FOX News responds to lawsuit claiming it concocted Seth Rich story with White House knowledge

FOX News on Tuesday responded to a lawsuit claiming it worked with White House knowledge to deflect attention from investigations about the Trump campaign's ties with the Russian government by publishing a "fake news" story, calling it "completely erroneous."

On Monday, FOX News commentator Rod Wheeler filed a lawsuit in which he alleges that FOX News reporter Malia Zimmerman fabricated quotes from him in an attempt to show that the July 2016 death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was somehow connected to his communication with WikiLeaks.

The story, which was published in May, was subsequently retracted.

Click through images of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich and his family:

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Slain DNC staffer Seth Rich and his family
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Slain DNC staffer Seth Rich and his family
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 4: Mary Rich, the mother of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich, gives a press conference in Bloomingdale on August 1, 2016. Seth Rich was gunned down in the DC neighborhood a month ago and the Rich's were imploring people for any information they may have about his killer. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
OMAHA, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 11: (L-R) Mary Rich and her husband, Joel Rich talk about the loss of their son in their home in Omaha, Nebraska, on January 11, 2017. Seth Rich, a 27-year-old staffer for the Democratic National Committee, was killed in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2016. (Photo by Matt Miller for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
OMAHA, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 11: (L-R) Mary Rich and her husband, Joel Rich hold a photo of their son in their home in Omaha, Nebraska, on January 11, 2017. Seth Rich, a 27-year-old staffer for the Democratic National Committee, was killed in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2016. (Photo by Matt Miller for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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"The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman's story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion issue is completely erroneous," Jay Wallace, the network's president of news, said in a statement Tuesday.

He added: "The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally and we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman. Additionally, FOX News vehemently denies the race discrimination claims in the lawsuit — the dispute between Zimmerman and Rod Wheeler has nothing to do with race."

The lawsuit claims that FOX used Wheeler to detract coverage of the Russia investigation and published the story with the "full ... attention of the White House," including President Donald Trump.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday said Trump had "no knowledge" of the story before it was published.

The Democratic National Committee, which has rejected many right-wing conspiracy theories about Rich's death, said if the allegations were true, "it is beyond vile" that the White House "would use the murder of a young man to distract the public's attention from their chaotic administration and Trump's ties to Russia." Rich's parents have repeatedly asked those trying to connect their son's deaths to some kind of political conspiracy to stop.

"There is no excuse for the suffering that Trump's associates and their conspirators at FOX have caused the Rich family and those closest to him," Xochitl Hinojosa, the DNC's communications director, told Business Insider in an email. "Both parties should denounce these sick and twisted tactics."

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