Lawsuit accuses White House of working with Fox News on false story

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The original Fox News posting on the matter lent momentum to right-wing outlets including Breitbart and The Drudge Report, which had suggested with items and links, but little credible evidence, that Rich could have been killed for the leak of DNC emails during last year's presidential campaign, an act that has largely been attributed to Russian interference.

Investigator Rod Wheeler is suing Fox for defamation, claiming the network made up quotes linking the July 2016 murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich to the WikiLeaks scandal.

"The motivation... shift the blame from Russian Federation and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russian Federation in an attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election", the 33-page suit alleges.

Wheeler also charged former White House spokesman Sean Spicer and top Trump strategist Steve Bannon were "in regular contact" with Butowsky "regarding his efforts relating to Seth Rich".

After the article with the fabricated quotes was published, according to the lawsuit, Wheeler met with executives at Fox News and "explained to Ms. Brandi and Mr. Wallace that he had not provided Zimmerman with the quotations she used in her article". Wheeler quickly disputed the story, but Fox News didn't retract it until six days later while TV host Sean Hannity continued to promote it.

In his lawsuit, Wheeler claims that because of the reporting in the Fox News story, and the network's decision to use him as the only source, he "was subsequently forced to correct the false record, and, as a result, lost all credibility in the eyes of the public".

In the lawsuit, Zimmerman's former colleague at Fox News, Rod Wheeler, claims Zimmerman lied about his work on the Rich case.

"It's completely untrue that he or the White House were involved in the story". "Fox's marginalization of Mr. Wheeler is simply part of its systemic pattern and practice of discriminating against people of color", the suit says.

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Butowsky recently told NPR that he was only kidding about Trump's involvement and told CNN that "the lawsuit is bulls-t". He said he believes it was retracted because Wheeler complained that he was misquoted.

"One day you're going to win an award for having said those things you didn't say", he said.

"I have never seen the emails myself directly".

Wheeler said he provided some quotes to Fox based on what Butowsky and Zimmerman had told him.

In a statement Tuesday, Spicer said, "Ed is a longtime supporter of the president's agenda who often appears in the media". The "president" referred to in this text message is President Donald Trump, the suit says.

"Incredibly, according to Butowsky, the President reviewed an article written by a Fox News journalist prior to its publication and sought to get the article published 'immediately, '" the complaint states.

Butowsky told CNN's Chris Cuomo that when he met with Spicer about his findings, he did not tell the press secretary the goal of the meeting beforehand. (Spicer confirmed the meeting with Butowsky to NPR.) At one point before the article was published, Butowsky allegedly told Wheeler in a text message: "Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article".

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