Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the White House had “nothing” to do with a fabricated story about the details surrounding the murder of former Democratic National Committee aide Seth Rich that is detailed in a new lawsuit obtained by TheWrap.
Fox News and a Donald Trump supporter worked together in order to distract viewers from growing concerns over the White House’s ties to Russia, according to claims made in the lawsuit. Spicer is mentioned in the lawsuit against the cable network that was filed by longtime Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler on Tuesday in the Southern District of New York. Wheeler said in the legal filing that Fox News and Trump supporter Ed Butowsky sought to shift public attention away from Russia and fabricated quotes to help the narrative — but Spicer doesn’t see it that way.
“Ed is a longtime supporter of the president’s agenda who often appears in the media. He asked for a 10 minute meeting, with no specific topic, to catch up and said he would be bringing along a contributor to Fox News. As Ed himself has noted, he has never met the President and the White House had nothing to do with this story,” Spicer told BuzzFeed.
The lawsuit says Butowsky “is a friend to Spicer.” The suit also says that prior to President Trump saying he wanted the story out “immediately,” Wheeler met with Spicer and provided him with a copy of his investigative notes.
“Spicer asked to be kept abreast of developments and, upon information and belief, Butowsky did keep Mr. Spicer abreast of developments,” the suit says.
During Tuesday’s White House press briefing Spicer’s successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied any wrongdoing.
“The president had no knowledge of this story and it’s completely untrue that he or the White House had any involvement in the story,” Sanders said. “It doesn’t bother me that the press secretary would take a meeting with somebody involved in the media about a story.”
“Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s not all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure,” Butowsky allegedly texted Wheeler (pictured below), according to the suit that was obtained by TheWrap.
The “president” referred to in the text message is Trump, the suit says.
“Incredibly, according to Butowsky, the President reviewed an article written by a Fox News journalist prior to its publication,” the suit continues.
However, Butowsky told NPR, which first obtained the suit, he was only kidding about Trump’s involvement.
The suit says that an article by reporter Malia Zimmerman was published to “establish that Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails to shift the blame from Russia.” Fox News eventually retracted the story about Rich, saying it did not meet the network’s “high degree of editorial scrutiny.”
Spicer stepped down as press secretary earlier this month but remains employed in the White House, helping with the transition process.