Lawsuit: Fox News and Trump Worked to Push Seth Rich Murder Conspiracy

A Fox commentator alleges the fake story was used to divert attention from Russia.

Andrew Harnik/AP

A new bombshell lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges the Trump administration encouraged Fox News to create a fake news story concerning the death of Seth Rich, the former Democratic National Convention staffer who was murdered in July 2016, in order to divert attention away from the Russia scandal. The now-retracted story, written by reporter Malia Zimmerman, had suggested Rich was in communication with Wikileaks, implying that he—not Russian hackers—was the source of DNC emails published by the site.

NPR reports the lawsuit was brought by Rod Wheeler, a former Washington DC detective and longtime paid Fox commentator, who was hired by Republican donor Ed Butowsky to investigate Rich’s murder. According to Wheeler, the network defamed him by knowingly fabricating quotes and attributing them to him in its story, which was titled “Seth Rich, slain DNC staffer, had contact with WikiLeaks, say multiple sources.” 

In the suit, Wheeler charges that Butowsky ginned up the bogus story to “put to bed speculation” the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

The lawsuit also claims President Donald Trump personally reviewed the Fox story before publication, while Sean Spicer met with Butowsky and Wheeler, who briefed the White House on the story’s progress.

Fox News told NPR the lawsuit did not contain any “concrete evidence” it had concocted the article. The White House and Butowsky did not respond to Mother Jones‘ request for a comment.

Update: Fox News responded to the allegations cited in the suit, calling them “completely erroneous.”  

“The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally and we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman,” Jay Wallace, president of news at Fox News, said in a statement provided to Mother Jones. “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.”

You can read Wheeler’s lawsuit below:

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate