The attorneys representing a private eye suing Fox News for allegedly fabricating conspiratorial quotes from him about the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich want to drop him as a client.
Wigdor LLP attorney Michael J. Willemin on Monday filed a motion in court to no longer represent Rod Wheeler, citing an “irrevocable breakdown of the attorney-client relationship.”
Wheeler first sued Fox News, its parent company 21st Century Fox, reporter Malia Zimmerman, and right-wing money man Ed Butowsky in August 2017, alleging the network “clearly fabricated” quotes from him “to lend support to the claim that Seth Rich, and not the Russians, was the source for the DNC emails released on WikiLeaks.”
He included in the original lawsuit transcripts from a conversation with reporter Zimmerman in which, following the article’s publication, she admitted that Wheeler never said “the part about the emails” or “about the connection to WikiLeaks.”
The article in question was infamously retracted by Fox News days after publication, saying it failed to meet network “standards.”
Wheeler, a former paid Fox contributor, additionally alleged that Fox News, Butowsky, and the Trump White House all coordinated on the story suggesting the Democratic National Committee was behind Rich’s murder as part of an effort to “lift the cloud” of the ongoing probe of alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Wheeler is an ex-detective with a penchant for making outlandish claims. In 2007, he reported on The O’Reilly Factor that more than 150 “violent lesbian gangs” armed with 9-millimeter handguns in the D.C. area alone were “performing sex acts” and “committing crimes.” He was forced to retract his claims, but was allowed to remain a Fox News contributor. That same year, he claimed to the National Enquirer that “there is a good possibility that the D.C. Madam’s list contains the name of [missing FBI intern] Chandra [Levy]’s killer!” He provided no evidence.
In his filing, Willemin did not explain what exactly led to an “irrevocable breakdown” in relationship with Wheeler, but offered to provide additional information to the court in private.
Manhattan-based Wigdor LLP additionally represents at least 23 other plaintiffs alleging defamation, sexual harassment, or racial discrimination by Fox News. The New York Times reported last year that the firm’s efforts, including the Wheeler case, “have amounted to a Normandy-like assault against the network that has threatened Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, with damages in excess of $100 million.”