Fox News and its Washington , D.C ., affiliate, Fox 5, are standing by their conspiracy-mongering reports that slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was connected to WikiLeaks before he was shot to death in July — even as those tales fall apart.
Fox News and Fox 5 published separate tales about the supposed connections on Tuesday. But since then, the main source has changed his story, D.C. police and the FBI have quarrelled “the worlds largest” explosive allegations, and Rich’s family has called on the network and station to issue retractions, went on to say that” incorrect reporting” is” damaging the bequest” of Rich, a 27 -year-old DNC staffer who was slain as he strolled to his D.C. home.
Fox News isn’t budging.
” We continue to track the course of the story and will update further when the situation warrants ,” Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital, was indicated in an email proclamation to HuffPost on Wednesday afternoon. The network has not addressed the questions and apparent differences surrounding its story.
Fox 5 didn’t respond to multiple HuffPost requests for statement about its article. A spokesperson for the station told DCist it was standing by the story.
Washington police belief Rich was killed in a botched burglary attempt, and continue to investigate, the Metro Police Department said in a statement Tuesday.
But since Rich’s death, right-wing web sites have pushed the conspiracy theory that the Democratic Party, DNC or Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, were somehow held liable for the killing because of Rich’s supposed ties to WikiLeaks. The assumption rests on WikiLeaks’ liberation of a trove of internal DNC emails weeks after Rich was killed.
There is no evidence to support the conjectures. U.S. intellect officials said in January that the leaks were the work of Russian hackers, who supported the information to WikiLeaks. But Fox 5 and Fox News gave the conjectures fresh life in stories published Monday evening and Tuesday morning, respectively.
The Fox 5 story was based on the claims of Rod Wheeler, a former D.C. homicide detective hired by a third party to privately investigate Rich’s murder. Wheeler’s bona fides were questionable from the beginning: A Fox News contributor since 2002, he has a history of making outlandish and baseless allegations. During one look on Fox News, he asserted that armed bands of lesbians were roaming American metropolitans and assaulting children.
Wheeler claimed to the neighbourhood station that information sources in law enforcement told him that there was credible and confirmed indication on Rich’s laptop computer that Rich had communicated with WikiLeaks before his death. Wheeler also said law enforcement officials told him that D.C. political figures had told them to “stand down” on his investigation.
Tuesday morning, Fox News published a version of the story that also relied on Wheeler as its sole called generator. But it added knowledge from an anonymous” federal examiner ,” who said that” 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments between Democratic National Committee commanders, spanning from January 2015 through late May 2016, were transferred from Rich” to WikiLeaks.
The explosive headlines quickly spread across conservative media — from Breitbart to The Drudge Report to Fox News’ Sean Hannity — throughout the day Tuesday. But soon after the tales gained traction, they began to unravel.
Rich’s family, in a pointed proclamation, dismissed possible the linkages between their son and WikiLeaks, and accused Wheeler and the outlets of” pushing plots .”
Metro Police mentioned Wheeler’s allegations were false. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called allegations of a cover-up” preposterous” in an interview with The Daily Caller.
Tuesday night, meanwhile, Wheeler changed his own story, telling CNN that he “only got” the information about a possible connection between Rich and WikiLeaks” from the reporter at Fox News ,” and that he had no evidence of such a connect himself.
It was always clear that Wheeler was repeating information that he had heard from other sources, instead of relaying the results of his own “probe.” But his revised version doesn’t necessarily mesh with the timeline of the tales’ publication. The Fox 5 story travelled live Monday evening; the first Fox News version posted on Tuesday, just after 6 a.m. Eastern Time, and relied on the Fox 5 piece as a source.
It was only later that the Fox News piece was rewritten, adding investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman’s byline and reporting, including allegations made by the anonymous federal examiner.
Zimmerman posted the article to her public Facebook page early Tuesday, and said she had” worked on this story for 10 months” — a time frame that aligns with Rich’s July murder. Zimmerman’s Fox News archives, however, include no other published pieces about the Rich case.
Further, “theres” potential holes in the reporting Zimmerman added. Her story is saying that the FBI ran a” forensic report” on Rich’s laptop within 96 hours of his murder. NBC reported Wednesday that the FBI never possessed or examined Rich’s laptop, elevating doubts about the forensic report and how the unnamed federal examiner would be aware of such details about the contents of Rich’s computer.
Efforts to reach Zimmerman by phone on Wednesday afternoon were successful. She did not respond to an email request for statement.
Neither Fox 5 nor Fox News have issued corrections to their pieces, though Fox News altered its version Tuesday afternoon to note the Rich family’s dismissal of the amount claimed, and to remove a quote recommending a cover-up by local police. It shows the story has been updated further since. Fox 5 wrote a subsequent piece Wednesday morning named,” Seth Rich Murder: What we are aware and what we don’t know .”
Brad Bauman, a spokesman for the Rich family, mentioned Tuesday that the tales were an effort to spread a “political agenda.” He said the family was calling for a full retraction of both stories.
” They need to repudiate the story or issue an apologetic, or their own families will be discussing other options, including legal, to clear their son’s call and get Fox to do what’s right ,” Bauman told CNN.
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