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Lawsuit Claims Fox News and White House Supported Fake Seth Rich Story
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Seth Rich. Photo courtesy of Newsweek.

Summary: A former Fox News commentator said the network concocted fake news to help President Donald Trump.

Did Fox News and the White House really create fake news? That’s what an explosive new lawsuit is claiming.


Rod Wheeler, a longtime commentator for Fox News, sued his former employer on Tuesday. In the lawsuit obtained by NPR, he alleged that Fox News, the White House and a Donald Trump patron worked together to craft a sensational but untrue story about the death of Seth Rich, a murdered Democratic National Committee aide.

For months in 2016, Fox News covered Rich’s death and shared unproven theories that he had leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks and was subsequently murdered. In reality, the young man was gunned down in Washington D.C. in July of last year, and his murder is still being investigated.

While the motivations behind Rich’s death are still unclear, Fox News promoted the idea of retribution, and after Donald Trump’s presidential win in November, the story died.

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In May, Seth Rich’s conspiracy theory resurfaced, and Fox News published a story that quoted Wheeler, who was a former homicide detective hired to investigate the DNC staffer’s death. In the article, Wheeler said there was evidence that showed Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks, but the story unraveled when Wheeler contradicted himself in an interview with CNN. Rich’s family urged Fox News to leave their son alone, and eventually, the conservative media outlet deleted the Seth Rich story from its website, stating it did not meet company editorial standards.

Now Wheeler is coming forward to clear his name. He said that Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman and wealthy Republican donor Ed Butowsky faked his quotes.

“Zimmerman, Butowsky and Fox had created fake news to advance President Trump’s agenda,” said the lawsuit. “Mr. Wheeler was subsequently forced to correct the false record and, as a result, lost all credibility in the eyes of the public. Mr. Wheeler has suffered irreparable damage to his reputation and his career will likely never recover.”

Wheeler said that the parties involved used the Seth Rich story to distract from the investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia. In his lawsuit, he included a text from Butowsky that seemed to confirm the White House was involved with the publication of the story.

“Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure,” the text said.

Jay Wallace of Fox News told NPR that there was no evidence that Wheeler was misquoted and that the company is conducting an internal investigation, and the White House said that Wheeler’s allegations were untrue.

“The president had no knowledge of the story and it’s completely untrue that he and the White House were involved,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing Tuesday.

Butowsky also denied the allegations, calling the lawsuit “bullshit.” He said that the text included as evidence was a joke.

“This was Rod and I,” Butowsky said to CNN. “We teased all the time. We were basically telling him you are doing a great job and that the president or the White House or somebody would be interested in meeting you.”

What do you think of Wheeler’s lawsuit? Let us know in the comments below.



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