.[1]

Seth Conrad Rich (January 3, 1989 – July 10, 2016) was an American campaign worker for the Democratic National Committee whose unsolved murder in 2016 has led to various rather "colorful" conspiracy theories. The most common one claims that Rich was one of WikiLeaks' sources in a large leak of Hillary Clinton-related emails and that, as a result, he was murdered on the orders of the Clinton family.[2]

Seth Rich's parents have begged these wingnuts to stop spreading lies about their son's death.[1]

The facts[edit]

On Sunday, 10 July 2016, Rich was shot about a block from his apartment in the Bloomingdale neighborhood in Washington, DC.[3]

Earlier that night, he was in Columbia Heights at a sports pub, 1.8 miles (2.9 km) from his apartment. He left the bar between 1:30 and 1:45 am.[4] Police were alerted to gunfire at 4:20 am by an automated gunfire locator.[5] Police officers found Rich with multiple gunshot wounds.[6] He was in a conscious and breathing state.[6] He was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died.[7] Police have said he died from two shots in the back in what may have been an attempted robbery, noting that the neighborhood had been recently plagued by robberies. Strangely, however, they found his wallet, credit cards, and cellphone on his body.[3]

According to Rich's mother:

There had been a struggle. His hands were bruised, his knees are bruised, his face is bruised, and yet he had two shots to his back, and yet they never took anything... They didn't finish robbing him, they just took his life.[8]

The murder remains unsolved.[9]

The theories[edit]

Relating to his death[edit]

The explanation that he was killed in a robbery gone wrong is false because nothing was stolen.[10]
This theory seems to suggest that when a robbery goes wrong and a person is shot, then the robber will always steal something first instead of immediately fleeing the scene. Considering the speed in which police or witnesses could have arrived on the scene, it makes sense that the shooter would immediately flee.[11] Stealing from Rich after shooting him would have also provided forensic evidence that would be used to implicate the shooter.[12]
Hillary Clinton hired a hitman to assassinate Rich.[13][14][15][16]
This absurd claim is exclusively believable to those who buy into the "Clinton body count" conspiracy.[17] Since they falsely believe Clinton has done this before, then this theory seems plausible even though there is not a shred of evidence supporting it. When examining this theory in detail, it completely falls apart.
If Clinton, or somebody else, had hired a professional hitman, then they would make sure Rich died immediately and not later on in hospital.[18] It is highly unlikely a hitman would leave the scene of the crime with their victim still alive[18] and in a conscious and breathing state.[6]
Clinton also had no motive to kill Rich. In order for this theory to make sense, Clinton would need to have known that Rich was the leaker.[note 1] After she discovered this, she would need to have decided that the best course of action would be to risk her entire campaign, reputation, and freedom in hiring a hitman to kill Rich and then covering it up afterward. It makes no sense that she would come to that conclusion rather than exercising any of the countless legal methods (e.g. naming and shaming) to discipline Rich.
In an email, John PodestaWikipedia says he is "definitely for making an example of a suspected leaker whether or not we have any real basis for it."[19] This gives credibility to the theory that Rich was assassinated.[20][21][22]
This is a classic example of quote mining. The email in question is from February 2015, more than a year before both Rich's death and the DNC leaks.[19] It was referring to an article in The Washington Post concerning the branding of Hillary Clinton.[23][24] Podesta was angry about the article and suspected that an insider had leaked information to reporters.[24] In this context, his email had nothing to do with the DNC and was not in any way suggesting that leakers should be murdered.[24] Even actual killers probably do not discuss murdering people on their work email.
Imran AwanWikipedia[note 2] was partying with Seth Rich on the night of his murder.[25][26] There is a link between Awan and Rich's death,[27] and Awan might have murdered him.[28][29][30]
The supposed evidence that they were partying together on the night of Rich's murder is a group photo which includes Rich and a man who conspiracy theorists claim is Imran Awan.[31][32][33] Firstly, the photo was not from the night of Rich's murder. It was uploaded on 22 April 2015, more than a year before Rich's death.[34] On top of that, the man in the photograph is clearly not Imran Awan. When comparing the supposed picture of Awan with a real picture of him, it is undeniable that they are two different people.[note 3] The man has since been identified as Miguel Huerta.[35] This theory seemed to have gained traction due to a combination of the cross-race effectWikipedia and many people being unaware of Awan's real appearance.
The claim that Awan is a suspect in Rich's murder is based entirely on this false picture of him. Therefore, this theory has no basis in fact.
Donna BrazileWikipedia knows Seth Rich was murdered by the Clintons.[36]
In her book, Brazile speculated that there could be other motivations behind Rich's killing, but never suggested the Clintons or DNC were involved.[36] Brazile wrote that she feared for her life, placed surveillance cameras in her home and closed the blinds in her office so she could not be seen by a sniper.[36][37][note 4] Brazile was concerned that Rich's death may have been linked to Russia ("with all I knew now about the Russians’ hacking, I could not help but wonder if they had played some part in his unsolved murder"), racial tension ("racial tensions were high that summer and I worried that he was murdered for being white on the wrong side of town") or "someone who had it out for the Democrats".[36][38] She has described the idea that Rich was murdered by the DNC for leaking to WikiLeaks as a "baseless conspiracy theory".[36][39]

