The Seth Rich case is back on the front burner – and it now involves the Trump White House!
Peter Barry Chowka
After lying dormant for several months, the unsolved cold-case brutal murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich was front and center once again, yesterday. Rich was shot in the back as he was walking to his apartment in Washington, D.C. in the early morning hours of July 10, 2016.
Bringing the tale back to life with a startling new anti-Trump angle this time was a defamation and discrimination lawsuit filed in federal court in New York City later Tuesday morning by attorneys representing Rod Wheeler, the former Washington, D.C. homicide detective, which NPR had an advance and "exclusive" look at. Wheeler was suing his current employer, the Fox News Channel; 21st Century Fox; Malia Zimmerman, a Fox News reporter; and a Republican operative named Ed Butowsky for a variety of alleged offenses.
A Fox News contributor since 2005 who was paid for his occasional on-air reporting and commentary on crime cases, Wheeler quickly achieved his 15 minutes of fame – that was over within one week – last May when he emerged as the person hired by Seth Rich's family to investigate Rich's unsolved murder. In several on-camera interviews, initially with the local Fox channel in Washington, D.C. and the next day with his employer the Fox News Channel (which took the story national), Wheeler claimed that he had uncovered evidence that lent credence to the previously unpopular theory, pushed by independent conservative media, that Rich had been taken out because he might have been the source of DNC emails leaked to WikiLeaks in July 2016 that damaged Hillary Clinton's campaign and resulted in the resignation of DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz.
Rod Wheeler, former Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police homicide detective and Fox News contributor.
FOX 5 DC: "You have sources at the FBI saying that there is information..."
WHEELER: "For sure..."
FOX 5 DC: "...that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks?"
WHEELER: "Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed."
The following day, Wheeler appeared by remote from D.C. on several Fox News channel programs broadcast from New York, including Hannity. Wheeler told Sean Hannity:
When you look at that with the totality of everything else that I found in this case, it's very consistent for a person with my experience to begin to think, well, perhaps there were some email communications between Seth and WikiLeaks. Every time I talk with the police department, though, Sean, every time I talk with the police department about the WikiLeaks or the emails, it's automatically shut down. That discussion is automatically shut down.
The six-minute video of Wheeler's May 16 Hannity interview is online here, and since May 16, Fox News has also had it online here.
On May 23, Fox News took the unusual step of retracting the story it had published at its website on May 16 based on Wheeler's information. Within minutes, Wheeler largely disappeared from public view, and the story went away.
...until August 1, when Wheeler returned in a big way with a different "tale," alleging that he had been deliberately misquoted in the original Fox reporting on the Rich case in order to pump it up to help the Trump administration by deflecting attention away from the "Russia collusion" narrative. Wheeler also charged that there had been White House collusion with the Fox reporter on the story, with manipulation of the story for political ends possibly going as high as the president himself! These accusations are spelled out in Wheeler's 33-page August 1 court filing.
The mainstream media jumped on this story like a hungry tiger on a grazing antelope, and all day, CNN, MSNBC, the major newspapers and wire services, etc. salivated at the purported revelations. The topic was raised repeatedly at the daily White House press briefing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who "denied that President Trump had any knowledge of the story, adding, 'it's completely untrue that ... the White House [had any] involvement in the story.'"
Adding to his list of grievances, Wheeler's legal filing also alleged that he had been discriminated against in his years at Fox News (which still employs him, apparently) because he is African-American. He has joined the class action suit of a dozen or more Fox News employees who are people of color who are alleging discrimination at the hands of current and former Fox News executives and seeking compensation and punitive damages.
The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman's story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion issue is completely erroneous. The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally and we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman. Additionally, Fox News vehemently denies the race discrimination claims in the lawsuit – the dispute between Zimmerman and Rod Wheeler has nothing to do with race.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding Wheeler's current claims, there is a considerable archive of his comments from last May, in his own words, in which he is saying things about the Rich case that appear to be 180 degrees different from what he is saying now.
On August 1, a half-hour recording of Wheeler posted at Big League Politicsprovided "by a source who wishes to remain anonymous," apparently recorded from a cell phone's speaker phone, also has Wheeler singing a different tune and at considerable length. In the recording, Wheeler complains about his investigative efforts being stymied by none other than Seth Rich's brother.
It remains to be seen if this story will have "legs" and hang on into the future. At the very least, it appears to represent another in a series of broadsides aimed at the Fox News channel, which is considered by the MSM and the left the most prominent and reliable propaganda arm of the Trump White House – and therefore a prime target for destruction. This perception has gained momentum despite Fox News's confirmed "fair and balanced" approach to reporting news about the Trump administration in its first 100 days, especially compared with the nine-to-one ratio of negative reporting about Trump by most other mainstream broadcast and cable media, according to a study by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School..
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care. He is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. His new website is AltMedNews.net. Peter's July 28, 2017 90-minute interview on The Hagmann Report can be watched here.
 The first of August, 2017 was a busy news day, with the MSM following the lead of the Washington Post, the first anti-Trump outlet to report on Monday evening, July 31, the latest revelation of alleged Russia-Trump "collusion" – that "Trump dictated son's misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer." But the Rich case was a close second all day in the mainstream media's attention as another story that was quickly spun off into anti-Trump territory. As CNN headlined it, "Fox News concocted Seth Rich story with oversight from White House."