What Exactly Is Legally Imperiled Conspiracy Peddler Jerome Corsi Retracting From His Reporting on Seth Rich?

Corsi, flanked by his attorney Larry Klayman, speaks on the steps of a federal courhouse in Washington D.C., January 2019.
Photo: AP Images

Jerome Corsi is an author who can politely and credibly be described as a conspiracy theorist. He’s the former Washington bureau chief for InfoWars, and he’s written for other conservative-leaning conspiracy sites, like Human Events and WorldNetDaily. On Monday, Corsi formally retracted a year-old story he wrote for InfoWars about Seth Rich, the murdered Democratic National Committee staffer whom Corsi and others have falsely claimed was killed for leaking DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Today, after a second look at his most recent book and a lively series of Twitter interactions with Corsi, I have some questions about what, precisely, he’s retracted.

Corsi is best known lately for being in a bit of a legal quandary, having said in November that he believed Special Counsel Robert Mueller was about to indict him. That hasn’t happened yet, but Mueller’s team is indeed probing Corsi’s conversations with Roger Stone. Corsi has said that he told a federal grand jury that he helped Stone craft an alternate explanation for a tweet in which Stone appeared to predict the release of the DNC emails before WikiLeaks put them out.

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Corsi has also been an enthusiastic participant in the Seth Rich story; while Rich’s 2016 murder has never been solved, there is precisely no evidence to suggest what Corsi and others have claimed, which is that he was WikiLeaks’ source. (Also, Russian intelligence officers were indicted by the Special Counsel’s office in July 2018 and accused of giving stolen DNC and Hillary Clinton emails to WikiLeaks.)

The Rich family has fought back hard against people who have falsely claimed that Seth was the DNC leaker. Among other things, the family sued Fox News over its reporting on Rich; the suit was dismissed, though the family is appealing the decision. Separately, Aaron Rich, Seth’s brother, sued the very right-wing, usually dubious Washington Times, which also accused Aaron himself of having participated in leaking the DNC emails. The Washington Times retracted that story last September as part of settling Aaron’s suit.

Corsi’s retraction, now live on InfoWars, reads this way:

On March 5, 2018, Infowars published an article by Dr. Jerome Corsi titled Anti-Trump Left Tries to Revive Dying ‘Russia’ Narrative by Blaming Roger Stone. In that article, Dr. Corsi alleged that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, were involved in downloading and leaking emails from the DNC to WikiLeaks.

Dr. Corsi acknowledges that his allegations were not based upon any independent factual knowledge regarding Seth or Aaron Rich. Instead, Dr. Corsi relied primarily on, and quoted from, a column by Adm. James Lyons (Ret.) that was published in the Washington Times on March 2, 2018, but was retracted on September 30, 2018. (The Washington Times’ retraction is available here.)

It was not Dr. Corsi’s intent to rely upon inaccurate information, or to cause any suffering to Mr. Rich’s family. To that end, Dr. Corsi retracts the article and apologizes to the Rich family.

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In a statement to Rolling Stone, Aaron Rich told the magazine, in part, “I acknowledge the apology of Dr. Jerome Corsi for his false accusations about me, my late brother and my family, and I look forward to my day in court against others who have made similar false statements.”

Except Corsi is not, in fact, retracting the false statements he made about Seth, according to Corsi himself. On Twitter, he has been at pains to say, over and over, that he isn’t retracting any other part of his Seth Rich reporting.

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That’s also the argument he makes in his recent book, Killing the Deep State. I pulled out my copy this morning to check what he’d said about Seth Rich, and if he cited the Washington Times. In Chapter 11, Corsi writes that Rich is the person “most likely” to have stolen the DNC emails “from the inside, leaking copies to Julian Assange at WikiLeaks.”

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The citations for that chapter don’t include the Washington Times; as far as I can tell, there is no direct citation at all for that claim.

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When I pointed this out on Twitter, Corsi — perhaps unwisely — quoted my tweet, to affirm that yes, he’s not retracting that statement.

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I asked Corsi what, precisely, he’s retracting. When he didn’t respond, I asked if he meant to retract only the portion falsely claiming that Aaron Rich participated in the purported “leak.” Again, he quoted my tweet, adding, “Good analysis.”

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When I responded that I wasn’t “analyzing,” but actively asking for comment, as a journalist, Corsi accused me of failing to identify myself as one.

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(My Twitter bio clearly identifies me as a reporter for this company. Corsi is a prolific user of Twitter and has been for the past ten years and presumably knows how to look at the bio of the person he’s speaking to.)

While Corsi didn’t respond further to my queries, it seems fairly safe to say, based on the preponderance of evidence here, that he means to continue making false claims about Seth Rich, while walking back his claims about Rich’s brother just enough not to get sued.

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The Rich family has said repeatedly that the baseless speculation about Seth and his murder has deeply tormented them. In May of 2017, his parents, Joel and Mary, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, begging people to stop “politicizing” Rich’s death, and adding, “There are people who are using our beloved Seth’s memory and legacy for their own political goals, and they are using your outrage to perpetuate our nightmare.” And evidently, some of those people truly cannot seem to stop.

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About the author

Anna Merlan

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.

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