Donald Trump personally ordered Fox News to publish a now-discredited story insinuating that DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered for leaking the Democratic National Committee’s emails last year, a new lawsuit claims.
Rich, who worked on voter registration efforts for the DNC and was set to work on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, was slain last July in a shooting in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood. Investigators believed his shooting death was connected to a spate of other robberies in the area, but conspiracy theorists have posited that he may have been the source of the DNC emails leaked to WikiLeaks and was murdered for it.
Those claims appeared to be bolstered in May when Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler claimed he had evidence that Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks and that police in Washington, D.C., were covering it up. The story attracted national attention and was featured heavily on Fox News, including occupying the front page of its website and garnering many segments from Sean Hannity.
Wheeler, who was working with Rich’s family as a private investigator, later walked back the claims and said he had seen no direct evidence of Seth Rich working with WikiLeaks.
But Wheeler is now claiming that he was misled by a wealthy Republican donor working directly with the White House, Mediaite noted. Wheeler has filed a lawsuit claiming he was “used as a pawn by Ed Butowsky, Fox News and the Trump administration to try and steer away the attention that was being given about the Russian hacking of the DNC e-mails.”
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) August 1, 2017
The origin of the hoax story went all the way to the White House, the Daily Beast reported. In an email exchange, Wheeler was told that the White House had reviewed a draft of the story and that Donald Trump had directly ordered the story be pushed along “to help lift the cloud of the Russia investigation.”
The Seth Rich conspiracy theory has been pushed largely by right-wing news blogs, and last year, it was given a boost when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hinted that Rich may have been one of his sources. But the story in May by Fox News — which was later retracted in full — was one of the biggest media hits and brought it back into the public spotlight just hours after a story about Donald Trump revealing classified information in his meeting with Russian diplomats.
A lawsuit alleges that Fox News and a wealthy Trump supporter concocted a fake story about the death of a DNC aide. https://t.co/EZbRghNXFr
— NPR (@NPR) August 1, 2017
If true, the allegation would provide direct evidence of Donald Trump colluding with media outlets to push a fabricated story, though Wheeler and his legal team have yet to provide the evidence they claim backs their assertions. The Trump administration has not yet responded to the story in the hours since it was first reported.
Fox News reached out to the Inquisitr with a statement from Fox News Channel’s president of news, Jay Wallace.
“The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman’s story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion issue is completely erroneous. The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally and we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman. Additionally, FOX News vehemently denies the race discrimination claims in the lawsuit — the dispute between Zimmerman and Rod Wheeler has nothing to do with race.”
[Featured Image by Seth Rich/Facebook]