Lawsuit alleges White House link in Seth Rich conspiracy

Getty Images

Getty Images

The lawsuit was filed by an investigator who had been looking into the killing of Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Committee staff member killed in 2016 in what police say was a botched robbery.

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.

Watch the clip above, courtesy of CNN.

Wheeler said Butowsky later told him the fabricated quotes from him were included in the article "because that is the way the president wants the article". His suit claims that Foxnews.com pushed the story in an effort to deflect public attention from the ongoing investigations into the administration's ties to the Russian government.

"In fact, when Mr. Wheeler was interviewed by a Fox affiliate on the evening of May 15, 2017, he made sure not to confirm as fact the proposition that Seth Rich sent emails to WikiLeaks, instead confirming only that a "source" (i.e., [Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman's] and Butowsky's alleged source) had information that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks", the lawsuit states. It named Fox News, 21st Century Fox, Butowsky and the author of the article, Malia Zimmerman, as defendants. Wigdor said this would include the president and Spicer. The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of NY, alleges Butowsky and Zimmerman kept in regular contact with Trump administration officials on the story, and that President Donald Trump himself read the article before it was published.

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Jay Wallace, president of news at Fox News, said in a statement: "The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman's story to help detract from coverage of the Russian Federation collusion issue is completely erroneous". Wheeler, who is paid a set amount for each appearance he makes on the network, says that he has received less airtime, money and fame than his white colleagues. He asked for a 10 minute meeting, with no specified topic, to catch up and said he would be bringing along a contributor to Fox News.

The lawsuit comes as Fox News and 21st Century Fox have tried to move past a sexual harassment scandal that burst into public view a year ago and led to the ouster of Roger Ailes, the network's founding chairman; Bill O'Reilly, the prominent anchor; and several other employees. However, Zimmerman's article was published, which said that Wheeler believes there was evidence that connects Rich to Wikileaks before he was murdered, prompting a quick rebuke from Rich's family.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says at a White House briefing Tuesday that, "The president had no knowledge of the story". Butowsky said that Wheeler complained to him that he was misquoted, but that he has emails showing him approving the quotes. "But don't feel the pressure", the text said. He also claims the entire process took place with the knowledge of the White House. "We've got a small business event coming up shortly and hopefully you'll all tune in".

But Wheeler went on FetchYourNews's YouTube show, and said on May 23, "With respect to the statement I put out yesterday".

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