Judge allows lawsuit against NPR over Seth Rich reporting to proceed

Judge allows lawsuit against NPR over Seth Rich reporting to proceed
© LinkedIn

A judge ruled Wednesday that an investment adviser and former Fox Business commentator who sued NPR over stories about his role in funding a private investigator to probe the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich can go forward.

Politico reported that Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas ruled that Ed Butowsky's claims of defamation against NPR for revealing his role in funding the investigation into Rich's death that was publicly condemned by Rich's parents could go forward.

Conspiracy theories alleged Rich had been murdered as part of a broader political plot.

ADVERTISEMENT

In his ruling, Mazzant wrote that "speculatory comments" written by NPR's reporter concerning Butowsky's involvement in the probe "implied wrongdoing" where none could be proven.

“Plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts which plausibly show the Reports were not fair, true, and impartial accounts of the Wheeler complaint,” Mazzant wrote, according to Politico. “Additionally, even if the statements are considered a true report of the Wheeler complaint, as Defendants argue, the organization of the comments combined with the speculative commentary imply wrongdoing.”

“The statements made by [reporter David] Folkenflik were made as verifiable statements of fact,” he added. “The statements at issue were not merely expressing a subjective view. Looking at the context of the verifiable facts, nothing shows the statements expressed Folkenflik’s opinion or merely offer Folkenflik’s personal perspective on disputed facts.”

Butowsky also argued in his suit that his role in the investigation did not rise to level required under the legal definition of a "public figure," which the judge reportedly found to be plausible.

A spokesperson for NPR called the decision an "early ruling" in the case and expressed confidence in Folkenflik's reporting.

“This is an early ruling,” the spokesperson told Politico. “NPR stands behind its reporting and will continue to defend the lawsuit vigorously. NPR is a public service news organization. We are a trusted source of information for millions of Americans and we take this responsibility very seriously, as we did in this coverage.”