Wheeler, as it turns out, was a Fox News analyst, vocal Trump supporter and conspiracy theorist who was being paid by another Fox News pundit, Ed Butowsky. His death, which police say appeared to be the result of a botched robbery, has become the subject of a popular right-wing theory, driven primarily by social media, that alleges that he was killed as payback for handing off thousands of emails to WikiLeaks that revealed embarrassing details about the inner workings of the DNC.
"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", Braud Bauman, the family's representative, said.
Since Rod Wheeler backtracked Tuesday, FOX 5 DC attempted incessantly to communicate with him, but he didn't return calls or emails.
The identity of FoxNews.com's alleged federal source has not been released. According to CNNMoney, they want retractions not only from Fox News, but from WTTG-TV, where the reporting this week originated. The WTTG-TV news director did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Both stories relied heavily on an account provided by Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler, who was identified as a private investigator hired by Rich's family.
"Now, that is highly unusual for a murder investigation, especially from a police department".
Those claims have been discounted by Federal Bureau of Investigation officials who said that Washington police did not hand over the laptop, and by a former law enforcement official with first-hand knowledge of the laptop who said that it did not contain any emails related to WikiLeaks.More news: Banks to fight 'fast and loose' $6.2b tax
Wheeler conceded that he never once saw Rich's emails or his computer: "I have never seen the emails myself directly".
Brad Bauman, a spokesman for the Rich family, said Tuesday that the stories were an effort to spread a "political agenda".
Rich's killing has been the subject of intrigue, with speculation centered on Russian Federation, the DNC and the bitter presidential campaign.
It seems that no matter how unreliable and discredited this story gets, conservative outlets will likely stand by it.
All of that chatter continued yesterday in spite of Rich's family being demonstrably against the politicization of the staffer's death and numerous sources with information on the murder investigation coming forward to contradict the Fox reports.
Wheeler said he worked for D.C. police from 1989 to 1998 and was at one time a detective in the homicide unit.
The explosive headlines quickly spread across conservative media ― from Breitbart to The Drudge Report to Fox News' Sean Hannity ― throughout the day Tuesday. Will they reach out to him and confirm the Fox News claim that Seth Rich was emailing Gavin MacFadyen, a now deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time? Rich was shot to death last July. MacFadyen, the apparent recipient, died of lung cancer last October.
But as of Wednesday evening, the story prominently features a quote from Wheeler at odds with his actual findings. But in a message to Newsweek on Tuesday, Wheeler said the Fox News report was misleading and that his information was secondhand from that "federal investigator".