Fox News official Jay Wallace issued a statement saying that "The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman's story to help detract from coverage of the Russian Federation collusion issue is completely erroneous".
As we reported previously, investigator Rod Wheeler filed the defamation suit today in NY, accusing Fox of making up parts of a story about Rich and alleging that President Trump pressured Fox to publish the story.
A spokesman for the family of Seth Rich - a murder victim whose death has become the center of a conspiracy theory - said "all [the family] really wants at this point is for this to go away". Wheeler, a Fox contributor who looked into Rich's July 2016 murder for the family, said Fox made up quotes attributed to him saying there was contact between Rich and WikiLeaks, and that someone - possibly Democrats or Hillary Clinton's campaign - was blocking the murder investigation.
The lawsuit also cites a text message from Butowsky to Wheeler, in which Butowsky claims that Trump read the article and wanted it published quickly.
It also claims Butowsky and Zimmerman met with Spicer in April to discuss the Rich story, which President Trump reviewed, provided editorial input, and then urged for the story to be aggressively pushed on the new outlet's website. It quoted Wheeler - who has worked as a Fox News contributor - as a primary source for the allegation. Butowsky said they were included because that is the way the President wanted the article, according to the complaint.
"It doesn't bother me that the press secretary would take a meeting with somebody involved in the media about a story", Sanders said during a Tuesday press conference, further denying any involvement by Trump. Now, this story is confusing and includes a lot of conflicting statements.
He added, "As Ed himself has noted, he has never met the president and the White House had nothing to do with his story".
The May 16 article of Zimmerman was eventually withdrawn by Fox after a week of its publication, after which Wheeler corrected the wrong information, subsequently damaging his credibility in the process.
White House spokeperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, while addressing a press briefing on Tuesday, said, "The President had no knowledge of the story and it's completely untrue that he and the White House were involved". Butowsky even offered to pay for the expenses, according to reports.
Butowsky has since told National Public Radio, which published its own story on the lawsuit, that he was kidding about Trump's knowledge of the story. Wigdor said this would include the president and Spicer.
CNNMoney reached out to Butowsky about the interview, but he said that he hadn't seen it.
Wheeler alleges that Fox created this misinformation in favor of Trump to take the attention away from the ongoing Russian Federation investigation, which is speculated to have had a role in Trump's winning the presidency. I got a note that we have the full attention of the white house on this.