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Lawsuit alleges Fox News made up part of murdered DNC staffer story

Seth Rich was killed on July 10, 2016 in Northwest D.C. (Photo: D.C. Metropolitan Police Department)

An investigator who worked on the Seth Rich case claims Fox News fabricated quotes implicating the murdered Democratic National Committee staffer in the WikiLeaks scandal and that President Donald Trump pressured Fox to publish the story.

The investigator, Rod Wheeler, sued Fox for defamation on Tuesday.

The lawsuit tells an explosive story of Trump allies conspiring to push a false story to take the pressure of the Russian collusion investigation off the president, and a news organization willing to work with Trump and show him their story before it was published.

Wheeler, a Fox contributor who looked into Rich's July 2016 murder for the family, was brought into the case by Ed Butowsky, a Texas man and Trump supporter who appeared frequently on Fox, the lawsuit said.

Butowsky was intent on establishing a link between Rich, who was killed in July 2016 in what Washington police believe was a botched robbery, and the WikiLeaks scandal.

The lawsuit said Trump pushed to get the story out.

In a statement given to Sinclair station WJLA, Rich's family wrote:

While we can't speak to the evidence that you now have, we are hopeful that this brings an end to what has been the most emotionally difficult time in our lives and an end to conspiracy theories surrounding our beloved Seth.

In a statement to CNN, Fox News President Jay Wallace said the lawsuit's allegations were "completely erroneous."

"The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally, and we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman," the statement said. "Additionally, Fox News vehemently denies the race discrimination claims."

Wheeler was quoted in the May 16 story on Fox's web site saying there had been contact between Rich and WikiLeaks, whose dump of DNC emails proved a major detriment to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

He also said he was quoted falsely saying that someone — possibly Democrats or Clinton campaign officials — was blocking an investigation into Rich's murder.

Two days before the Fox article was published, Butowsky told Wheeler in a phone conversation that Trump had read the article and wanted it published immediately, the lawsuit said.

Wheeler also claimed that he was told that his false comments were put in the story because Trump wanted it that way.

Fox removed the story from its website a week after it was published, saying that "it was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all of our reporting." That forced Fox News' most high-profile host, Sean Hannity, to back away from aggressively pushing the story on the air.

Wheeler, who is black and has been a Fox contributor since 2005, is also suing Fox for racial discrimination. He said similar law enforcement experts who are white were given higher pay and more opportunities.

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