Lawsuits continue to rain on Fox News.
On Tuesday, NPR broke the news that longtime contributor Rod Wheeler is suing the network over allegations that Fox News misattributed quotes to him to further a made-up story involving the murder of a Democratic National Committee employee, and that the network did so at President Donald Trump’s behest.
The claim is, shall we say, explosive. We’ve extracted the six most shocking quotes from the lawsuit, below.
‘A couple minutes ago I got a note that we have the full, uh, attention of the White House, on this. And, tomorrow, lets close this deal, whatever weve got to do. But you can feel free to say that the White House is onto this now.’
Wheeler’s lawsuit alleges that the above note is a text message he got from Ed Butowsky a GOP surrogate and fellow Fox News contributor in the days before Fox News producer Malia Zimmerman published a story about the made-up murder conspiracy.
The story alleged that DNC staffer Seth Rich had made contact with Wikileaks via email in the days before he was killed, and Wheeler, a former police investigator who was digging into the crime on behalf of Rich’s family, was to be the point man pushing this narrative on TV after publication.
Wheeler initially became involved when Butowsky, an investor by trade, paid him $5,000 in March to investigate Rich’s murder. At the time, the Riches, who didn’t know Butowsky beforehand, welcomed what they thought was help. Instead, what they got was even more pain.
“‘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'”
This is another text message allegedly from Butowsky, who facilitated the story, to Wheeler. Butowsky alleges that Trump reviewed Zimmerman’s article and wanted it on the internet as soon as possible.
“Mr. Wheeler who was the only named source quoted in the article did not make these statements. According to Butowsky, the statements were falsely attributed to Mr. Wheeler because that is the way the President wanted the article.”
There are two things to unpack here.
First, Zimmerman quoted Wheeler in the now-retracted Fox News story about Rich’s made-up contact with Wikileaks. But Wheeler says the quotes are fake. Both quotes begin with the words “my investigation,” and one says “there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.” The quotes make it seem as though Wheeler is the driving force behind the Wikileaks framing.
Second, this alleges that Zimmerman or another person involved made up Wheeler’s quotes at Trump’s request.
“Butowsky and Zimmerman hoped that, if they could confirm that Seth Rich leaked the DNC emails to WikiLeaks, that would debunk reports the Russians were responsible for the DNC hacks.”
This allegation in the lawsuit claims that Butowsky and Zimmerman wanted to make up a story about Rich to deflect attention from the many stories about the relationship between Trump’s campaign/administration and the Russian government.
“…in the weeks and months leading up to the publication of Zimmermans May 16, 2017 article, Butowsky kept in regular contact with Trump Administration officials including Mr. Spicer …”
Then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the article on the day it published, but didn’t mention any meetings with Butowsky and Wheeler, nor did he admit knowledge of how the article came to be published.
But the lawsuit alleges that Butowsky and Wheeler met with Spicer a month before publication. It also alleges that Butowsky was in contact with White House adviser of Breitbart infamy Stephen Bannon and Sarah Flores, the director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs.
In an emailed statement, Flores wrote, “I have not communicated with Mr. Butowsky at any point this year.”
“Im actually the one whos been putting this together but as you know I keep my name out of things because I have no credibility.”
Butowsky sent an email to several people at Fox News the night before the story came out, instructing them on how to talk about it, and admitting he has “no credibility.”
The angle he wanted, according to the lawsuit, was: “Russians didn’t hack into the DNC and steal the emails and impact our election.”
Wheeler, who is black, is also suing the network for racial discrimination. The lawsuit alleges that “white colleagues with comparable or inferior skills, expertise and experience have received more air time, made more appearances and been hired into full time positions. As a result, these white colleagues make more money, receive more notoriety and, in many cases, receive valuable benefits.”
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