The wealthy Republican donor at the center of an explosive lawsuit accusing Fox News of coordinating with the White House to publish a fabricated story connecting slain DNC staffer Seth Rich to WikiLeaks appeared Tuesday evening on CNN.
And, as you can imagine, it was a nutty affair.
Ed Butowsky, the Texas-based money manager named by Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler as having allegedly worked between the White House and Fox on the now-retracted story, opened the interview with host Chris Cuomo by accusing Wheeler of simply wanting a job.
CNN previously played voicemail recordings, provided by Wheeler, showing Butowsky bragging that the Rich conspiracy story had the “full attention of the White House” as a way to pressure Wheeler into making on-record claims about the DNC staffer’s unfounded connection to WikiLeaks.
Much to the astonishment of Cuomo, Butowksy explained away the voice recording as such: “The voicemail that I left for him about the full attention of the White House, that had to do with Joey Della-Camera, the D.C. detective and the D.C. detective wanted to come out and talk because he has a lot of information.”
“Why would a D.C. detective equal the White House in your voicemail?” Cuomo asked as Butowsky stammered to explain. “How does a D.C. detective get coded as White House? What does he have to do with the White House?”
While failing to give a coherent answer (“He wanted whistleblower status, according to Rod Wheeler,” was one attempt at it), Butowsky’s eyes darted around the camera. When asked why he wouldn’t have just called Della-Camera “the D.C. guy” instead of “the White House,” he once again failed to make much sense:
“Well, what I said was Rod Wheeler had asked me to see what we could do to see if I could help this guy and I just simply made some calls. I never talked to anybody at the White House,” he said. “By the way, I’ve never talked to President Trump in my life and President Trump nor the White House has anything to do with any of this.”
In addition to the voicemail, Wheeler provided a screenshot of a text message from Butowsky, in which the bankroller wrote that “president [Trump] just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure.”
Butowsky’s explanation? It was “out of context” because “Rod Wheeler had been asking me for a long time, and said, ‘Ed, when I get this case settled, the president’s gonna hire me’... So this was just tongue-in-cheek, talking, just texting, wasn’t serious because Rod Wheeler was always looking for a job because he has no money.”
Asked about his previous statement to NPR that the Trump-related text was just a joke, Butowsky once again sputtered: “It wasn’t a joke that was funny how—Rod Wheeler had been, y’know, talking to me all the time about how much he wanted to get a job. He said, ‘Get me on the Trump team, please get me with Sessions’... It was just two guys, me basically finding a way to just kinda chat with him about stuff he’s been talking to me about.”
The big-money man repeatedly suggested throughout the interview that his words were simply being taken out of context.
As Cuomo noted, however: “The problem is: They’re your words, Ed.”