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Seth Rich was gunned down in a D.C. neighborhood in July 2016. His death later became the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory. Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty

Right-wing activists who helped circulate a baseless conspiracy theory about the death of Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered in 2016, have retracted their claims and apologized to his family.

Why it matters: The retractions come four years after the unsolved murder became fodder for unfounded right-wing conspiracy theories about the 2016 election.

The big picture: The retractions from Ed Butowsky, a wealthy GOP donor, and Matt Couch, a far-right activist, were part of a settlement with Aaron Rich, Seth Rich's brother, who filed a lawsuit in March 2018, CNN reports.

  • "I never had physical proof to back up any such statements or suggestions, which I now acknowledge I should not have made,” Butowsky wrote on Twitter in a post that has since been deleted, per The Daily Beast.
    • "I take full responsibility for my comments and I apologize for any pain I have caused. I sincerely hope the Rich family is able to find out who murdered their son and bring this tragic chapter in their lives to a close."
  • “Our reports about Aaron Rich were largely driven by information [given to] us by a single source, who we now believe provided us with false information and who, as of this date, has retracted his statements,” Couch said in a release on his website. “Today, we retract and disavow our statements, and [we offer] our apology to Mr. Rich and his family.”
  • In recent years, Fox News and the Washington Times also retracted their respective claims about Rich and settled with his family.

Aaron Rich said Thursday he was "gratified" that Butwosky and Couch had "taken responsibility," per a statement to CNN.

  • "I hope that these events may encourage others to pause and consider the impact of accusing strangers of wrongdoing, give law enforcement space to do their jobs, and let us remember Seth in peace and with privacy."

Flashback: Seth Rich was fatally shot in Washington, D.C., in July 2016. Police have said evidence points to an attempted robbery.

  • Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 report fully discredited the conspiracy theory about Rich.

Go deeper

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.

Exclusive: Sen. Coons sees new era of bipartisanship on China

Sen. Chris Coons. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a "shock to the system," propelling members of Congress toward the goal of shoring up America's ability to compete with China, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Axios during an interview Thursday.

Why it matters: Competition between China's authoritarian model and the West's liberal democratic one is likely to define the 21st century. A bipartisan response would help the U.S. present a united front.

By the numbers: States weighing voting changes

Data: Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law; Cartogram: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Georgia is not alone in passing a law adding voting restrictions, but other states are seeing a surge in provisions and proposals that would expand access to the polls, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Driving the news: Just Wednesday, the New York State Assembly passed a bill to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have been released from prison.