Relating to WikiLeaks[edit]

Rich, not Russia, was responsible for the 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak.Wikipedia[40][41]
There is no evidence for this and it is highly unlikely, since Rich had never shown any prowess at hacking and was not good with computers.[10][42] Additionally, his parents have said that his low-level job did not grant him access to the kinds of emails that people are claiming.[10][43]
Both Julian Assange[44][45] and WikiLeaks[46][47] have indicated that Seth Rich was their source.[48] Why would WikiLeaks offer a reward for information on Rich's murderer if he was not their source?[49][50]
It is true that Assange and WikiLeaks both hinted that Rich was their leaker.[note 5] However, this only proves that they want people to believe their source was Rich, whether or not it is actually true. This could be because he is the leaker or it could be in order to distract attention away from their actual source.[51]
If Rich had actually been the source, then the behaviour of Assange and WikiLeaks would make little sense.[52] How is Assange protecting the anonymity of his source by strongly hinting at his identity? What benefit is there in indirectly indicating, in such a transparent way, that Rich was the leaker?
However, assuming that Russia is the source, then their behaviour does make sense.[53] They would either create or perpetuate alternative theories in order to divert attention from their real source.[53] So, logically, they would use the Rich theory as a distraction from their actual source. This discredits the Russia investigation and downplays their links to Russia.
It has also been claimed that Assange is trustworthy since he has never been proven to be a liar,[54] but that is demonstrably false.[55][56]
There is evidence on Rich's laptop of communication with WikiLeaks.[57]
The source of this claim was Rod Wheeler (and an anonymous federal investigator), during a Fox News report in May 2017.[58] According to Fox, an anonymous federal investigator claimed the FBI were in possession of emails between Rich and WikiLeaks.[58] However, a law enforcement official has reported that DC police examined Rich's laptop and found it "never contained any e-mails related to WikiLeaks and the FBI never had it."[58] FBI sources have said the bureau is not investigating the murder and Washington police never gave them Rich's laptop.[59][60]
In August 2017, Fox News was sued by Wheeler.[58] According to Wheeler, he believed he was giving viewers a preview of the Fox News story, and a Fox reporter had told him they had learned about the source connecting Rich with WikiLeaks.[10] Wheeler's lawsuit suggests the story was an attempt to discredit theories that Russia was responsible for the DNC leaks.[58][61] Wheeler has since admitted that he had never seen Rich's computer and never talked with the federal investigator.[62] Shortly after its initial broadcast, Fox News retracted the story for not meeting the "high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for our reporting."[58]
Kim DotcomWikipedia said he knew Seth Rich and knew he was the WikiLeaks source since Dotcom was also involved.[63]
So far, he has never presented any evidence verifying these claims, so they are simply baseless rumours.[24] Dotcom's credibility is also questionable since he first commented on Seth Rich publicly in May 2017,[64] 10 months after Rich was killed. If he really had information, why would he hold onto it for so long? He has also been accused of money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud by the US Department of Justice.[65] Dotcom currently resides in New Zealand and is fighting attempts to be extradited to the US.[66]
Further proving himself an unreliable source, Dotcom posted an obviously fake FBI document relating to Seth Rich that he later admitted was not authentic.[67][68]
Rich has a motive for leaking. He was a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter[69] who was disgusted by the corruption of the DNC.[70]
The evidence suggests quite the opposite. Before his death, Rich was planning to move to Brooklyn in order to work for the Clinton campaign.[42][61] Besides, Rich had no access to the relevant emails so he would not have the opportunity to be outraged at any corruption that would supposedly motivate him. There would need to be evidence he was aware of any corruption, and such evidence has never materialised.
The idea he was a Sanders supporter is based on a Reddit account called "pandas4bernie"[note 6] that became inactive around the time he died.[42] However, the people behind "pandas4bernie" have denied Rich was connected to their Reddit.[42]
Brad Bauman, who is officially Seth Rich's family spokesman, is actually a DNC handler assigned to the Rich family.[71] Bauman is clearly trying to prevent the truth from getting out.[72][73]
According to journalist David Weigel, the DNC had no role in hiring Bauman.[74] Seth Rich's family had asked some of his best friends who could help them with the media and they suggested Bauman.[24] Bauman has neither worked for the DNC or been paid by them.[24]
The source that the DNC assigned Bauman to the Rich family appears to be Ed ButowskyWikipedia in an article on WND.[75] Butowsky claimed Rich's father said Bauman was assigned to them.[76][77] Not only is this just gossip, but Butowsky has demonstrated himself to be untrustworthy due to his involvement in a retracted Fox News story about Seth Rich.[78]
Bauman is certainly not trying to prevent the truth from getting out (quite the opposite). Bauman is simply, and unsurprisingly, fed up with the conspiracy theorists and has been quite scathing in his opinion of them:

