Citing a former Fox News contributor-turned-private-eye, a local Fox station reported that slain DNC staffer Seth Rich was “communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death” and it could be proven with “tangible evidence on Rich's laptop.”
But a spokesman for Rich’s family said there’s a gaping hole in the Fox 5 D.C.’s report: That private investigator, Rod Wheeler, doesn’t have access to Rich’s laptop.
“We know where Seth’s personal computer is. We know where his DNC computer is. Neither [Rod Wheeler] nor anybody else has it,” Brad Bauman, who is representing the Rich family, told The Daily Beast.
Rich was murdered shortly after 4 a.m. a block away from his home in July of last year. His work as a Democratic National Committee staffer—during an election cycle in which his employer was hacked—fueled conspiracy theories from the far right. Until Tuesday, those theories were mostly relegated to websites like InfoWars and 4chan, but Fox News brought those conspiracies to the mainstream after Wheeler’s claims on Tuesday.
The WikiLeaks claim, which trended on Twitter most of Tuesday and reached Fox News’ national telecast and website, is the latest in a war between two political consultants on opposite sides of the aisle to frame Rich’s death as part of a larger global conspiracy, according to the family’s spokesperson.
One, spearheaded by a “Never Trump” Republican named Jack Burkman, alleges Rich’s death was perpetrated by the Russian government.
Wheeler, a Fox News contributor whom the family said is funded by a pro-Trump Breitbart writer, spread the other conspiracy—that Rich’s death was tied to a communication with WikiLeaks for which he did not provide evidence of its existence.
Both have been given permission by the family to conduct independent investigations, but were not paid by the family, as other outlets reported, said Bauman.
“There is one overwhelming fact in this entire thing every few months: There are people who continuously use Seth Rich and his murder to further their political goals,” said Bauman. “It’s my hope those people get what’s coming to them.”
Fox 5 D.C. reported that Wheeler had been “hired by the Rich family.” Bauman said that this also “isn’t true,” and that Wheeler was entirely independently funded. Bauman then claimed Wheeler had been hired by Ed Butowsky, a Dallas-based, pro-Trump wealth manager who regularly appears on Fox Business and writes about the economy for Breitbart.
The Daily Beast reached out to Butowsky for comment, but he didn’t respond at press time. He told MSNBC that “I didn’t pay anybody. I didn’t hire anybody” on Tuesday afternoon.
For his part, Wheeler once appeared on The O’Reilly Factor to report on a “national underground network” of “violent lesbian gangs” in 2007. The Southern Poverty Law Center criticized the segment for fabricating nonexistent gangs of women who were “forcibly indoctrinating children as young as 10” to become lesbians.Read More...
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