Later Tuesday, the conspiracy's most prominent proponent, Fox News' Sean Hannity, announced on his show that he would stop discussing the case "for now". "That is what we have called on this program liberal fascism - attack, boycott, all in an effort to silence conservatives".
Hannity said he made the decision to go mum on the killing "out of respect for the family's wishes".
The embrace of the conspiracy theory around Rich's death by Hannity and others caused similar tumult at Fox News this month, revealing and deepening rifts between its journalists and the opinion side that propels its economic success, according to several people at the network.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Mary and Joel Rich, Seth's parents, pleaded with those who continue to promulgate the falsehoods "to give us peace, and to give law enforcement the time and space to do the investigation they need to solve our son's murder".
The retracted May 16 online story claimed to report as fact that the late Seth Rich, a 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer, was actually the person who leaked tens of thousands of emails from the DNC to WikiLeaks and that his murder was tied to that action.
The report immediately caught fire among supporters of President Donald Trump as a preferable alternative explanation to the one put forward by USA law enforcement and intelligence officials, who have always maintained that Russian hackers were behind the breach.
The claim about Rich's death has also been embraced on the air by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Fox News contributor.
On Tuesday, Fox retracted the story.
Speaking to WaPo on Wednesday, Rich's family says Seth's Gmail account, which his father now operates, received a suspicious email from Mega.nz, a website associated with Kim Dotcom's digital security agency. Fox News posted a statement on its website that said, in part: "The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting". "Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards".
The statement did not include an apology to Rich's family or any admission of regret. But a spokesperson for Rich's family reacted to the Fox retraction by suggesting the family wanted to put the episode behind them and move on. The Rich family had publicly pleaded with Fox News and others to stop trading in such speculation absent facts.
After Hannity sent out a tweet saying his "heart is not troubled in the least" by a report that Fox News staffers are "embarrassed" by his crusade, Del Rio defended Hannity for what the coach described as asking "legitimate questions" (via Deadspin).
Long before the retraction, the Fox News story fell apart nearly the moment it was published. Kelly and Van Susteren now both work for NBC News.
Early last week, Wheeler sparked the tinder that would set the "alt-right" media-and Hannity-aflame: he told Fox 5 D.C. he had sources at the Federal Bureau of Investigation that said Rich had released a trove of emails and attachments to WikiLeaks.