Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich used an appearance on Fox and Friends to spread the conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was killed last year to cover up the true story of how WikiLeaks obtained tens of thousands of hacked Democratic Party emails.
"We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at four in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments," Gingrich, a stalwart supporter of President Donald Trump, said.
"Nobody's investigating that, and what does that tell you about what's going on? Because it turns out, it wasn't the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee. He's been killed, and apparently nothing serious has been done to investigative his murder. So I'd like to see how [Robert] Mueller is going to define what his assignment is."
Mueller has been appointed as a special counsel to oversee a federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any Russian collusion with Trump's campaign.
With no pushback from the Fox hosts, Gingrich shared innuendos that got new life last week after Rod Wheeler, an occasional contributor to Fox News whom a conservative donor had paid to probe Rich's death, told local Fox affiliate WTTG 5 that he had new evidence.
Last week, Wheeler claimed to have sources at either the FBI or the DC police department who apparently knew that evidence existed of Rich - who was fatally shot in July - contacting WikiLeaks but that an unnamed person had told investigators to "stand down".
By Friday, after follow-up questioning from CNN and NBC News, Wheeler had largely recanted his story, and Rich's family had rejected Wheeler's most explosive claim - that Rich's laptop was in police custody.
But on Saturday,Fox News host Sean Hannity continued to suggest that Rich was killed in a coverup.
Like Hannity, Gingrich confidently made claims about Rich that have not been proved and that the family has denied.
Police have investigated Rich's killing, which remains one of many unsolved murder cases in the city.
There is no evidence that he was "disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee," though last week, amateur sleuths falsely claimed that Rich had posted online as "pandas4bernie." (He may have tweeted as "panda4progress.")
There's also no evidence that Rich contacted WikiLeaks.
Until this week, conspiracy theorists had suggested that the hacker Guccifer 2.0 used Rich to get into DNC servers, based on possibly altered direct messages between Guccifer 2.0 and a model named Robbin Young.
The new theories, which were covered on Fox News even as the source recanted, rely not on criminal evidence but on the fact that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange offered a reward for information about Rich's killing and gave a meandering non-answer when asked whether Rich was his source.
But as the investigation into Russia's role has picked up steam, Hannity and others have latched on to any suggestion that a source might emerge and link Rich to the DNC hack, though the FBI had spotted Russian-tied hacks as long ago as September 2015.