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As news of President Trump's mounting scandals broke this week, many right-leaning media outlets chose to focus instead on the apparent revelation that murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was allegedly in touch with WikiLeaks before "mysteriously" being killed. There is no concrete evidence to indicate anything fishy about Rich's murder — Washington, D.C., police say it was likely a botched attempted robbery. Still, Fox News published a "scoop" citing a "federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report … detailing the contents of Rich's computer" who claimed Rich had "made contact with WikiLeaks."
Almost immediately, Rich's family denied the story, blasting internet sleuths for unfounded conspiracy theories about Rich's death. Then Fox News' source, private investigator Rod Wheeler, told CNN that he actually had no evidence linking Rich to WikiLeaks:
Wheeler instead said 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.
Asked about a quote attributed to him in the Fox News story in which he said his "investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks," Wheeler said he was referring to information that had already been reported in the media. [CNN]
NBC News additionally reports that "local police in Washington, D.C., never even gave the FBI Rich's laptop to analyze after his murder," poking further holes in the Fox News report.
A spokesperson for Rich's family blamed outlets for publishing the unfounded rumor. Right-wing media has "shown over and over again that they are willing to lie and manipulate the facts" to further "their own political end," the spokesperson said.