August 21, 2017

Lawsuit: Fox coordinated with White House on false story

02 August 2017, 05:32 | Christie Tate

Rod Wheeler has been working at Fox News since 2002. You Tube ScreenShot

Rod Wheeler

Rich, 27, was fatally shot last summer in Washington, what police described as a botched robbery. Jeffrey Brown is here to help unpack it.

The day that Fox aired the story connecting Rich to WikiLeaks and the DNC emails, Wheeler told Fox News' Sean Hannity that he had no evidence that Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks. In fact, there was no evidence linking Rich to the leaks or his murder to the WikiLeaks case.

Fox News retracted their story about Rich's murder approximately one week after publishing it.

The complaint was filed against Fox News by Rod Wheeler, a former Washington D.C. homicide detective and frequent Fox News commentator who had been investigating Rich's murder since February.

Fox News did not allow Zimmerman to comment on the story.

Right off the bat, Butowsky disputed Wheeler's allegations that he coordinated with the White House on the Fox News story, stating that Wheeler is "dead broke" and that the private investigator wanted a job with the Trump administration. (A meeting Spicer confirms but claims he didn't know the subject of.) Wheeler goes along with the story and even allows himself to be coached by Butowsky on how to spin it-namely, that this whole mess supposedly proves Russian Federation didn't hack our emails.

Spicer has now changed his story. The two then used what Wheeler had told them to back up their Federal Bureau of Investigation source's claims - even though they'd given Wheeler the information in the first place.

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.

The lawsuit cited a May 14 text message from Butowsky to Wheeler that said, "Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article". And, tomorrow, let's close this deal, whatever we've got to do.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Sanders said that Trump "had no knowledge of the story", and claimed that "it is completely untrue that he or the White House had an involvement in the story", though Spicer himself admitted he met with Butowsky and Wheeler.

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Butowsky has told The Dallas Morning News and other outlets that his intention was to help Rich's parents find closure. "I haven't even seen the computer that Seth Rich used", Wheeler said.

Neither Fox News nor Wheeler have responded to Raw Story's request for comment. "But don't feel the pressure", Butowsky's text to Wheeler went on, according to the suit.

"What he is trying to do is make $20 million by extorting Fox News", said Butowsky. Wheeler was joking about wanting to work at the White House. Spicer, Wheeler claimed, reviewed his "investigative notes" at the meeting and "asked to be kept abreast of developments".

This is a conflict of narratives that are going to have to be played out in court. The "president" referred to in this text message is President Donald Trump, the suit says.

When Wheeler called to complain, he was told by Butowsky that the quotes were included "because that is the way the president wanted the article". "'I've never spoken to Trump in my life, ' he says". He took it out of courtesy.

What do you think of Wheeler's lawsuit?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, they dispute hotly the idea that they defamed Wheeler.

The AP reports separately that Ed Butowsky, a Trump supporter named as a defendant in the suit, is also denying he was involved in the story. NPR reports that she is still with Fox News, working on stories unrelated to the Rich murder.

Either way, that's not good journalistic practice. I wasn't pleased with it then - things he told me nearly immediately came into question; my fault, really - and every year that goes by I end up regretting doing it more and more.

JEFFREY BROWN: David Folkenflik of NPR, thank you very much.

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