WASHINGTON — Reporter Andrew Feinberg says a Russian state-owned news site he once worked for pressured him to advance a conspiracy theory about the fatal shooting of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.
Feinberg, who was the White House correspondent for Sputnik, first made his allegations when he left the Russian outlet in May. However, his story is newly relevant in light of a lawsuit filed this week that accused President Trump and the White House of playing a role in a “fake news” story designed to advance the same conspiracy theory.
Feinberg started at Sputnik in January, just as Trump took office. He was the outlet’s first reporter to work inside the West Wing. In a conversation with Yahoo News on Wednesday, Feinberg alleged Sputnik wanted him to bring up a news article that’s at the center of the lawsuit in the White House press briefing room.
The story, which was published on the Fox News website on May 16 and retracted one week later, suggested Rich may have played a role in last year’s leak of DNC emails. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded the email leak was orchestrated by the Russian government to help Trump defeat his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. There are multiple investigations into whether Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia.
Feinberg said that during a meeting held on May 26, his superiors asked him bring up the story in the press briefing.
“It was, ‘We want you to ask about Seth Rich and just, you know, ask about the case and if it those revelations should put an end to the Russia hacking narrative and the investigation,” said Feinberg.
According to Feinberg, his bosses handed him a termination letter when he declined. He described the situation as “disturbing.”
“It’s really telling that the White House is pushing the same narrative as a state run Russian propaganda outlet,” Feinberg said.
Feinberg previously discussed his departure from Sputnik with Yahoo News in May, on the day he left the news outlet. He said he didn’t initially have reservations about working for a government owned site but came to feel they wanted him to falsely “spin” the news.
“I thought as long as I just do what everyone else does … as long as I do the job fairly and accurately, I thought it would be OK,” Feinberg said at the time. “There are lots of state owned news outlets Sputnik’s not the only one.”
The lawsuit was filed by a Washington private investigator named Rod Wheeler in a New…