According to CBS News, the investigator who looked into Rich's July 2016 murder for the family, Rod Wheeler, sued Fox for defamation on Tuesday. Wheeler's suit alleges that Fox News defamed him by manufacturing two false quotations and attributing them to him, thus damaging his reputation by blaming him as the deceptive story fell apart. Wheeler, an African American, is also currently suing the network for racial discrimination.
Wheeler, a Fox contributor, said the network made up the quotes attributed to him, saying there was contact between Rich and WikiLeaks, and that someone — possibly Democrats or Hillary Clinton's campaign — was blocking the murder investigation. Rich was killed in what Washington police believe was a botched robbery.
Wheeler alleges that the story about Rich's death was orchestrated by Ed Butowsky, a Dallas based weather management consultant and FNC commentator who hired him for the Rich family.
The lawsuit also alleges that Sean Spicer met at the White House with Wheeler and Butowsky to review the Rich story a month before Fox News ran the Rich piece, according to the court documents.
And The Hill is reporting the complaint was filed by Douglas Wigdor on behalf of Wheeler. Wigdor serves as legal counsel for several cases alleging discrimination or harassment by Fox News executives.
Fox's president of news, Jay Wallace, told NPR, which first reported the lawsuit, that there was no "concrete evidence" that Wheeler was misquoted. NPR said that Wallace did not address a question about the story's allegedly partisan origins, and it said Fox News declined to allow Zimmerman to comment.
Wheeler, a Fox News contributor, seeks damages for mental anguish and emotional distress and lost earnings at his private investigation firm.
“The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman’s story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion issue is completely erroneous,” said Jay Wallace, president of news at Fox News Channel, in a statement.
“The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally and we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman. Additionally, Fox News vehemently denies the race discrimination claims in the lawsuit — the dispute between Zimmerman and Rod Wheeler has nothing to do with race.”