The main allegations in a lawsuit against Fox News are undercut by the plaintiff’s own public statements on the matter, The Daily Caller has found.
Rod Wheeler, a former Fox News personality and washed up Metropolitan Police detective, filed the lawsuit Tuesday. The suit alleges Fox News fabricated quotes and concocted a story, damaging Wheeler’s reputation.
The thrust of Wheeler’s lawsuit rests on the idea that Fox News falsely said that he believed there was a connection between murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and WikiLeaks. This alleged libel by Fox News, according to the lawsuit, was due to the joint efforts of Butowsky, who funded Wheeler’s investigation, and the White House, who allegedly wanted the story of Russian hacking to go away.
Wheeler, who was fired from the D.C. police, and his attorneys claim that Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman concocted quotes from Wheeler that alleged there was a connection between Rich and WikiLeaks and that the DNC was working to block the investigation into the former DNC staffer’s murder. The lawsuit alleges these quotes were made up to the pleasure of the president, something the White House called “completely untrue” Monday.
Fox News said in a statement: “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.”
Wheeler’s lawsuit also claims racial discrimination, something Fox News denies. A cable news insider told The Daily Caller that Wheeler is viewed as not that smart of a commentator and if anything he was benefited by his minority status.
Wheeler’s lawsuit received massive coverage Tuesday from the cable networks, was brought up at the White House press briefing, and is the front page of Wednesday’s New York Daily News.
However, public statements from Wheeler contradict many of the claims in the lawsuit. One of the key points in the lawsuit is that after Zimmerman’s now retracted story went up on May 16, Wheeler contacted her to tell her that she is misquoting him and to change the story, to which she allegedly replied that she would remove them if she could, but Fox News executives won’t let her.
The suit also alleges that Butowsky told Wheeler that the quotes are like that because that is how President Trump wanted the story to look. However, in a little-noticed statement on May 22 from Wheeler published on FetchYourNews, the former D.C. detective said, “I am of the personal opinion that the information/article reported by FoxNews Channel last Tuesday was essentially correct and worthy of further investigation. That is exactly why when I first learned of this new information developed by a FoxNews investigative journalist, I immediately called the DC Police to inform them.”
Wheeler’s lawsuit does say that Butowsky and Zimmerman “on behalf of Mr. Wheeler, drafted a response to the Rich family’s statements. Mr. Wheeler did not write or approve the response.”
But Wheeler went on FetchYourNews’s YouTube show, and said on May 23, “With respect to the statement I put out yesterday.” This is him showing ownership for a statement that says the Fox News report on May 16 was “essentially correct.”
He is now suing Fox News claiming that report libeled him.
As for the quotes that Zimmerman used, it is unclear if Wheeler actually told her these. The quotes are: “My investigation up to his point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks;” “My investigation shows someone within the DC government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward;” and “That is unfortunate. Seth Rich’s murder is unsolved as a result of this.”
However, it should be noted that Wheeler’s public statements about the investigation roughly fall in line with these quotes.
Wheeler himself went on Fox 5 local news on May 15 and said that “absolutely” his “sources at the FBI” have “confirmed” that there is link between Rich and WikiLeaks.
Wheeler would later retract these comments claiming there was a “miscommunication.” This interview is addressed in the lawsuit, but somehow claims Wheeler was above board.
“In fact, when Mr. Wheeler was interviewed by a Fox affiliate on the evening of May 15, 2017, he made sure not to confirm as fact the proposition that Seth Rich sent emails to WikiLeaks, instead confirming only that a ‘source’ (i.e., [Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman’s] and Butowsky’s alleged source) had information that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks,” the lawsuit states.
However, the transcript of the interview by Fox 5 shows he identifies multiple sources as his own and that it is “confirmed” due to these sources.
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 night Wheeler makes an appearance on Fox News’s “Hannity” in which he vouched for the credibility of his sourcing.
“There was a federal investigator that was involved on the inside of the case. A person that’s very credible,” Wheeler said. “This person, we checked him out, we have to check him out, very credible. He came across very credible.”
In that same interview, Wheeler also claims to have had “very little communication” with Ed Butowsky, his benefactor in the investigation. Wheeler’s lawsuit, however, states that Bukowski, the third party, sent Wheeler five text messages and one voice mail in the three day period ending on the Hannity interview.
As for his quote that someone at the DNC is interfering with the election, Wheeler told Hannity “a high ranking official at the DNC…when I called the police department got that information and called the Rich family wanting to know why I was snooping around.”