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  • Seth Rich's family sends cease and desist to Fox News contributor behind evidence-free smears

    Rich family: “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress”

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    According to NBC News, the family of murdered DNC employee Seth Rich sent a cease and desist order to Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler after his recent allegations led right wing media figures to smear Rich as the person responsible for providing WikiLeaks with DNC emails. Wheeler alleged that the murder was somehow related to a purported relationship between Rich and WikiLeaks, despite finding no evidence that Rich had ever been in contact with WikiLeaks. The Rich family previously demanded an apology but did not receive one.

    In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 quoted Rod Wheeler as saying  “a source inside the police department” told him the department was “told to stand down on this case.” Wheeler also claimed it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. According to CNN, “no real evidence has been provided to support such claims and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department.”

    Right-wing media seized on this story with Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs smearing Rich as potentially being behind the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.  The right-wing One America News Network has also fueled the conspiracy, even offering $100,000 for information about Rich’s death during a conspiracy-fueled report.

    Conservative media’s exploitation of the Seth Rich murder spurred the family to threaten Wheeler with legal action, saying, “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the family.” From a May 19 NBC News report:

    The family of slain Democratic staffer Seth Rich is threatening legal action against a private investigator after his "outrageous behavior" has given fuel to right-wing conspiracy theories about the unsolved murder of their son.

    An attorney representing the family of Rich, who was 27 when he was killed last July, sent a cease and desist letter Friday to Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former Washington, D.C., homicide detective who was employed by the family and earlier this week told a Fox affiliate that he believed police were covering up details about the crime.

    "Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous, and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the Family," wrote Joseph Ingrisano of the law firm Katuk Rock, according to a copy of the letter shared exclusively with NBC News.

    "Your improper and unauthorized statements, many of which are false and have no basis in fact, have also injured the memory and reputation of Seth Rich and have defamed and injured the reputation and standing of the members of the Family," Ingrisano continued.

    The letter demands Wheeler "immediately and permanently" cease and desist from making any comments about Seth Rich or his death and suggests he could face further legal action either way.

  • Family Of Slain DNC Staffer Demands Apology From Fox News For Pushing Baseless Smears About Their Son

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The family of Seth Rich, a former staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was murdered last July, is demanding that Fox News and a local DC Fox affiliate retract and apologize for their reporting on Rich’s death. Fox alleged that the murder was somehow related to Rich’s alleged relationship with WikiLeaks despite finding no evidence that Rich had ever been in contact with WikiLeaks.

    In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 quoted Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who was once hired by the Rich’s family to investigate his death, claimed that “a source inside the police department” told him that the department was “told to stand down on this case.” Wheeler also said it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. According to CNN, “no real evidence has been provided to support such claims and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department.”

    Right-wing media seized on this story as a way to deflect from President Trump’s downward spiral. Fox personalities Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs reported on the story, despite Wheeler’s lack of evidence, or any evidence to support the WikiLeaks theory of Rich’s death. In fact, Hannity continued to push the conspiracy theory during his Wednesday radio program. Right-wing media’s tasteless exploitation of the Seth Rich spurred the family to demand a retraction. From the May 17 CNN report:

    The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was fatally shot last July, is demanding retractions from Fox News and WTTG-TV on Wednesday for their inaccurate reports on the unsolved murder, a spokesman for the family told CNN Wednesday.

    "The family is officially asking for a retraction and an apology from Fox News and from the Fox 5 DC affiliate for inaccurate reporting and damaging the legacy of their son," spokesman Brad Bauman said.

    This week, both Fox News and WTTG-TV published and aired reports, sourced to private investigator Rod Wheeler, that said evidence showed Rich had been in contact with Wikileaks before his death. Wheeler later told CNN he had no such evidence and that he had, in fact, only heard of some information attributed to him from a Fox News reporter with whom he spoke.

    A FoxNews.com story on the case also cited a "federal source" who said the FBI had conducted a forensic analysis of Rich's computer and discovered thousands of emails with Wikileaks. But a law enforcement official told CNN that the FBI never had possession of Rich's laptop and did not conduct a forensic analysis of its contents.

    Neither Fox News nor WTTG-TV have issued corrections to their reports. Multiple requests for comment made to both outlets were not returned.

    Update: Fox News issued the following statement in response to criticism of their reporting and sources changing their story. In an email statement to HuffPost, Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital said, "We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants":

    Fox News and Fox 5 published separate stories about the supposed links on Tuesday. But since then, the main source has changed his story, D.C. police and the FBI have disputed the most explosive claims, and Rich’s family has called on the network and station to issue retractions, saying that “inaccurate reporting” is “damaging the legacy” of Rich, a 27-year-old DNC staffer who was slain as he walked to his D.C. home.

