Aug 1, 2017

Lawsuit: Fox News, Trump supporter made up Seth Rich story

Richard Drew / AP

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York by Rod Wheeler alleges that Fox News and Ed Butowsky, a wealthy GOP donor, worked together to fabricate a story claiming the FBI had evidence that murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich had passed documents to WikiLeaks.

  • Why the suit was filed: Wheeler, a Fox News commentator and private investigator hired by Butowsky for the Rich story, alleges that the author of the Fox News story, Malia Zimmerman, fabricated quotes from him regarding the Rich investigation in the report. Fox News retracted the story a week after its publication.
  • The big thing: The lawsuit, first obtained by NPR, claims that Butowsky boasted that President Trump himself had read drafts of the story before it was published by Fox News — and that Sean Spicer had taken a meeting in the White House a month before its publication to be briefed on its contents.
  • The backstory: Rich was murdered last year while walking to his home in Washington, DC, in what authorities say was a botched robbery. However, a number of conspiracy theories popped up surrounding his death, as no perpetrator was ever found.
  • Other notes: The suit alleges that the story was an attempt to guide public attention away from the Trump/Russia scandal, and Wheeler also claims the network racially discriminated against him during his time as a contributor.
The responses
  • Fox News: From Fox News' President of News, Jay Wallace: "The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman's story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion issue is completely erroneous. 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."
  • Butowsky spoke with CNN, calling the lawsuit "bullshit" while claiming that Wheeler's attorney "pulled [the suit] out of his butt to make money." He also stated that the allegation that he boasted about Trump reading a draft was simply an inside joke between him and Wheeler regarding the latter's desire to get a job in the Trump administration. Butowsky also suspended his Twitter account this morning, telling New York Magazine's Olivia Nuzzi that "people are so mean."
  • Spicer: The outgoing White House press secretary told NPR that he took the meeting as a favor to Butowsky due to his longtime support of Trump — and confirmed that they'd laid out the facts of the story to him — but stated that he was unaware of Butowsky having any contact with Trump.
  • The White House: Axios reached out to the White House for comment regarding the allegations that Trump knew about the story before it was published but did not receive a response. At this afternoon's press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "[Trump] had no knowledge of the story, and it is completely untrue that there was White House involvement."
  • Rich family statement: "While we can't speak to the evidence that you now have, we are hopeful this brings an end to what has been the most emotionally difficult time in our lives, and an end to conspiracy theories surrounding our beloved Seth."

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll surpasses 8,400

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the coronavirus surpassed 8,400 in the U.S. on Saturday, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day for the past four days, since April 1.

The big picture: President Trump said Saturday America's is facing its "toughest week, between this week and next week." Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the U.S. should expect to see deaths continue to rise in this period.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 1,197,405 — Total deaths: 64,606 — Total recoveries: 246,152Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 308,850 — Total deaths: 8,407 — Total recoveries: 14,652Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. The virus is hitting poor, minority communities harder and upending childbirth.
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. "We're having the convention at the end of August."
  5. Business updates: Restaurants step up for health care workers. Employees are pressuring companies to provide protections during coronavirus.
  6. Oil latest: Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Education update: Many college-age students won't get coronavirus relief checks.
  8. 1 🏀 thing: The WNBA postpones start of training camps and season.
  9. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Spain tracks more cases than Italy

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Spain overtook Italy in its number of coronavirus cases on Saturday. The global death toll has surpassed 62,000, per Johns Hopkins data.

The latest: About half the planet's population is on lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis. Fatalities are exponentially increasing across Europe, with roughly half of deaths worldwide located in Italy and Spain.

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