White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday denied that President Donald Trump had any knowledge of a Fox News story about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich, which was later retracted.
NPR reported early Tuesday that one Fox News contributor had filed a lawsuit alleging the White House was involved in the story.
“Did the President know about the story pre-publication, and did he have an influence on the way the story was written?” the New York Times’ Glenn Thrush asked at a press briefing.
“The President had no knowledge of the story, and it’s completely untrue that he or the White House had involvement in the story,” Sanders said. “Beyond that, this is ongoing litigation, and I’d refer you to the actual parties involved, which aren’t the White House.”
The Fox News contributor who filed the lawsuit against the network, Rod Wheeler, alleged, among other things, that the Trump donor and fellow Fox News contributor Ed Butowsky tried to pressure him by sending a text message: “Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you.” Butowsky told NPR he was joking with Wheeler, and never sent the story to Trump.
Ousted White House press secretary Sean Spicer did acknowledge to NPR that he met with the pair weeks before the story was published, but said they were “just informing me of the [Fox] story” and “[i]t had nothing to do with advancing the president’s domestic agenda — and there was no agenda.”
Thrush followed up: “Does it disturb you that there’s an allegation out there in a lawsuit — and Sean Spicer admitted meeting with these two individuals — that this was discussed in your White House?”
Sanders interjected: “He met with members of the media, I don’t find that to be a strange thing. You guys are all members of the media.”
“He met with that reporter, and he met with a campaign donor,” Thrush said, noting the story “was later retracted because it was false.” “Does it disturb you, does it say anything about this White House that you would entertain that kind of story?
“It doesn’t bother me that the press secretary would take a meeting with somebody involved in the media about a story,” Sanders said, adding: “The President didn’t have knowledge of the story. The White House didn’t have any involvement in the story.”