August 2, 2017 8:58 am -

I used to joke that NPR stood for “Nice, polite Republicans.” I may have to start taking that back – because NPR has a big scoop.

The Fox News Channel and a wealthy supporter of President Trump worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House to concoct a story about the death of a young Democratic National Committee aide, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The explosive claim is part of a lawsuit filed against Fox News by Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid commentator for the news network. The suit was obtained exclusively by NPR.

Wheeler alleges Fox News and the Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration’s ties to the Russian government. His suit charges that a Fox News reporter created quotations out of thin air and attributed them to him to propel her story. …

The story, which first aired in May, was retracted by Fox News a week later. Fox News has, to date, taken no action in response to what it said was a failure to adhere to the network’s standards.

The lawsuit focuses particular attention on the role of the Trump supporter, Ed Butowsky, in weaving the story. He is a wealthy Dallas investor and unpaid Fox commentator on financial matters who has emerged as a reliable Republican surrogate in recent years. Butowsky offered to pay for Wheeler to investigate the death of the DNC aide, Seth Rich, on behalf of his grieving parents in Omaha, Neb.

On April 20, a month before the story ran, Butowsky and Wheeler — the investor and the investigator — met at the White House with then-press secretary Sean Spicer to brief him on what they were uncovering.

The first page of the lawsuit quotes a voicemail and text from Butowsky boasting that Trump himself had reviewed drafts of the Fox News story just before it went to air and was published.

Spicer now tells NPR that he took the meeting as a favor to Butowsky. Spicer says he was unaware of any contact involving the president. And Butowsky tells NPR that he was kidding about Trump’s involvement.

The NPR article does a thorough job of filling in the back story and should be read in its entirety. But it’s hard to believe that Donald Trump, who loves to use trash news to attack his opponents, would not know about this matter – particularly given that everyone in his orbit knows that.

And yesterday on CNN, Chris Cuomo reduced Ed Butowsky to a blathering pile of contradictions:

The reason that Trump and his minions are pushing this transparent bullpuckey is pretty obvious: distraction.

Fake conspiracies, it turns out, are Trump’s best weapon for hiding the actual conspiracy it looks like he or his staff actually engaged in.

“The landscape has basically been saturated with fairy tales, conspiracies and deliberate disinformation,” Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters, explained to Salon. “When you have a large portion of the news cycle being consumed by a conversation around conspiracies, that people get fatigued.”

Polling backs up Carusone’s observations. Voters are fatigued and confused by the Russia story and a majority of them don’t seem to understand that there is now pretty close to a smoking gun-level proof of collusion (especially with Donald Trump Jr.’s email exchange) between the campaign and Russian agents.

Nevertheless, these ginned-up, actionable distractions are an important story, as they display the Trump regime’s dishonesty, amorality, and contempt for their own easily-fooled supporters.

But it should be a bigger story. The reality-based news media needs to beat the drum about this example of FOX News backing a completely bogus news story. We were pleased to see MSNBC’s Morning Joe devoting a considerable amount of their air time to this story this morning – but where are the calls to take FOX News off of cable systems or even pull broadcast licenses of FOX statios??

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.