Fox News has retracted its reporting that an anonymous federal investigator claims to have seen thousands of emails involving murdered DNC analyst Seth Rich and WikiLeaks’ ally Gavin MacFadyen.
Fox officially retracted its story on May 23, writing:
“On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich. The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed.
We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”
The family of Rich had fought back against the claims, saying they have seen no facts no evidence and decrying unproven conspiracy families that they believe are harming their son’s reputation.
The Fox claim came after a private investigator working for the Rich family, Rod Wheeler, alleged on Washington D.C. television that a source had told him Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks before he was murdered. The Rich family on May 16 released a statement critical of that account and saying they had seen no evidence nor emails. According to the New York Times, the Rich family is demanding retractions from Fox and an apology.
The DNC hack has been blamed on the Russians by some, although that’s not proven. Newsweek has now reported that the FBI is not investigating the Rich murder, and is quoting the private investigator as denying he has any firsthand knowledge of purported Rich/WikiLeaks contact.
According to UK Daily Mail, Wheeler recanted his comments, and Rich’s family sent the private investigator “a cease and desist letter threatening legal action after he claimed – and then recanted- that Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks before he was gunned down in July.”
According to NBC News, a lawyer for the Rich family sent a letter to Wheeler that said, “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous, and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the Family. Your improper and unauthorized statements, many of which are false and have no basis in fact, have also injured the memory and reputation of Seth Rich and have defamed and injured the reputation and standing of the members of the Family.”
NBC News reported of Wheeler, “Wheeler has since completely recanted his story, both in the press and in a private message to Rich’s family. The private investigator told other outlets the Fox reporter essentially put words in his mouth by giving him information that he then repeated in an on-camera interview.” Although the family has asked for an apology and retraction from Fox 5, none has been granted thus far, reported NBC.
Fox News reported the alleged and unproven Gavin MacFadyen link through an anonymous source.
Rich was shot to death on a Washington D.C. city street in 2016 in a murder that remains unsolved. MacFadyen died of lung cancer on October 22. MacFadyen was perceived as being a journalist who’s friendly to WikiLeaks. He was the director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London, investigated whistleblowing claims, and helped raise money to pay for WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange’s legal expenses.
Rich’s family previously indicated that the murder may have stemmed from a robbery.
Wheeler has stepped back from the Fox 5 account, now telling Fox News that he had no personal knowledge of any link between Rich and WikiLeaks and said, “I don’t know for sure, I don’t know as a matter of fact if the emails went out to the Wikileaks or anybody else.” He told Buzzfeed that the Fox 5 account was not accurate.
Rich’s family released a statement on May 16, strongly criticizing conspiracy theories and “fake evidence” in the case and saying the PI was speaking out of school.
The family’s spokesman, Brad Bauman, is a partner at the Pastorum Group, a crisis communication firm that works with progressive causes. WikiLeaks was quick to point this out:
Shortly after the report about Wheeler’s claims, a Twitter account in the name of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange retweeted the Fox 5 story on Wheeler without comment. The unverified account has 174,000 followers. The conservative site Breitbart has reported that the site is Assange’s, and that Twitter refuses to verify it.
The television report focused on Wheeler’s allegations about Rich. Wheeler is a former homicide detective in D.C., according to Fox 5, and he’s a Fox News contributor. One Fox story said of Wheeler: “Former D.C. homicide detective points finger at Obama administration, explains why things will be better with Trump.”
NBC News reports that a Dallas-based financial adviser, Ed Butowsky, “a Fox News contributor who has written articles for Breitbart” is the person who urged the Rich parents to hire Wheeler.
Fox5 said Wheeler was hired by Rich’s family and is “running a parallel investigation into Rich’s murder.”
Rich’s unsolved murder on a Washington D.C. street had already sparked a flurry of conspiracy theories even before the latest report because he was a staffer and self-described data analyst for the Democratic National Committee.
WikiLeaks is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in Rich’s death (that’s in addition to a previous $25,000 reward being offered in the case).
Rich, 27, worked for the DNC on voting issues, and his murder was highlighted by Hillary Clinton in a speech. He was shot and killed in Washington D.C., and his murder remains mysterious. “Police have found little information to explain his death,” said The New York Daily News.
Rich was shot on July 10, 2016 at 4:15 a.m. near a Washington D.C. neighborhood where he lived, said CBS News.
The Washington Post wrote on July 11: “Police said they have no suspects, witnesses or motive, though they are looking at whether Rich could have been slain in an attempted robbery.”
Washington D.C. Metropolitan police public affairs told Heavy on August 9: “At this time, there is no indication that Seth Rich’s death is connected to his employment at the DNC. However, we welcome information that could potentially lead to the identification of the individual(s) responsible for his death and are pleased when any outside contributors help us generate new leads.”
Numerous news sites, such as NBC, have reported that government officials and security firms believe that Russian intelligence was behind the DNC leak; WikiLeaks denies being tied to Russian intelligence but won’t reveal its sources for the DNC emails, which, among other things, appeared to show DNC officials favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the primary. The FBI is now investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with alleged Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.
Read more about MacFadyen’s death here: