By Peter Barry Chowka

On Tuesday morning, August 1, 2017, the dormant cold case of the violent murder of Seth Rich suddenly came back to life, or to renewed public attention at least, with the filing of a civil complaint, a.k.a. a lawsuit, in a federal court in New York. The plaintiff (accuser) is Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former Washington, D.C. homicide detective, and the defendants are the Fox News Channel, 21st Century Fox, Malia Zimmerman, a Fox News investigative reporter, and Ed Butowsky.

NPR broke the story in a long article at its Web site at 7:23 PM EDT and in a six-minute report on its Morning Edition program that aired nationally around the same time.

The Fox News Channel and a wealthy supporter of President Trump [Butowsky] worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House to concoct a story about the death of a young Democratic National Committee aide, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The explosive claim is part of a lawsuit filed against Fox News by Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid commentator for the news network. The suit was obtained exclusively by NPR.

Wheeler alleges Fox News and the Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration’s ties to the Russian government. His suit charges that a Fox News reporter created quotations out of thin air and attributed them to him to propel her story.

This story as it evolved and grew during the day on August 1 is extremely complicated and convoluted. It quickly became a lead story on CNN where it was given an incendiary spin (“Fox News concocted Seth Rich story with oversight from White House”) and was widely and similarly reported in other mainstream media. It looked like it might become a story with legs, another arrow in the quiver of the “Resist Trump” movement. This heightened attention was to be expected as Wheeler’s lawsuit appeared to add weight to skepticism that Seth Rich’s unsolved murder near his apartment in the early morning hours of July 10, 2016 was just a robbery gone bad and not part of a larger conspiracy involving his employer, the Democratic National Committee, at a critical time in the 2016 election campaign.

 Rod Wheeler

On the Hagmann Report, Tuesday August 1, 2017, I appeared as a last-minute guest from 8:45 PM until approximately 9:10 PM ET to discuss these latest developments in the case. The recording of the program is here, and I appear at the 1 hour 45 minute and 50 second point. I said then that I would prepare an article with links to primary sources of information for people interested in the case and the new developments. This is the article and the links will come near the end of it.

At this point, as a summary and basic introduction to the subject of the Seth Rich case, I will quote from an article that I wrote for American Thinker on May 30, 2017. That article was primarily about Fox News but it included reporting and analysis of the Seth Rich case up to that point.

What should be kept in mind now on August 1, 2017 is that these latest developments in the story that broke today should not be seen in a vacuum or in isolation, rather as pieces of a larger puzzle involving efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the Fox News channel and ultimately the viability of the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

From May 30, 2017:

The issue here is of the unsolved murder last summer of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich. Rich, 27, was fatally shot in the back by unknown assailants as he was walking home to his apartment in Washington, D.C. in the early morning hours of July 10, 2016. According to an article in the New York Daily News on July 11, 2016, citing information from Seth Rich’s father, D.C. Metropolitan Police were reported to be investigating Rich’s death as a robbery. But technically a robbery did not occur since nothing of value was taken from Rich after he was shot. Curiously, the same article also states “There is no immediate indication that robbery was a motive in the attack, police said, but it has not been ruled out as a possibility.”

An IT professional with a passion for politics, Seth Conrad Rich was the Voter Expansion Data Director at the DNC. According to Fox News’s January 10, 2017 story, “Rich would have had access to sensitive DNC information. His main duty at the DNC was to build an online system to get out the vote.” Reports began to emerge after the shooting of Rich that he might have been the source of 20,000 embarrassing internal DNC documents, showing collusion between the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign, that wound up being published by Wikileaks on the eve of the Democrat National Convention in late July. Recently, these initially unconfirmed reports about some kind of relationship between Seth Rich and Wikileaks have gained new currency and momentum.

On May 15, 2017, Fox News channel 5 in D.C. reported that Rod Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective and a Fox News contributor who was independently investigating Rich’s death on behalf of the young man’s family, went on the record with allegations confirming many of the suspicions about the official investigation of Seth Rich’s murder, including a new claim that the D.C. police were instructed to “stand down on this case.” On May 16, Fox News in New York also reported the story based on Wheeler’s account. An identical version of the May 16 Fox News story republished the same day by the New York Post, which is owned by the same company that owns Fox News, is archived here, but on May 23, in a highly unusual move, Fox News retracted its story one week after publication and removed it from the Fox News Website.

The Fox News retraction, the “backtracking” on elements of the story by Wheeler himself, and the emotionally charged objections by the Rich family to any more outside investigations and reporting about Seth Rich’s death, provided fuel to the fire stoked by the mainstream media, which had already dismissed any and all questions that were being raised about Rich’s murder and its possible links to the purloined DNC documents and Wikileaks as illegitimate, irresponsible, and “conspiracy theories.”

The mainstream media initially downplayed Rich’s death and only began reporting about it again when new questions began to be asked – while dismissing the questioners in hundreds if not thousands of critical stories. A typical example of the latter appeared May 22 in Foreign Policy, the influential organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, with author Max Boot decrying Fox News in particular for being “morally bankrupt” and guilty of “conspiracy mongering” for its reporting in the Rich murder case. Meanwhile, the reporting that has reopened and advanced the story has been done primarily by alternative conservative media, including most recently by Alicia Powe writing at World Net Daily (WND).

 Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity interviewed Rod Wheeler live on his Fox News channel program on May 16, 2017, giving prominence to the new information that Wheeler was bringing forward. One week later on May 23, after Fox News had retracted its story, Hannity, speaking on his nationally syndicated radio show, insisted “I am not or Fox I retracted nothing.” Later that evening on his Fox News program, after having promised that he would present new information relating to the case, Hannity announced instead that he was backing off the story “for now” in deference to the wishes of the Rich family. These developments set the stage for a doubling down of the onslaught targeting Hannity by the mainstream media and left-wing advocacy groups like Media Matters for America, with Hannity’s enemies moving in for the “kill shot,” as he termed it, by employing the tactic of the sponsor boycott. (Ultimately, the advertiser boycott against Hannity did not succeed.)

Meanwhile, investigations into the death of Rich are proceeding, mainly on the part of independent journalists. An exception were two reports broadcast by One America News Network (OAN) on May 19, “Who Killed Seth Rich? Investigating the DNC Staffer’s Suspicious Murder.” Video of the the first of the two OAN reports can be viewed here (Part 1).

At the conclusion of Part 2, OAN reporter Pearson Sharp said:

For now there are no clear answers as to who killed Seth Rich – or why. Police have called it a robbery, but have no proof. There is growing evidence that it was something much more than a mugging gone wrong… It’s not just one coincidence, or two. It’s dozens. And they trace their way all the way to the highest brains of the DNC. Yes, it could be a coincidence that the officers were wearing body cameras but the footage apparently can’t be found. It could be a coincidence that the attending physician has direct ties to [one of] Hillary’s right hand [men]… And it could be a coincidence that Seth’s father said that a security camera from a small convenience store across the street captured video of their son collapsing at the feet of two men and that the police say that now that footage doesn’t exist. But the question we must ask ourselves now is at what point does one coincidence – or 100 – add up to something approaching the truth.

The Larger Picture

 Seth Rich

The case of Seth Rich’s death is not simply a footnote in this larger story about Fox News. If it is true that Rich, acting as a principled whistle blower – rather than some Russian government hack colluding with Donald Trump’s associates – was the source of the initial document dump that wound up impeding Hillary Clinton’s chances in her 2016 presidential election campaign against Donald Trump, then that is big news. A confirmed connection between Seth Rich and Wikileaks would seriously challenge the overwhelming and to date largely successful mainstream/Deep State meme that representatives of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians to disseminate internal DNC documents with the intention of harming the Democrat opposition. The whole “Trump has colluded with the Russians” party line that has dominated political discourse for months on end could go up in smoke.

The stakes in terms of how this story ultimately plays out couldn’t be higher and the mind boggles at the possible outcomes.

Back to the future now – August 1, 2017 – and Rod Wheeler has done more today than simply backtrack. Here are some popular current or recent valuable news accounts and links to primary sources that should shed some additional light on the case.

Original Fox5 D.C. story (video) featuring Rod Wheeler May 15, 2017
P.I. hired to investigate the death of Seth Rich says he can prove Rich in talks with Wikileaks

Original Fox5 D.C. story (print) featuring Rod Wheeler May 15, 2017

New Evidence Suggests Seth Rich Was DNC Leaker
Rich had access to leaked DNC emails – Part 1 of in-depth, investigative report into Rich’s murder
Jerome Corsi | May 30, 2017

Seth Rich Mystery: DNC Leaks Came From Inside, Not Russian Hackers
Evidence reveals emails leaks an inside job not due to hacking – Part 2 of in-depth, investigative report into Rich’s murder
Jerome Corsi | – May 30, 2017

Evidence Backs Claim Pro-Bernie Seth Rich Was DNC Leaker
Wikileaks emails an inside job to get back at Hillary, evidence suggests – Part 3 of in-depth, investigative report into Rich’s murder
Jerome Corsi | – May 30, 2017

Hannity Fox News Channel Transcript May 16, 2017 – Rod Wheeler, guest

Video of Rod Wheeler Interviewed by Sean Hannity, Fox News, May 16, 2017

NB: Audio: Rod Wheeler Explains Fox News Fiasco, Claims Brother Blocked WikiLeaks Inquiries
Tue August 1st, 2017 3:08 pm EST 

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care. He is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and recently he has started to contribute to the Hagmann Report, including exclusive original articles like this one. His new Web site is Peter’s July 28, 2017 90-minute interview on The Hagmann Report can be watched here.

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