Politics

Lawsuit: Trump Helped Concoct Fake News Story (Photos)

| by Michael Howard
Donald Trump in 2016Donald Trump in 2016

A new lawsuit alleges that President Donald Trump was involved in the promotion of false information about the unsolved murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.

The complaint was filed against Fox News by Rod Wheeler, a former Washington, D.C., homicide detective and frequent Fox News commentator who had been investigating Rich's murder since February.

Wheeler's lawsuit accuses Fox News of working with the White House and wealthy Trump supporter Ed Butowsky to concoct a news article suggesting that Rich, not Russia, had given the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. The article in question was published in May and retracted by Fox News a week later.

"The motivation behind the article: establish that Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails to shift the blame from Russia and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the outcome of the Presidential election," the lawsuit says, according to the Daily Mail.

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Wheeler also alleges that Malia Zimmerman, the Fox News reporter who wrote the story, fabricated quotes and attributed them to him.

One of the quotes attributed to Wheeler in the article read: "My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and Wikileaks."

And the second quote reads: "My investigation shows someone within the DC government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward. That is unfortunate. Seth Rich's murder is unsolved as a result of that."

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Wheeler said he has "suffered irreparable damage to his reputation and his career will likely never recover" as a result of the quotes being included in the article.

But the most explosive aspect of Wheeler's lawsuit may be that it accuses Trump of personally influencing the content of the article.

"According to Butowsky, the statements were falsely attributed to Mr. Wheeler because that is the way the President wanted the article," the lawsuit states. "Zimmerman, Butowsky and Fox had created fake news to advance President Trump’s agenda."

The suit also presents a text message Wheeler allegedly received from Butowsky, in which the latter states that Trump had previewed the article and wanted to see it published as soon as possible.

"Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article," the text reads, according to the Daily Mail. "He wants the article out immediately. It's now all up to you. But don't feel the pressure."

Shortly before that text message, Wheeler claims he received the following voicemail from Butowsky: "A couple minutes ago I got a note that we have the full ... attention of the White House on this. And tomorrow let's close this deal, whatever we've got to do. But you can feel free to say that the White House is onto this now."

When the article went live on the Fox News website, Wheeler says Butowsky sent him more text messages instructing him how to discuss the story on the air.

"If you can, try to highlight this puts the Russian hacking story to rest," one text said.

Another said: "Just reflecting: we need to emphasize the FBI has a report that has been suppressed that shows that Seth Rich did this. With [former FBI Director James] Comey recently being fired this will gain a lot of attention and it's true."

Responding to the lawsuit, Fox News executive Jay Wallace told NPR that there is no "concrete evidence" to suggest that Zimmerman attributed fake quotes to Wheeler. He did not go into detail about the circumstances surrounding the article, which Fox confessed did not meet the network's journalistic standards.

Fox News did not allow Zimmerman to comment on the story.

Sources: Daily Mail, NPR / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr, Joel Rich via Daily Mail, Fox News via BuzzFeed News

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