A lawsuit alleges that the God-King pushed Fox News to concoct a conspiracy myth. (More)
“The president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately.”
The lawsuit quotes a text message from Ed Butowsky, a Dallas financier, God-King supporter, and occasional Fox News guest, to Rod Wheeler, a former homicide detective, now private investigator and occasional Fox News guest as reported by NPR’s David Folkenflik:
The following account reflects the verbatim quotes provided from the texts, emails, voicemails and recorded conversations cited in Wheeler’s lawsuit, except as otherwise noted.
According to the lawsuit, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer meets at the White House with Wheeler and Butowsky to review the Rich story a month before Fox News ran the piece.
On May 14, about 36 hours before Fox News’ story appears, Butowsky leaves a voicemail for Wheeler, saying, “We have the full, uh, attention of the White House on this. And tomorrow, let’s close this deal, whatever we’ve got to do.”
Butowsky also texts Wheeler: “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.”
Spicer confirms meeting with the two but denies claims about the president.
“Ed’s been a longtime supporter of the president and asked to meet to catch up,” Spicer tells NPR on Monday night.
“I didn’t know who Rod Wheeler was. Once we got into my office, [Butowsky] said, ‘I’m sure you recognize Rod Wheeler from Fox News.’”
Spicer says Butowsky laid out what had been found about the case. “It had nothing to do with advancing the president’s domestic agenda – and there was no agenda,” Spicer says. “They were just informing me of the [Fox] story.”
Oh, and Butowsky says that text message was just a joke. Uh-huh.
“I know it doesn’t work that way, but I don’t know how it works, and I can’t do anything.”
Butowsky now admits his ties to the Rich conspiracy didn’t quite stop with financial generosity. And complicating matters further, Butowsky and the White House aren’t on the same page.
On April 20, Butowsky and Wheeler visited Spicer in the White House – something all parties acknowledge. According to Butowsky, he only brought Wheeler along because he, “was asking me nonstop to get him an interview so he can get a job in the White House.” He promised me he had text messages to support this claim that he would send me, but as of press time he hasn’t delivered them. “I thought it would be good because maybe somehow Rod Wheeler can get his own damn job at the White House. This was not anything more than that.” He added that he didn’t even remember the date of this meeting, which he claims lasted just 15 minutes (Spicer told CNN it was even shorter: 10 minutes).
In his statement to CNN, Spicer described Butowsky as a “longtime supporter of the president’s agenda who often appears in the media.” He said he didn’t know what the subject of the meeting would be before it took place, but the extent of the discussion about Rich ended with Butowsky and Wheeler informing him “they were working on a story” about it, “and wanted me to be aware of it – that was it.”
At the White House press briefing Tuesday, the new press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, shrugged off Spicer’s meeting. “He met with members of the media. I don’t find that to be a strange thing.”
When we talked shortly afterwards, Butowksy told me he called Spicer, “and said, ‘Hey, can I come see you?’ And he said, ‘Sure!’ And so I did.”
When he broached the topic of Russia and Rich, something Butowsky said lasted “30 seconds,” Spicer replied: “‘Eddie! I don’t have any idea what to say to you! I don’t know what you would do with that?’” Butowsky said he suggested that the White House go to the FBI, but Spicer told him “I know it doesn’t work that way, but I don’t know how it works, and I can’t do anything.” Asked if Spicer had anything to say about Rich, Butowsky said, “No! Nothing!” (Spicer didn’t respond to a phone call or email on Tuesday).
For the record, “I know it doesn’t work that way, but I don’t know how it works, and I can’t do anything” may be Spicer’s winning entry in the category of Insiders Describe Outhouse Dysfunction. Just sayin’….
The story at issue is a groundless conspiracy alleging that Hillary Clinton and/or Russian operatives murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich. The story claimed that Rich gave DNC emails to WikiLeaks, but Rich’s job did not give him access to the emails and D.C. police are treating the still-unsolved murder as a mugging-gone-wrong.
The Fox News story quoted Wheeler as saying that homicide detectives believe it was a murder-for-hire. Wheeler says Fox News intentionally misquoted him and twisted his research – which found no evidence of anything other than a botched mugging – to concoct the Clinton-Russia conspiracy theory. While Fox News has put the story “on hold,” it lives on at far-right conspiracy sites.
“We’re going to litigate this case as we would any other”
The lawyer for a Washington private investigator who is suing Fox News over its use of allegedly invented quotes in a news story advancing a bizarre conspiracy theory said Tuesday he will seek to depose President Trump and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer to question them over their roles in the affair.
“We’re going to litigate this case as we would any other,” and that means “we’ll want to depose anyone who has information,” including the president, said attorney Douglas Wigdor, who is representing the investigator, Rod Wheeler.
A DNC spokesman and the Rich family were appalled:
“If these allegations are true, it is beyond vile that the White House – and possibly even Trump himself- would use the murder of a young man to distract the public’s attention from their chaotic administration and Trump’s ties to Russia,” DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement. “The Rich family has begged those responsible for these conspiracies to stop. And yet, Trump’s allies have ignored their pain and their pleas, degrading the office of the president by spreading repulsive lies.”
Hinojosa further suggested the allegations “should outrage any decent human being” and accused “Trump’s associates and their conspirators at FOX” of adding to the Rich family’s pain.
Brad Bauman, a spokesman for the Rich family, said the conspiracy theories were painful for the Rich family. While he would not address the merits of the allegations in the suit, Bauman said he hoped it would put an end to the questions surrounding Rich’s death.
“While we can’t speak to the evidence that you 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,” said Bauman.
Alas, wingnut conspiracy theories are rhetorical zombies. They eat wingnuts’ brains … and thus never die.
Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin (AP)
Good day and good nuts