NEW YORK — An investigator who worked on thecase claims Fox News fabricated quotes implicating the in the WikiLeaks scandal and that President Donald Trump pressured Fox to publish the story.
The investigator who looked into Rich’s July 2016 murder for the family, Rod Wheeler, sued Fox for defamation on Tuesday. Wheeler’s suit alleges that Fox News defamed him by manufacturing two false quotations and attributing them to him, thus damaging his reputation by blaming him as the deceptive story fell apart. Wheeler, an African American, is also currently suing the network for racial discrimination.
Wheeler, a Fox contributor, said the network made up the quotes attributed to him, saying there was contact between Rich and WikiLeaks, and that someone — possibly Democrats or Hillary Clinton’s campaign — was blocking the murder investigation. Rich was killed in what Washington police believe was a botched robbery.
Wheeler alleges that the story about Rich’s death was orchestrated by Ed Butowsky, a Dallas based weather management consultant and FNC commentator who hired him for the Rich family.
The lawsuit said Mr. Trump pushed to get the story out. There was no immediate response from Fox or the White House. It also alleges that Sean Spicer met at the White House with Wheeler and Butowsky to review the Rich story a month before Fox News ran the Rich piece, according to the court documents.
Also according to the lawsuit, 36 hours before the story appeared, Butowsky allegedly texted Wheeler “Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately Its now all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure.”
Following news of the suit, the Rich family spokesperson Brad Bauman released a statement.
“While we can’t speak to the evidence that you now have, we are hopeful that this brings an end to what has been the most emotionally difficult time in our lives and an end to conspiracy theories surrounding our beloved Seth,” Bauman said.