The Seth Rich conspiracy theory just took another strange turn with reports that the now-debunked story claiming the DNC staffer leaked the organization’s emails to WikiLeaks has a direct link to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
Rich was murdered in July of 2016, shot to death in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood in what police and family members described as a robbery gone wrong.
Rich was shot twice in the back, his watch torn, and his hands and arms bruised. The shooting — which took place after 4 a.m. — followed a spate of other armed robberies in the neighborhood, including one just an hour before Rich’s shooting in which several people were robbed and pistol whipped. To investigators and those close to the case, it seemed a clear-cut instance of a robbery turned murder.
But right-wing sites seized on Seth Rich’s death, questioning whether the voter expansion director was actually murdered in retribution for leaking the DNC’s emails to WikiLeaks. Those emails were released over the course of the 2016 presidential election, creating a rift between Democratic voters and harming Hillary Clinton.
Although there has been no hard evidence to support the theory that the DNC played any role in Seth Rich’s murder or that the young staffer had any connection to WikiLeaks, it has still lingered among conspiracy theory sites and right-wing blogs. Now, the case has gotten a new life after a story from Fox News — which was later retracted — claiming that Rich was indeed in contact with WikiLeaks before his death.
— CNN (@CNN) May 24, 2017
The story was originally published on Fox 5 in Washington, interviewing private investigator Rod Wheeler who claimed that he knew Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks.
“Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich’s laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Wheeler’s services were offered to the family and paid for by a third party, according to a statement issued by the Rich family Tuesday which also includes that ‘the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family.'”
That story now appears to have a direct link to Steve Bannon and the White House. The third party who paid for the investigation was later revealed to be Ed Butowsky, who like Wheeler was a contributor on Fox News. Butowsky told BuzzFeed that he had learned about the Seth Rich murder from a friend, and he was moved by the family’s story which prompted him to pay for an investigation.
Butowsky initially denied to an NBC News reporter that he was involved in the investigation, but later admitted to CNN that he funded it.
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) May 17, 2017
The story occupied the front page of the Fox News website earlier this week, though the news outlet retracted it entirely after Wheeler walked back his claims, saying that he had no knowledge about Seth Rich’s laptop and no idea if he contacted WikiLeaks.
But by that point, the story had grown legs on right-wing and conspiracy theory sites, with others jumping into the fray. MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom said he had proof that Seth Rich was the leaker, claiming that he would provide proof on Tuesday.
When Tuesday came, Kim Dotcom uploaded a graphic claiming that he had spoken to Rich — which Dotcom misspelled at “Setch Rich” before correcting the graphic — in 2014 and could provide proof that he leaked the emails. But he offered no proof beyond this statement.
On Wednesday, a BuzzFeed report linked Ed Butowsky with Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist. Butowsky listed on his personal website that he was a board member of a conservative non-profit called Reclaim New York, of which Steve Bannon was the board chair through August of 2016. The group later denied that Butowsky was on the board.
Butowsky and Bannon have further connections, including Butowsky describing him as “a friend and a very nice man” in an interview with BuzzFeed.
And Butowsky also made a trip to the White House in the weeks before the Seth Rich story flared up again.
“A photograph on Butowsky’s Facebook page shows him in the White House briefing room on March 22,” the BuzzFeed report noted. “Butowsky did not comment on the record why he was at the White House, but did clarify that he had not met with any White House officials.”
Ed Butowsky and White House officials both denied that the parties ever discussed the Seth Rich case during the visit, BuzzFeed reported.
[Featured Image by Seth Rich/Facebook]