Those who took part in pushing a conspiracy theory about late Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich have retracted their false claims and apologized to the 27-year-old’s family.
Ed Butowsky, a businessman who helped spread claims that Rich was involved with the leaked DNC emails in 2016 and was killed as a result of his intelligence on the matter, said in a now-deleted tweet obtained by the Daily Beast that he never had any “physical proof” when spreading the accusations.
“I take full responsibility for my comments and I apologize for any pain I have caused,” Butowsky said, according to a report by CNN. “I sincerely hope the Rich family is able to find out who murdered their son and bring this tragic chapter in their lives to a close.”
Matt Couch, an internet activist who also spread the theory, also issued an apology to Rich’s family.
“Today we retract and disavow our statements and we offer our apology to Mr. Rich and his family,” Couch said. “I take full responsibility for my actions … and would like to apologize to Mr. Rich and his family.”
The comments come as part of a settlement reached between Butowsky, Couch, and Rich’s brother Aaron Rich, over a lawsuit he had filed against them in March 2018.
Aaron Rich said he was “gratified” by the retractions and that the accusations made against his brother “only served to prolong our grief.”
“Although we will never be at peace until we obtain justice for Seth’s murder, I hope that these events may encourage others to pause and consider the impact of accusing strangers of wrongdoing, give law enforcement space to do their jobs, and let us remember Seth in peace and with privacy,” Aaron Rich said.
Media outlets such as Fox News and the Washington Times, which pushed unverified stories about Seth Rich, also made retractions to their previous claims.
Rich was fatally shot in Washington, D.C., in July 2016. Police have said the incident was most likely the result of an attempted robbery. Special counsel Robert Mueller fully discredited the conspiracy theory about Rich in his 2019 report.