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Lesson Plans

How fake news about a DNC staffer's murder buoyed conspiracies

May 26, 2017

Full Lesson

  • The murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich in July 2016 has led to a conspiracy theory based on unfounded claims linking Rich to WikiLeaks.
  • Rich was shot early in the morning near his Washington, D.C. home in what D.C. police believe was a botched robbery, but the case remains unsolved.
  • Because Rich was a DNC staffer and the timing of his murder was shortly before a trove of emails from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign were released by WikiLeaks, people online began making connections between the two events.
  • Some supporters of President Donald Trump have attempted to use the story to discredit the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
  • Conservative Fox News commentator Sean Hannity has repeatedly discussed the theory on his show, even after Fox News retracted a story linking Rich’s death to Wikileaks. While he said this week he will stop talking about it “out of respect for the family’s wishes,” he also said he will not “stop doing (his) job.”

  1. Essential question: What is fake news and why is it harmful?
  2. Why is it irresponsible for Fox News to report about this story without properly vetting their sources?
  3. What are some examples of online conspiracies or fake news you’ve encountered that spread through misinformation?
  4. What can be done to stop false stories like this from spreading?