CNN hit the mother lode of bizarre interviews Tuesday night when Chris Cuomo, sitting in for Don Lemon, engaged in an interview with wealthy Republican donor Ed Butowsky, who is at the center of a bombshell lawsuit that accuses Fox News and Donald Trump’s White House of coordinating to push a fake news story about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich. The full interview lasted for about 20 minutes, with Butowsky mostly unable or unwilling to give Cuomo straight answers.
The lawsuit was filed by former Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler, a Washington-based private investigator who claims quotes attributed to him in the story were fabricated. The story claims Rich leaked a trove of DNC emails to WikiLeaks and insinuates that he was murdered by the DNC in retribution for those leaks.
The story was designed, the lawsuit claims, to discredit U.S. intelligence that has determined that Russian hackers attacked the DNC. Fox News commentator Sean Hannity ran with the story for a week, angering Rich’s parents, before Fox News eventually retracted the story from its website.
Butowsky apparently hired Wheeler to investigate Rich’s murder, but he immediately denied Wheeler’s allegation that there was coordination between the White House and Fox News. He claimed that Wheeler is “dead broke” and wanted a job in the Trump administration.
The discussion then moved to Butowsky’s meeting with former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Spicer initially denied having the meeting, but has since acknowledged that it occurred.
Butowsky claims he doesn’t know Spicer well, though he managed to get an appointment without telling Spicer why he wanted to meet. Butowsky said they ultimately talked more about shirts than Seth Rich.
As for the retracted story, Butowsky said Fox News pulled it because of Wheeler’s complaints about misquotes, not because of concerns over accuracy. Butowsky claimed Wheeler had a crush on an anchor and leaked the details to her before the story was published, leading to the inaccurate quotes circulating in the media.
Butowsky took the interview in an attempt to clear his name from the allegations in the explosive lawsuit, but the more information he offered, the more byzantine and confusing the case became.