Anyone who continues to push this fake news story after it was so thoroughly debunked is proving to the world they have a transparent political agenda or are a sociopath.[79]

In an audio recording, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour HershWikipedia claims there is an FBI report establishing that Seth Rich made contact with WikiLeaks.[80][note 7]
The voice recording had been secretly recorded by Ed Butowsky during a phone call with Hersh.[81] According to Joe Lauria of Consortium News, Hersh confirmed it was his voice on the tape and has said he was recorded without permission.[82] The first thing to note, and what the conspiracy theorists often conveniently ignore, is that Hersh agreed that Rich was killed in a botched robbery.[83] It is indeed true that Hersh also said that Rich made contact with WikiLeaks.[83] The source for Hersh's comments was an unnamed FBI insider who Hersh described as a "very high level guy" who is "unbelievably accurate and careful."[83] Explaining his comments, Hersh said "I hear gossip" and suggested Butowsky "took two and two and made 45 out of it."[84][85]
The released audio is only a portion of a longer phone call and left out several important clarifications. Hersh has said that he told Butowsky that the FBI report might be incorrect or nonexistent.[81]
According to a complaint from Rod Wheeler, "Hersh cautioned Butowsky that the information was not necessarily true, and that, even if true, did not preclude the possibility that the Russians also hacked the DNC."[85][86] Wheeler's complaint also suggests Butowsky had planned to extort Hersh.[86][85][87] Hersh himself told reporter David FolkenflikWikipedia that Butowsky tried to blackmail him.[88]
Hersh's statements have also been somewhat contradictory. For instance, Hersh told NPR that he did not talk to anyone at the FBI about this,[81] but also admitted he did hear about the FBI report but had not personally seen it.[53] Additionally, despite his recorded comments, Hersh has said he never claimed to have a source in the FBI on the Rich case.[85] This shows that he lied either during or after the secretly recorded phone call.
Finally, although Hersh has won a Pulitzer Prize, that does not make him infallible (e.g. Judith MillerWikipedia[89]). In fact, Hersh had been recently lambasted for promoting discredited conspiracy theories concerning the April 2017 Khan Shaykhun chemical attackWikipedia in Syria.[90][91][92][93][94][95] Hersh's source for his article about Syria had either purposely misled him or had been provided false information that they shared with Hersh.[90] This could very well be the case again with his theoretical FBI source regarding Seth Rich.
Hersh has also appeared on InfoWars where he was interviewed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.[96] Hersh said to Jones that "there's guys like you, and all sorts of other people around the world, that pay more attention than often the major papers here."[96] Further discrediting himself, Hersh has claimed that "there's no such thing as a chlorine bomb" and "chlorine is just a gas, it's not a chemical warfare weapon.Wikipedia"[97][98][99]
If Rich is the leaker, the United States can no longer blame Russia, and any Russian investigation is unnecessary.[24][100]
Even if Rich was responsible for one batch of leaks, Russia has been implicated in three separate hackings. There are Russian fingerprints on the DNC email leakWikipedia, DCCC cyber attacksWikipedia and Podesta emailsWikipedia.[10][24]

The conspiracy theorists[edit]

The people pushing this conspiracy theory seem to be, exclusively, people acting either; on behalf of the Russian government, far-right wingers, people on the alt-right, Trump supporters, or people who just hate Hillary Clinton.
—David Pakman[101]

Fox News and "alternative" media[edit]

