Fox News Retracts Seth Rich WikiLeaks Conspiracy Story
(ANTIMEDIA) Fox News has formally retracted a story published on May 16 that claimed DNC staffer Seth Rich was in contact with Wikileaks before he was killed in 2016. The story fueled online conspiracy theories that had been circulating since Rich’s death. Those stories linked the Clinton campaign to the murder and alleged cover-up. A statement on the Fox News’ website reads:
“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 article by investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman has been removed from the internet, but an archived copy can be read here.
Fox News affiliate Fox 5 first reported on the alleged evidence of a connection between Seth Rich and Wikileaks on May 15th. The article claimed Seth Rich’s family hired private investigator Rod Wheeler to conduct his own investigation. Wheeler told Fox “there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks,” and that he believed “the answers to who murdered Seth Rich sit on his computer on a shelf at the DC police or FBI headquarters.” Wheeler also allegedly accused D.C. police of being complicit in the cover-up of Rich’s murder, saying, “My investigation shows someone within the D.C. government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward.” Fox stated a “full report with new details” would be published the next morning.
But Fox’s story started to unravel immediately when Rich’s family released a statement via spokesman Brad Bauman that the family had not authorized Wheeler to speak on their behalf and wanted to keep the focus on finding Seth’s murderers. He also stated the family was considering taking legal action against Wheeler for speaking publicly about the case.
Nevertheless, Fox published the now-retracted “full report” on the 16th, which seemed to corroborate Wheeler’s story with information reportedly given to Fox by an anonymous source. The report read:
“A federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report — generated within 96 hours after DNC staffer Seth Rich’s murder — detailing the contents Rich’s computer said he made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time.” The anonymous source claimed 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments had been exchanged between DNC leaders and McFayden from January 2015 to May 2016.
On May 17th, Fox 5 published an update to their original story after Rod Wheeler backtracked from his original comments, telling CNN “he only learned about the possible existence of such evidence through the reporter he spoke to for the FoxNews.com story. He explained that the comments he made to WTTG-TV were intended to simply preview Fox News’ Tuesday story. The WTTG-TV news director did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“‘I only got that [information] from the reporter at Fox News,’ Wheeler told CNN.”
Since then, internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has posted a series of tweets indicating he has evidence Seth Rich was in contact with Wikileaks before his death. “I knew Seth Rich. I know he was the @Wikileaks source. I was involved,” Dotcom posted last week. He also offered to give written testimony and evidence to back his claims on the condition Congress include Seth Rich’s murder case in their Russia investigation. He posted a list of emails allegedly belonging to Rich, urging Google admins to submit the contents of the accounts to Wikileaks. On May 20th, he tweeted, “I’m meeting my legal team on Monday. I will issue a statement about #SethRich on Tuesday. Please be patient. This needs to be done properly.”
Dotcom’s statement, released Tuesday on his website, claims he had been in contact with an individual calling themselves “Panda” since 2014. “I now know that Panda was Seth Rich,” the statement reads, echoing theories circulating on Reddit. He says “Panda” originally contacted him for help starting a branch of the Internet Party in the U.S., and they continued to correspond, discussing “a number of topics including corruption and the influence of corporate money in politics.” Dotcom noted that Rich’s family reached out to him to request he be sensitive to their loss. He said he intends to provide a full statement to the authorities, requesting a special guarantee of safe passage to and from the U.S. should he be required to leave New Zealand. Dotcom is currently fighting extradition to the United States for criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit racketeering and money laundering.
Newsweek reports that Rich’s family is not entirely happy with Dotcom’s public statements. According to Bauman:
“The Rich family is tired of having to respond to accusations. The burden of proof is on Mr. Dotcom to either prove he has evidence or face the consequences of damaging Seth’s good name and creating more emotional hardship on a grieving family. The family is not going to entertain his ridiculous, manipulative and completely non-credible statements.”
Dotcom’s statement concluded:
“In the coming days we will be communicating with the appropriate authorities to make the necessary arrangements. In the meantime, I will make no further comment.”