An explosive new lawsuit (obtained exclusively by NPR) brought against Fox News alleges that Donald Trump’s White House actively oversaw and supported a conspiracy theory falsely accusing the Democratic National Committee (DNC) of murder.
For a week in May, Fox News obsessively covered a ‘story’ that the DNC had in some capacity ordered a hit on a 27 year old staffer, Seth Rich. Now, we have good reason to think that Trump was in on the plot all along.
In July 2016, Seth Rich was found dead in his home after sustaining gunshot wounds. The case remains unsolved, but, according to NPR, “a spokeswoman for Washington’s Metropolitan police department says ‘MPD stands behind its original assertion that Seth Rich was the victim of a botched armed robbery.‘”
The suit is brought by Rod Wheeler, a former homicide investigator with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. Wheeler became entangled in a plot to undermine claims of Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential election, claims which are accepted as fact by nearly all politicians in both the Democratic and Republican Parties and all major investigative bodies.
The conspiracy theory goes as follows: Seth Rich contacted WikiLeaks and turned over thousands of emails from the DNC containing unflattering details of the Party’s inner workings. The DNC murdered Rich so they could pretend that they had been hacked by Russians. The DNC did this so they could blame Trump for colluding with Russia and claim Russia hacked the election.
The conspiracy was orchestrated by rabid Trump supporter and alt-right commentator Ed Butowsky. Butowsky convinced Wheeler that he was privately investigating Rich’s murder to bring closure to the Rich family. Wheeler agreed to help, believing that his background as a homicide detective could aid the cause. Fox News investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman joined in.
Butowsky faked contact with FBI agents who supposedly gave him details aiding the investigation in the DNC’s ‘murderous’ activities. The FBI was never involved in the investigation of Rich’s murder.
Then, just before the story ran, Butowsky shared it with Donald Trump and received his approval. Trump stood to benefit greatly from the story that would ‘prove’ Russia had nothing to do with releasing DNC emails and that the DNC operates like a cartel, ordering hits on uncooperative staffers.
According to NPR, Wheeler claims the following series of events led up to the release of the fake story:
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.”
A bit later that night, at 9:10 p.m., Butowsky texts Wheeler, according to Wheeler’s suit: “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. But don’t feel the pressure.”
“I’m actually the one who’s been putting this together but as you know, I keep my name out of things because I have no credibility,” Butowsky wrote. “One of the big conclusions we need to draw from this is that the Russians did not hack our computer systems and ste[a]l emails and there was no collusion” between “Trump and the Russians.”
The night before the story ran and the day of the story itself, Butowsky coached Wheeler on what to say on the air: “[T]he narrative in the interviews you might use is that you and [Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman’s] work prove that the Russians didn’t hack into the DNC and steal the emails and impact our elections.” In another text; “If you can, try to highlight this puts the Russian hacking story to rest.”
Sean Hannity, a Fox News host especially inclined towards conspiracy, followed the script and said to Wheeler on-air, “If this is true and Seth Rich gave WikiLeaks the DNC e-mails…this blows the whole Russia collusion narrative completely out of the water.” Fox and Friends, among other shows, also pushed the narrative.
Then, it all came crashing down. Fox News was forced to retract the story which was supported primarily by ‘evidence’ that Butowsky manufactured, like his ‘contacts’ with the FBI. The Rich family was devastated to see Seth’s death exploited by conservatives for political gain.
Wheeler’s suit, according to NPR, “alleges Fox News defamed him by manufacturing two false quotations and attributing them to him and ruining his reputation by blaming him as the deceptive story fell apart.” Zimmerman in particular is blamed for defaming Wheeler.
The real scandal, however, is that the President of the United States supported a conspiracy theory that falsely accused political opponents of murder. We have known since early on in his 2016 presidential campaign that Trump is a serial liar; but this takes the cake.