In a rare acknowledgment that it was wrong, Fox News issued a retraction on May 23rd 2017 regarding its conspiracy mongering.[102][103] Sean Hannity, one of the main agitators of this conspiracy theory at Fox, did not back down, stating "All you in the liberal media — I am not or I retracted nothing."[103], InfoWars, WND and Globalresearch have published several articles supporting the conspiracy theories.[75][104][105][106][107]

In November 2020, Fox News reached an undisclosed settlement with the Rich's parents for intentionally exploiting his death.[108]


Julian Assange said on Dutch television:

Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material, and often very significant risks, as a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.[109]

WikiLeaks has offered a cash reward of $20,000 for "information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich."[110]

Russian government[edit]

Russian propaganda outlets RT[111][112] and SputnikWikipedia[113][114] fed into the conspiracy theories.[115][104] RT aired a debate about Seth Rich's murder with three invited guests; Hank Sheinkopf, H.A. Goodman and Alex Christoforou.[116][note 8] Only Sheinkopf did not agree with the conspiracy theories.

In May 2017, the Russian embassy in London tweeted that Rich was the informant for WikiLeaks.[104][117][118]

According to Salon:

Spreading word of the theory has also proven attractive to Russian state-owned media outlets. According to Google as of this writing, Rich’s death has been mentioned on 148 pages from Sputnik News, a propaganda site modeled after BuzzFeed. RT, Sputnik’s television-oriented counterpart, has run 53 stories mentioning Rich.[119]

Clint WattsWikipedia explained Russia's motivation:

There are several facets to this — [Russian agents] want to push back on the idea, particularly among Trump supporters, that they hacked into the DNC. The way to do that is to put forward this Seth Rich scenario that the information didn’t come form[sic] Russian hackers, it came from an [inside] leak.
It rallies Trump’s base, which they have already influenced significantly over the last two years in the U.S. and foments conspiracy theories. And it mirrors what Trump says. Trump denies the findings of the intelligence agencies that Russia did hack into the DNC. [Russian agents] want that to go away as much as possible.[104]

List of exploitive people[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. She would have also needed to find this out before the leaks occurred, since Rich died on July 10 and the DNC emails were leaked on July 22.
  2. Awan, a Democratic staffer, became linked to Seth Rich by conspiracy theorists in July 2017. Awan had recently been arrested on charges of bank fraud (link to CNN article).
  3. Supposed picture of Awan: link. Real photo of Awan: link
  4. As Jacob Weindling of Paste points out, "There is no doubt that Brazile hyped up her account to hawk books".
  5. Although a statement from WikiLeaks has said that they are not implying Rich was their source
  6. Seth Rich once came to work dressed in a panda suit, so the conspiracy theorists suggest he therefore must be "pandas4bernie".
  7. The audio was first uploaded on YouTube on July 11, 2017.
  8. Christoforou is a writer for The Duran, which is a questionable source according to


  1. 1.0 1.1 Seth Rich's Parents to Conspiracy Theorists: Stop Politicizing Our Son’s Murder Time
  2. The baseless claim that slain DNC staffer Seth Rich gave emails to WikiLeaks PolitiFact
  3. 3.0 3.1
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4
  15. 15.0 15.1
  16. 16.0 16.1
  18. 18.0 18.1
  19. 19.0 19.1
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5 24.6 24.7
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 36.4 Sherman, Amy. Fake headline says Donna Brazile knows Seth Rich was murdered by Clintons. PolitiFact. November 15, 2017.
  37. Watson, Kathryn. Donna Brazile claims she considered replacing Clinton with Biden weeks before Election Day. CBS News. November 4, 2017.
  38. Kutner, Max. Donna Brazile questioned if Seth Rich's death involved Russians, or his race. Newsweek. November 8, 2017.
  39. For two years, my friend and colleague #SethRich has been under relentless attacks. His name sullied. His life’s work questioned. Today, for once, please end the conspiracy theories. Seth was a champion for social justice and American democracy. We loved and miss him so much. Donna Brazile on Twitter. July 13, 2018.
  40. 40.0 40.1
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 42.3
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2
  56. No, Clinton aide John Podesta was not hacked because he used 'password' as his email password The Week. January 5, 2017.
  58. 58.0 58.1 58.2 58.3 58.4 58.5
  61. 61.0 61.1
  63. 63.0 63.1
  64. 64.0 64.1
  65. Farivar, Cyrus (18 January 2015). "Why Kim Dotcom hasn’t been extradited 3 years after the US smashed Megaupload". 
  75. 75.0 75.1
  78. 78.0 78.1
  81. 81.0 81.1 81.2
  83. 83.0 83.1 83.2
  85. 85.0 85.1 85.2 85.3
  86. 86.0 86.1
  89. Foer. Franklin. The Source of the Trouble. New York.
  90. 90.0 90.1
  93. Shalom, Stephen R. The Chemical Attack at Khan Sheikhoun Jacobin. July 24, 2017.
  94. Schinis, Alexander. Sarin denial and journalism's race to the bottom The New Arab. September 13, 2017.
  95. Idrees Ahmad, Muhammad. Syria and the case for editorial accountability Al Jazeera. July 12, 2017.
  96. 96.0 96.1 Bombshell Interview: Sy Hersh Exposes The Obama-ISIS Alliance. The Alex Jones Channel. December 30, 2015.
  97. Whitaker, Brian. Seymour Hersh on Syria: "There's no such thing as a chlorine bomb". June 27, 2018.

