Photographer: Andy Kropa/Getty Images

Fox Asks Judge to Dismiss Suit Over Discredited Seth Rich Story

  • Network contributor Rod Wheeler sued claiming defamation
  • Fox claims Wheeler must pursue his claims in arbitration

Fox News asked a judge to throw out a defamation suit tied to the network’s discredited story connecting a murdered Democratic staffer to the leak of party emails during last year’s presidential campaign.

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator and paid contributor to the network, sued Fox News and parent company Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. in August, claiming a Fox reporter, Malia Zimmerman, made up quotes attributed to him in an online story. Fox asked a judge to force the case into arbitration or dismiss it outright, claiming Wheeler wasn’t misquoted.

"He was neither misquoted nor defamed," the network said in court papers filed late Monday in Manhattan federal court. "In short, his defamation claim is itself founded on a falsehood."

Wheeler, who is black, also claims the network discriminated against him on the basis of his race, giving him less air time and pay than white colleagues. Fox denies the claim.

In addition to Fox and Zimmerman, Wheeler is suing Ed Butowsky, a Dallas-area money manager who, Wheeler claims, colluded with Zimmerman and the Trump administration to promote an unsupported story alleging that the murder victim, 27-year-old Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich, had been communicating with WikiLeaks. The purpose of the story was to suggest that Rich leaked the stolen DNC emails rather than Russian hackers, according to Wheeler’s complaint.

Butowsky filed a separate request asking the judge to throw out Wheeler’s complaint, claiming it is "overloaded with sensationalistic allegations" that have nothing to do with his defamation claim.

The case is Wheeler v. 21st Century Fox Inc., 1:17-cv-05807, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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