Russian hackers weren’t the ones behind the theft of Democratic emails that upended the 2016 presidential race, conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi told his InfoWars fans last year. Instead, Corsi said, Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich had stolen the emails and was murdered in revenge for the heist.
But Corsi was lying. In an email to Trump confidante Roger Stone in 2016, Corsi acknowledged that in fact hackers were behind the email theft, according to newly released messages.
Despite that admission, both Corsi and Stone played key roles promoting the conspiracy theory about Rich. Stone became one of the first major figures in Trump’s orbit to suggest Rich was murdered over the emails, tweeting on August 10, 2016 that Rich had “ties to DNC heist.”
In 2017, after Rich’s parents begged right-wing media personalities to stop pushing conspiracy theories about their son, Corsi put the blame for the email theft on Rich in a three-part InfoWars series.
In his InfoWars posts and a series of YouTube videos, Corsi portrayed Rich as a disaffected supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who stole the emails to get revenge against the DNC and paid for it with his life. Corsi wrote that Rich had clearly been “implicated in breaches of email systems.” The young staffer was, according to Corsi, the “likely perpetrator.”
Corsi’s theory helped fuel conspiracy theorists on the right who claim, without evidence, that Rich was murdered on the orders of Hillary Clinton. But emails from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia show that Corsi knew all along that Russian hackers gave the emails to WikiLeaks.
In an August 2, 2016 email, made public Tuesday in draft court papers prepared by Mueller’s office, Corsi told Stone that “hackers” were behind the WikiLeaks releases.
“Time to let more than [Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta] to be exposed as in bed with enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC,” Corsi wrote. “That appears to be the game hackers are now about.”
Corsi’s biggest push for the Seth Rich conspiracy theory came in his 2017 series for Alex Jones’ InfoWars, where Corsi worked as a Washington bureau chief.
Days earlier, Rich’s parents had pleaded with Corsi and his allies to stop claiming that their son’s unsolved July 2016 murder, which police believe was a botched robbery, was actually an assassination. The conspiracy theories, they wrote in The Washington Post, had turned his death into a “political football.”
Corsi pressed on anyway, despite knowing that hackers had been behind the email theft. The first item in his InfoWars series promised that “new evidence suggests Seth Rich was DNC leaker.”
Corsi and Stone didn’t respond to requests for comment. Rich’s family, who are currently engaged in several lawsuits over the conspiracy theories about Rich’s death, declined to comment.
Corsi has continued to promote Rich conspiracy theories, appearing in several YouTube videos with other people pushing the Rich hoax. In 2018, he live-streamed a press conference held by another right-wing conspiracy theorist about Rich’s death, analyzing it for “clues” about whether Rich had been involved with WikiLeaks and the email leak.