Who's really to blame for fake news? It may be President Trump

"In turn, Butowsky and Zimmerman hoped that, if they could shift the blame for the DNC hacks from the Russians to Seth Rich, this would undermine reports of collusion between Russia and the Trump Administration".

Wheeler's suit is targeted at Ed Butowsky, a Dallas financial adviser and GOP donor, and Malia Zimmerman, the author of the online version of Fox News's story.

A defamation lawsuit filed by longtime Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler against the network alleges that President Trump was directly involved in concocting a fake story meant to undercut the intelligence community's conclusion that Russian hackers waged cyberattacks against Democratic targets to help him get elected.

Fox News president Jay Wallace told NPR there was no "concrete evidence" that Wheeler was misquoted.

The Fox News story, which investigated the July 2016 shooting death of Rich, said evidence from his laptop showed he had been in contact with WikiLeaks before it posted hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. It is also important to point out that the plaintiff, Rod Wheeler, clearly said things about the Rich investigation which he knew to be false (and therefore is not a highly credible person) and that his claims are perfectly created to take advantage of a narrative which the news media would be obviously very willing to embrace. He also said he was quoted falsely saying that someone - possibly Democrats or Clinton campaign officials - was blocking an investigation into Rich's murder.

Zimmerman let Wheeler review the article before it published, but Wheeler says the initial copy differed from the published version in a significant way-it included two quotes attributed to Wheeler that he says were made up.

The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department determined that Rich was the victim of a botched armed robbery.

He then texts Wheeler to inform him that Trump read Zimmerman's article and wants it published.

The lawsuit says in part, "The motivation behind the article: establish that Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails to shift the blame from Russian Federation and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russian Federation in an attempt to influence the outcome of the Presidential election". In the suit, Wheeler also says that Butowsky told him the president had reviewed the story prior to publication and wanted the article published "immediately", he says in the suit.

Today started with yet another major development in the story of the Trump White House, its relationship with the news media, and one of his biggest supporters, Fox News. "I'm actually the one who's been putting this together but as you know I keep my name out of things because I have no credibility". According to the complaint, Trump pushed Fox News to publish the story "immediately". "Ed's been a longtime supporter of the president and asked to meet to catch up", Spicer told NPR on Monday night, confirming that the three had met about a month before Fox News published the story in April. "Does it disturb you, does it say anything about this White House that you'd entertain that story?" Spicer confirmed to NPR that he met with Butowsky, but as a favor to a fellow Republican and reliable White House ally.

This was fake news, alleges Wheeler in a defamation suit. "It had nothing to do with advancing the president's domestic agenda - and there was no agenda", Spicer says now. The network pulled the story from its website after a week and issued a retraction, saying, "The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting".

Update: Fox News responded to the allegations cited in the suit, calling them "completely erroneous". "But you can feel free to say that the White House is onto this now".

  • Joey Payne