Conspiracy Theory

Lawsuit: Fox News and the White House Coordinated a Conspiracy Theory

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Earlier this year, Fox News became briefly obsessed with the unsolved murder of Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer who was killed in New York.

The Seth Rich conspiracy theory changes depending on which dark corner of the internet you look at, but the basic theory is that he was murdered by the Clintons because he, rather than the Russians, was Wikileaks' secret source for Democratic emails.

One of Fox's chief sources on the matter was longtime network contributor Rod Wheeler, but according to a lawsuit filed by him against Fox News, the network defamed and scapegoated him when they retracted the story.

According to Wheeler, the rich investor and Trump booster who hired him to investigate the case, Ed Butowksy, used his connections at the White House to pressure him to blow up the story.

According to the lawsuit, Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer met at the White House with Wheeler and [Ed Butowsky] to review the Rich story a month before Fox News ran the piece.

On May 14, about 36 hours before Fox News' story appeared, Butowsky left a voicemail for Wheeler, saying, "We have the full, uh, attention of the White House on this. And tomorrow, let's close this deal, whatever we've got to do."

Butowsky also texted Wheeler: "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."

Wheeler has reportedly accepted responsibility for the role he played in furthering the story, but his version of vents or at least the version presented by his attorney is sympathetic.

From his point of view, he was hired as a private investigator to look into the murder of Seth Rich, but the man who hired him (Butowsky) had ulterior motives. Butowsky, the White House, and the brass at Fox News all had their own plans.

But using a supposedly innocent private investigator to add legitimacy to a conspiracy theory didn't stop at name-dropping Wheeler. According to his lawsuit, Fox News directly attributed fake quotes to him.

The first: "My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks."

The second: "My investigation shows someone within the D.C. government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward. That is unfortunate. Seth Rich's murder is unsolved as a result of that." [...]

According to the lawsuit, [Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman] promised to have those lines removed — but they stayed in the story. Zimmerman then told him that her bosses at Fox News had instructed her to leave those quotes in.

That same day, the suit recounts, Zimmerman writes a letter to Seth Rich's father, Joel, distancing Fox News from responsibility for what the network reported: "Much of our information came from a private investigator, Rod Wheeler, who we understand was working on behalf of you."

Wheeler challenges Zimmerman over the letter in a three-way phone conversation that also included Butowsky. The Fox News producer defends herself: "That's the email that Fox asked me to send him. They wrote it for me."

The parties involved including Butowksy have denied these allegations, but Wheeler apparently recorded these conversations which were transcribed for the lawsuit. I presume the actual audio will be played in court.

You should read the full report at NPR. It's even worse than I make it sound here. Much worse.

  • muselet

    Golly, Fox News Channel lied and then covered up the lie?

    Who could possibly have imagined such a thing?

    –alopecia

  • I feel like we are all taking this one way too calmly

  • ninjaf

    For the people who say both parties are the same I would say that this proves they are not (and I am talking rank and file party acolytes, not necessarily the leaders).

    Democrats believe that Republicans will lie to get what they want and mislead as necessary to maintain power or to gain an advantage.

    Republicans believe that Democrats murder anyone who gets in their way.

    Gee, I wonder why one party doesn’t want to negotiate on anything?

    • swift_4

      You not only have to fight the “both parties are the same”, but you have to fight the “Fox is just like the librul media”.

      I always press those types to give me an example of the liberal media outlet that has one guy telling all the people on the show to say the same misleading and outright false stuff. Now I’d like to see the liberal media outlet that coordinated with a campaign to put out a false story.

      And thanks to John Oliver, we now know about Sinclair media, which owns a lot of individual stations (that are allegedly liberal) in battleground states.

  • Aynwrong

    After 20 years of Fox News and 30 years of Rush Limbaugh I suppose the election of a president that would order this kind of sickening lie that deliberately smears a murder victim and worsens the suffering of his family was inevitable.

    This barrel has no bottom.

    • Victor the Crab

      Yeah, but Chuck Todd sez “BOTH SIDE, SO FUCKING SHUT UP YOU!!!”

      • Aynwrong

        Chuckles can go ╭∩╮(⊙_⊙)╭∩╮ himself.

    • Badgerite

      Fixed ‘news’. Our very own Pravda.