WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – A defamation lawsuit has been filed against Fox News for allegedly pushing a false story in an effort to distract attention from the Russia investigation.
The lawsuit claims President Donald Trump encouraged Fox News to publish the story that turned out to be not true. The story claimed murdered Democratic National Committee staffer named Seth Rich was responsible for releasing the party’s emails to Wikileaks in 2016 and that it was not Russian hackers.
The President’s goal, according to the lawsuit, was “to help lift the cloud of the Russia investigation.”
Fox retracted the story after just a week, admitting it did not meet its journalistic standards.
The lawsuit was filed by former Washington D.C. police detective Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor. He investigated the case but claims that the network inaccurately reported his findings as implicating Rich because “that is the way the President wanted the article.”
The suit also claims that Ed Butowsi, a wealthy Trump supporter and also a Fox commentator, coordinated the effort by the President and Fox to publish the story.
Wheeler’s complaint says Butowski left him a voice mail on May 14 that implicated the White House.
“A couple minutes ago I got a note that we have the full attention of the White House on this and tomorrow, let’s close this deal,” Butowski said.
Ten days later, according to the suit, a text message from Butowski said “the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately.”
Butowski now says he was kidding.
Then-press secretary Sean Spicer admits that he met with Wheeler and Butowski in April, but in a statement issued Tuesday said: “The White House had nothing to do with (the) story.”
Current press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was also asked about it at her press briefing on Tuesday.
“The president had no knowledge of the story and it’s completely untrue that he or the White House had involvement in the story,” she said.
Fox News said in a statement: “the accusation that FoxNews.com published (the) story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion issue is completely erroneous.”