A Fake News Story Was Discredited in Record Time

This story hit the wires yesterday, and when it showed up in my Facebook feed, I quickly identified it as a piece of fake news. I got into a back and forth with some low-level trolls, and was able to move on without even writing about the incident.

Well, what do you know?

Last July, a Democratic National Committee staffer named Seth Rich was shot to death in what police called a botched robbery attempt in Washington. No suspect yet has been found. Throughout the summer, showing the same kind of discretion it once extended to the family of Vince Foster, the wingnuttosphere was alive with speculation that the Clinton Death Squad once again was abroad in the land.

Which brings us to Monday's story, which appeared almost simultaneously with the Washington Post story about the president* and his relaxed attitude toward top-secret classified information. From Fox 5 DC:

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that. Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich's murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation. "The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming," said Wheeler. "They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both."

So the evidence for this blockbuster is on a computer that Wheeler never has seen and that he "believes" is locked away either by the FBI or the local cops in Washington. Oh, OK.

And Charlie Pierce goes on to correctly identify Rod Wheeler as a "source" when, in fact, he's a low-grade lunatic operating somewhere between Infowars and the fevered imagination of whoever used to book Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox. This is easily discredited bullshit, and if I can do it, you can do it, too.

This is the original story, which, of course, has been updated with a paragraph at the end that basically calls into question every reason why it was written in the first place:

POSTED:MAY 15 2017 10:41PM EDT

UPDATED:MAY 16 2017 02:21PM EDT

WASHINGTON - It has been almost a year since Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered in the nation's capital. There have been no solid answers about why he was killed until now.

Rich was shot and killed last July in Northwest D.C and police have suggested the killing in the District's Bloomingdale neighborhood was a botched robbery. However, online 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.

Family's private investigator: There is evidence Seth Rich had contact with WikiLeaks prior to death

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Wheeler's services were offered to the family and paid for by a third party, according to a statement issued by the Rich family Tuesday which also includes that "the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family." 

Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that.

Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich’s murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation.

"The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming,” said Wheeler. “They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both.”

When we asked Wheeler if his sources have told him there is information that links Rich to Wikileaks, he said, “Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed."

Wheeler also told us, "I have a source inside the police department that has 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.’ Now, that is highly unusual for a murder investigation, especially from a police department. Again, I don’t think it comes from the chief’s office, but I do believe there is a correlation between the mayor's office and the DNC and that is the information that will come out [Tuesday].

Wheeler told FOX 5 that he will provide us with a full report with the new details.

FOX 5's Melanie Alnwick spoke with D.C. Police on Tuesday and was told that Wheeler’s assertion that a source inside the department told him that detectives were instructed to stand down regarding the Rich case was false.

The family sent Alnwick a statement on Tuesday with the following statement:

"As we've seen through the past year of unsubstantiated claims, we see no facts, we have seen no evidence, we have been approached with no emails and only learned about this when contacted by the press. Even if tomorrow, an email was found, it is not a high enough bar of evidence to prove any interactions as emails can be altered and we've seen that those interested in pushing conspiracies will stop at nothing to do so. We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the void and distract law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth's murderers. The services of the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family." 

Look for this story to disappear at some point. That's why I'm archiving it here, in its entirety. Yesterday's troll tried to trade on Wheeler's status as a police detective. Fuck that shit. Wheeler just got caught in the kind of hyperbolic lie familiar to anyone who sits before a camera on Fox News. The gravy train is running off the rails so why not pretend to be a private investigator who knows something that will embarrass Democrats? This scam is going to be run again and again in the days and weeks ahead because the Trump Regime is flying apart. I expect we'll see a great deal of this because, hell, it works, doesn't it? It fools people. It reinforces their need to latch onto something phony and make it confirm their biases. It doesn't matter that it's ridiculous--all the better! It plays well on your buddy's paranoid feed, doesn't it?

These fuckers never give up. It took less than 24 hours to slap down a cynical attempt by the right wing media to deflect attention away from the dumpster fire that is the Trump Regime and create a new "right wing myth" about the Clintons, this one involving a young man shot down in the prime of life.

Seth Rich's death is a tragedy, and it should not be used by anyone to advance a political agenda. He should be allowed to rest in peace and every effort should be made to offer some measure of comfort and sympathy to his family. I can assure you, I write of this not to make something worse, but to highlight the actions of evil people and their agenda.

The fantastic Caroline O. breaks this down even further. She is really masterful at exposing bullshit.

UPDATE: