WASHINGTON, DC — The Washington Post’s explosive scoop that President Trump shared highly classified intelligence with Russian officials has dominated the headlines of media outlets around the nation since late Monday afternoon when the story broke. But conservative outlets like the Drudge Report and Breitbart are leading with an entirely different headline Tuesday: a supposed bombshell report from Fox 5 DC that indicates Seth Rich was in touch with Wikileaks before his death.
The conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, who was killed last July in what police believe was a botched robbery in D.C., was behind the Democratic National Committee leaks and was subsequently murdered by operatives on behalf of Hillary Clinton has been relegated to far-right websites with barely any acknowledgement from the mainstream media. But Fox 5 DC sent conservative websites into a frenzy Monday evening with the report that Rich may have been in contact with Wikileaks, the site that leaked the DNC’s emails, at some point before his death.
And Fox 5 did not mince words in their report, arguing that their findings represent solid evidence that Hillary Clinton essentially had someone murdered: “[O]nline conspiracy theories have tied the murder to Rich’s work at the DNC. Just two months shy of the one-year anniversary of Rich’s death, FOX 5 has learned there is new information that could prove these theorists right.”
However, their report is riddled with major problems.
The report relies entirely on Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who is looking into Rich’s death. Wheeler supposedly has “tangible” evidence that Rich has been in contact with Wikileaks.
But as the Fox 5 story continues, the tangible evidence never appears. Wheeler says only that he “believes” the answer to his death is on Rich’s computer, which is in the custody of authorities. The only piece of evidence Wheeler provides to Fox, other than his own belief, is an anonymous source in the police department who “looked at me straight in the eye and said, ‘Rod, we were told to stand down on this case and I can’t share any information with you.'”
Essentially, the entirety of Fox 5 DC’s bombshell story that Seth Rich was murdered for leaking DNC emails relies on a private investigator’s personal belief that a computer he has no access to contains damning information, and that a source in the police department told him of a strange atmosphere surrounding the investigation.
There’s another problem with the story: the source. Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and Trump supporter, is widely seen as a publicity hound with some major credibility issues. In his most infamous incident, he was ridiculed after going on The O’Reilly Factor in 2007 and claiming that approximately 150 pink pistol-packing lesbian gangs were raping young girls in the D.C. area, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Wheeler later issued a clarification and apology, saying he misspoke. O’Reilly also issued a clarification, but stood by the core of the story.
The Fox 5 story sent shockwaves through conservative media, which had been waiting for months for the mainstream media to pay any attention to the conspiracy theory. For them, it was vindication on the story they always knew to be true.
“Fox News: Seth Rich, Murdered DNC Staffer, ‘Leaked Thousands of Internal Emails to WikiLeaks’” roared the top headline on Breitbart Tuesday morning. “DEAD DNC STAFFER ‘HAD CONTACT’ WITH WIKILEAKS” has been the top story on the Drudge Report since the story broke. “Did Wash Post Publish Dubious Russia Story to Distract from Seth Rich Bombshell?” is the top headline on Alex Jones’ Infowars (during the campaign, Jones interviewed Trump, who expressed admiration for Jones’ work).
Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, cryptically retweeted the Fox 5 DC story. However, he’s refused to say whether Rich was his leaker, and it’s highly likely he would have no idea who leaked the emails, as the site promises complete anonymity to leakers.
The Fox 5 report claims the Wheeler is working on behalf of Rich’s family, but provides no evidence of this. In fact, Rich’s family have come out against the conspiracy theories, saying through a spokesman: “[S]ome are attempting to politicize this horrible tragedy, and in their attempts to do so, are actually causing more harm than good and impeding on the ability for law enforcement to properly do their job. For the sake of finding Seth’s killer, and for the sake of giving the family the space they need at this terrible time, they are asking for the public to refrain from pushing unproven and harmful theories about Seth’s murder.” (UPDATE: Shortly after this article was published, Buzzfeed posted a story with comments from Rich’s family slamming the new claims from Wheeler and Fox 5.)
Regardless, the story is likely to dominate headlines at conservative sites for a while, as the rest of the mainstream media turns its focus in an entirely different direction.
Funny how every major figure in the Seth Rich “parallel investigation” has shown a willingness in the past to do anything for publicity.
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) May 16, 2017
Image via Twitter and Fox 5 DC