MANHATTAN — A Fox News contributor and former homicide detective filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday accusing the network of attributing fabricated quotations to him about the Seth Rich murder investigation at the direction of President Donald Trump.
Retired detective Rod Wheeler, the only named source for a discredited Fox News story insinuating a former Democratic National Committee staffer — and not Russian proxies — leaked stolen emails to WikiLeaks, opens his 33-page complaint with a screenshot of a text message he claims to have received from the network’s contributor Ed Butowsky.
“Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article,” the May 14 text message states. “He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure.”
Before that text message, Wheeler says, Butowsky left him a voicemail.
“A couple minutes ago I got a note that we have the full, uh, attention of the White House, on this,” the message said, according to the lawsuit. “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.”
Less than 36 hours later, Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman published the article, which also suggested that Hillary Clinton and the U.S. government sought to block the investigation into Rich’s murder.
Wheeler, who at the time was also a private detective, alleges that the article falsely has him claiming that he discovered “some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks” and that Washington interference stopped him from cracking the case.
Suing Twenty-First Century Fox, Fox News, Zimmerman and Butowsky for defamation, Wheeler claims that “his career will likely never recover” from the damage to his reputation from the article.
The former detective is represented in the case by Douglas Wigdor in New York City.
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