Fox News accused of making up quotes in DNC murder story
A new lawsuit filed by a Fox News commentator accuses the network of inventing quotes from him in a report that claimed a Democratic National Committee staffer was murdered for leaking emails to WikiLeaks.
Rod Wheeler, a private investigator and former police detective, claims he was pressured into helping “put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the outcome of the Presidential election,” according to his defamation suit filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.
Wheeler accuses Trump supporter Ed Butowsky and Fox reporter Malia Zimmerman of fabricating two quotes attributed to him in the story because “that is the way the President wanted the article,” the suit reads. Jay Wallace, Fox’s president of news, told NPR there was no “concrete evidence” that Wheeler was misquoted.
The report — which aired May 16 and was retracted a week later — blamed the DNC email leaks during the 2016 presidential election on staffer Seth Rich, who was shot to death in July of that year.
Butowsky had hired Wheeler on behalf of the Rich family to investigate Seth’s murder.
The lawsuit cited a May 14 text message from Butowsky to Wheeler that said, “Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure.”
Butowsky also allegedly left Wheeler a voicemail that same day, saying, “We have the full, uh, attention of the White House on this. And tomorrow, let’s close this deal, whatever we’ve got to do.”
The story was published less than 36 hours later, according to the complaint.
“Zimmerman, Butowsky and Fox had created fake news to advance President Trump’s agenda,” alleges the suit, filed against 21st Century Fox, Fox News, Butowsky and Zimmerman.
Wheeler, a former Washington, DC homicide detective, accuses Butowsky of being in regular contact with a handful of Trump officials — former press secretary Sean Spicer, chief strategist Steve Bannon and Sarah Flores, the Justice Department’s director of public affairs — in the months leading up to the Fox story.