    Hersh: There was a story just the other day, again about the Assad regime dropping chemical bombs – chlorine bombs – and there's no such thing as a chlorine bomb. There's just so many factual things that people say that aren't accurate. Chlorine is just a gas. It's not a chemical warfare weapon. You smell it, you run away.

  98. Ep. 629: Pulitzer Prize-winning Sy Hersh Questions Official Line on NATO, Skripal & ISIS. goingundergroundRT. June 30, 2018.

    Hersh: There was a story in the press where Syria was using chlorine in East Ghouta. And there was stories that they were using sarin gas and chlorine together. Chlorine's a very volatile gas. It’s not a warfare agent. And there was a story just the other day about Syria, a UN report claiming they dropped a chlorine gas bomb. There’s no such thing in anybody’s arsenal. A chlorine bomb? How much chlorine can you put into it? Chlorine’s a gas. It dissipates quickly. It moves quickly. It’s not lethal. You can breathe it. It’s not a warfare agent. There’s no such bomb.

  99. Brief Description of Chemical Weapons, Chemical Weapon as defined by the CWC, CW Agent Group, Persistency Rate of Action. Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

    The toxic chemicals that have been used as chemical weapons, or have been developed for use as chemical weapons, can be categorised as choking, blister, blood, or nerve agents. The most well known agents are as follows: choking agents—chlorine and phosgene, blister agents (or vesicants)—mustard and lewisite, blood agents—hydrogen cyanide, nerve agents—sarin, soman, VX.

  102. Seth Rich, slain DNC staffer, had contact with WikiLeaks, say multiple sources by Malia Zimmerman (May 16, 2017) Fox News (archived from May 16, 2017).
  103. 103.0 103.1 Fox News Retracts Story Linking Murder of D.N.C. Aide to 2016 Presidential Campaign by Michael M. Grynbaum & Daniel Victor (MAY 23, 2017) 'The New York Times.
  104. 104.0 104.1 104.2 104.3
  108. Fox News reaches settlement with parents of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich by Elahe Izadi & Paul Farhi (November 24, 2020 at 12:49 p.m. PST) The Washington Post.
  109. The bonkers Seth Rich conspiracy theory, explained Vox
  110. WikiLeaks' Twitter
  119. Was the DNC hack an inside job? It’s a hot theory — but probably not. Salon. September 17, 2017.
  134. [1]
  135. Aggressive Progressives on The Young Turks: "Seth Rich "Investigator" Rod Wheeler Exposed As A Fraud" (May 20, 2017), YouTube

    Jimmy Dore: There is something to this story though. I don't want to discount it like "oh, you're crazy if you think there's something more to this story." There probably is something more to this story.

  141. Katie Hopkins on The Sean Hannity Radio Show (5/17/2017)

    Seeing the clip of him commenting on the Seth Rich case, it could not be more clear how he is stating what has gone on with Seth Rich without giving away any of his sources. I think it's a real tribute to someone in an age where everyone is endlessly over-sharing, he takes you right to that line. He lets you join that final dot, and that is very easy to join up. It is unbelievable that anyone is swallowing any kind of narrative that Seth Rich was simply gunned down and nothing was taken from him.

  154. Geraldo Rivera's Twitter
  157. Sargon of Akkad Joins us! - Trump, BREXIT and Conspiracies, oh my! - Drunken Peasants #359 Drunken Peasants. June 2, 2017.

    Sargon: I don't know about Seth Rich but if I had to put money on it; yeah, I'd say he was probably the leaker who got shot.

  159. Another low for Roger Stone: Seth Rich's "parents should be charged with obstruction" Media Matters