    Fox News isn’t budging.

    “We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants,” Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital, said in an email statement to HuffPost on Wednesday afternoon. The network has not addressed the questions and apparent discrepancies surrounding its story.

    Fox 5 didn’t respond to multiple HuffPost requests for comment about its article. A spokesperson for the station told DCist it was standing by the story.

  • Right-Wing Media Refuses To Blame Trump For GOP Health Care Defeat 

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Republicans “abruptly” withdrew their health care bill, which signaled the first legislative defeat for President Donald Trump. After the bill's failure, media figures blamed Democrats, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), and legislators instead of  Trump who adopted and pushed for the bill’s passage.

  • CPAC Got Rid Of Milo, But Not The Rest Of Their Bigoted Lineup

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has rescinded the speaking offer its leadership made to former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who has a history of bigotry, following the circulation of a video in which Yiannopoulos appeared to endorse pedophilia. Yet Yiannopoulos isn’t the only person scheduled to speak at the 2017 CPAC who has a history of making offensive remarks; the conference’s roster is full of speakers who push xenophobic or otherwise discriminatory agendas and action and buy into conspiracy theories.

  • Echoing Trump, Fox Casts Doubt On FBI's Probe Into Clinton's Emails

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News personalities are echoing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, which claimed that the FBI would not have been able to “review 650,000 emails in eight days” to cast doubt on the bureau’s probe into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. However, experts point out that the FBI is able to do so using technology such as “automated search and filtering tools.”

  • The Daily Beast On How FBI Alumni Are Using Fox News To Attack Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Kallstrom on Fox News

    Writing at The Daily Beast, Wayne Barrett takes note of the pipeline between conservative FBI agents (both active and retired) and Fox News. Figures like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and current Donald Trump surrogate, as well as James Kallstrom, the former head of the New York City FBI office, have appeared on the network and used its air to amplify the grievances of these agents.

    Barrett reports that Kallstrom has “been on an anti-Comey romp for months, most often on Fox, where he’s called the Clintons as a ‘crime family.’” Appearing on The Kelly File, Kallstrom claimed that agents involved in the Clinton investigation were “P.O.’d” that President Obama said the Clinton emails weren’t a national security issue and compared the statement to “someone driving another nail in the coffin of the criminal justice system.”

    After FBI Director James Comey cleared Clinton of wrongdoing in the email investigation, Kallstrom made more appearances on Fox News and alleged that agents “both on the job and off the job” were “worried about the reputation of the agency they love.” Kallstrom again used Fox as a platform for his views, endorsing Trump on Stuart Varney’s Fox Business show, describing Clinton as a “pathological liar.”

    Kallstrom responded to Comey’s letter to congressional leaders telling them that the agency would be reviewing newly discovered emails with yet another Fox appearance.

    Kallstrom’s victory tour this weekend also included an appearance on Fox with former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, another close associate of Pataki’s, who complained on air that she’d been the victim in 2006 when word emerged that the U.S attorney and FBI were probing her in the midst of a race she eventually lost to Andrew Cuomo to become New York Attorney General.

    Her concern about the political impact of law enforcement leaks, though, didn’t extend to Democrat Hillary Clinton. “He couldn’t hold on to this any longer,” Kallstrom said of Comey. “Who knows, maybe the locals would’ve done it,” he added, a reference to leaks that elicited glee from Pirro, who echoed: “New York City, that’s my thing!”

    […]

    He declined to explain why Megyn Kelly stated as a fact that he was in contact with agents “involved” in the case. Asked in a follow up email if he suggested or encouraged any particular actions in his exchanges with active agents, Kallstrom replied: “No.”

    “Now, I’m supporting Comey,” Kallstrom told me on the phone, adding that he can’t do or say anything else before election day. “He can’t characterize” what the bureau has from the Weiner emails. “The FBI can’t say anything without having all the information,” Kallstrom contends, just after telling me he supports the FBI director who’s under fire for having done just that.

    [..]

    It’s clear enough, though, why when Comey sent a note to FBI staff on Friday explaining his decision to inform Congress about the renewed Clinton probe, the scoop about that internal memo went to Fox News. Why Kallstrom gets booked to talked about the Clintons a “crime family.” Why Clinton Cash author Peter Schweitzer, caught in a web of Breitbart and Trump conflicts, would announce on Fox that he was asked in August to sit down with New York office FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation (with The New York Times reporting this week that the agents were relying largely on his discredited work when they pitched a fullscale probe).

    Fox is the pipeline for the fifth column inside the bureau, a battalion that says it’s doing God’s work, chasing justice against those who are obstructing it, while, in fact, it’s doing GOP work, even on the eve of a presidential election.