On Tuesday, NPR reported a bombshell lawsuit claiming that Fox News and a wealthy Trump supporter worked with the White House to allegedly fabricate a story about the murder of Seth Rich, a DNC aide who was fatally shot in July 2016. At the heart of the lawsuit is private investigator Rod Wheeler, and you may be wondering, who is he and why is he filing a lawsuit against Fox News?
According to NPR, Wheeler has worked as a paid commentator for Fox News. Wheeler last appeared on the network on July 29. Wheeler, who was hired to look into Rich's death, is a former homicide detective, according to CNN.
In his lawsuit, he alleges that a Fox News reporter, Malia Zimmerman, created quotes to attribute to him, the single source in the story on Rich's death. He also claimed that Trump supporter Ed Butowsky worked with Fox News on the story in order to distract attention from the Russia investigation, writing in the lawsuit "Zimmerman, Butowsky and Fox had created fake news to advance President Trump's agenda."
Fox News' News President, Jay Wallace, responded to the allegations in a statement,
The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman’s story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion issue is completely erroneous. The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally and we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman. 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.
Fox New's story about Rich originally aired in May, but was retracted a week later. It alleged that Rich was involved in leaking DNC emails to WikiLeaks. In its investigation, the U.S. government had concluded it was Russian hackers who obtained the info.
Wheeler was hired by Butowsky on behalf of Rich's family to look into his murder, which occured on July 10, 2016, according to The Washington Post. D.C. police determined that Rich died during an attempted armed robbery, but the case remains unsolved.
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."
Wheeler is looking for damages to be determined during a trial as compensation, citing mental anguish, emotional distress, and loss of earnings. He is represented by Douglas Wigdor, who is also representing several other clients in lawsuits against Fox News for harassment and discrimination, according to Variety. As Fox News is maintaining that there is no proof to Wheeler's allegations, we'll have to wait to see how the lawsuit plays out.