In July 2016, Seth Rich, a young staffer working for the Democrats, was shot in the back in a Washington street at 4am. The police said it was a robbery but nothing was stolen – his watch, phone and wallet were found with him. The murder took place during one of the ugliest and most vicious presidential campaigns in American history. Within weeks of his death, stories emerged that Rich was behind the Wikileaks leak of thousands of damaging internal emails detailing the inner workings of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign – and that his murder was no random robbery.
A whole array of right wing lobbyists and websites, as well as thousands of social media accounts, pushed the Seth Rich conspiracy theories throughout the campaign. After Donald Trump’s election, as he faced probes into his own campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia, Fox News pumped new life into the story. Despite repeated attempts to shut it down, the conspiracy theories continue to reverberate today, echoing so many crises of the Trump era: mistrust of the mainstream media, fake news and hacking.
Who killed Seth Rich? The Democrats – in revenge for leaking? The Russians, who wanted to silence him because he uncovered their hacking of the DNC? Or was it just a bungled late night robbery?