Trump Pushed Fox News to Run Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory for Political Gain, Lawsuit Alleges

In an explosive lawsuit, Fox commentator Rod Wheeler alleges Trump supporter Ed Butowsky, Fox, Trump himself fabricated story on DNC staffer's death to divert media attention from admin's Russia ties

Seth Rich.
Seth Rich. Facebook, JTA Photo Archive

U.S. President Donald Trump is being accused of attempting to spread false information about the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich in a new lawsuit reported Tuesday by NPR.

The lawsuit was filed by Fox News commentator Rod Wheeler against Fox News, Malia Zimmerman and wealthyTrump supporter Ed Butowsky. It alleges that they orchestrated a news story regarding the death of Democratic aide Seth Rich with false statements to create a politically motivated narrative.

Wheeler cites text messages and a voicemail in his lawsuit from Butowsky boasting that Trump himself approved drafts of the story before air. 

"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 wrote in a text message to Wheeler, according to the filing.

The lawsuit also alleges that Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman added two quotes to the story that were falsley attributed to Wheeler. The citations, which Wheeler claims are completely false, claimed the Democrats were blocking the investigation into Rich's murder and that Rich had contacts with Wikileaks.

"According to Butowsky, the statements were falsely attributed to Mr. Wheeler because that is the way the President wanted the article," the lawsuit reads. 

Wheeler is a former Washington, D.C., homicide detective who had appeared frequently on Fox News as a commentator to discuss the case.

In May 2016, Fox News aired what it called a bombshell story about the fatal shooting of Democratic Party staffer Seth Rich, 27, suggesting his death may have been related to the leaks of thousands of emails from Democratic Party officials during the presidential campaign.

Similar conspiracy theories were widely circulated after the original suggestion by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and Fox's report buttressed such rumors by suggesting Rich's death had been covered up by Democrats in an attempt to thwart the official investigation.

In response to the explosive claim, Spicer told NPR that he is unaware of any such contact with the president. In response to the story, Butowsky also told NPR that he was kidding about Trump's involvement.