Outspoken financial adviser Ed Butowsky, who earlier this week found himself at the center of a bombshell lawsuit alleging he was directly involved in concocting a phony news story about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, said in an interview Friday afternoon that those claims are false.
"I didn't make up any story," said Mr. Butowsky, who is managing director of Chapwood Investments and speaks frequently at industry congerences. "Everything in this [lawsuit] is a bunch of nonsense."
As first reported by National Public Radio on Tuesday, the complaint charges that the Fox News Channel and Mr. Butowsky "worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House to concoct a story about the death of a young DNC aid," Seth Rich, who was murdered in Washington last summer.
The complaint, filed by Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former Washington D.C. police homicide detective, alleges defamation and characterizes Mr. Butowsky as a frequent contributor for Fox News and Fox Business Channel and an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and opponent to Hillary Clinton.
"The motivation behind the article: establish that Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails to shift the blame from Russia and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the outcome of the Presidential election," the lawsuit alleges. "Incredibly, according to Butowsky, the President reviewed an article written by a Fox News journalist prior to its publication and sought to have the article published 'immediately.'"
The Fox News reporter, Malia Zimmerman, with the knowledge and support of Mr. Butowsky, fabricated two quotes about a connection between Mr. Rich and Wikileaks as well as a DNC coverup of the murder investigation, according to the complaint.
Mr. Wheeler's suit claims he did not make those statements and they were falsely attributed to him.
Fox News aired the story in May and then retracted it a week later, according to NPR. Mr. Butowsky, along with Fox News and Ms. Zimmerman, are the defendants in the complaint.
Acting as a concerned parent, Mr. Butowsky said he had reached out to the parents of Mr. Rich last December after hearing rumors and speculation regarding their son uploading information to Wikileaks, the website that publishes classified and secret information. Later, he offered to help them pay for a private investigator and eventually introduced them to Mr. Wheeler. Mr Butowsky, who said Mr. Wheeler was "broke," paid him $5,000 on behalf of the Riches.
Regarding the lawsuit's allegations, "none of that is true," Mr. Butowsky said, adding that he was not involved in President Trump's campaign and did not raise money for the campaign. "Rod Wheeler was broke and wanted to get a job at the White House."
"It's not unusual or surprising that a defendant in any case would deny the allegations we have," said Michael Willemin, an attorney for Mr. Wheeler. "In the case are documented and numerous statements verified through email, voice mail, recorded conversation or text messages. We feel very confident we are going to establish the truth of Mr. Wheeler's allegations."
Mr. Butowsky said he and Mr. Wheeler met former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in April and spoke for a couple of minutes about a recorded conversation Mr. Butowsky had with an investigative reporter about Mr. Rich and Wikileaks. According to Mr. Butowsky, Mr. Spicer quickly changed the subject and they spent the remainder of the conversation discussing men's clothing.
"We mostly spoke about shirts," Mr. Butowsky said. "I was trying to help Rod Wheeler get a job."
"As to the point of Mr. Wheeler's financial situation, that is just not true," said Mr. Willemin. "Mr. Butowsky hired Mr. Wheeler for his credibility in this area. Text messages that Mr. Butowsky sent just before meeting with Sean Spicer show that the purpose of the meeting was not for employment but Mr. Butowsky's desire to discuss the progress of the investigation into the Seth Rich murder."
Asked to comment, Fox News responded in an email. "Fox News has retained outside counsel on the matter," a spokesperson said. "Given that this is pending litigation, there will be no further comment."
Mr. Butowksy said his clients have been very supportive in the face of the allegations. "They know none of this stuff is accurate."