With the revelation this week that Fox News helped Russian intelligence agents spread the vulgar conspiracy theory about Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich’s murder in 2016, we have entered a dark and dangerous place. We're at the point where a major American cable news channel teamed up with forces from a foreign adversary in order to damage a major political party in this country. What do we even call this? Treason? The fifth column inside the United States? We are so far beyond Fox News being a useful platform for Republicans to spread bits of partisan misinformation. We're talking about a huge, powerful media entity that essentially aligns itself with foreign agents to undermine American democracy from within. And no, that's not hyperbole. Those are the established facts, per a Yahoo News investigation.
“In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump’s White House,” Yahoo's Michael Isikoff writes.
Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony “bulletin” — disguised to read as a real intelligence report —about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol.
The “bulletin” was soon picked up by a Russian propaganda-friendly site, and during the next two years, Russian government-owned media organizations RT and Sputnik repeatedly played up stories that falsely claimed Rich, a junior-level staffer, was the source of Democratic Party emails that were leaked to WikiLeaks and dominated election campaign season news in 2016.