Just one day after an RT anchor spoke out against Russia’s invasion of Crimea, a second anchor closed her show Wednesday by denouncing the same aggression, among other actions, and quitting right on the air. Then both of them appeared on CNN to explain and defend their moves.
RT, formerly Russia Today, is widely available on cable in the United States and in 100 countries abroad. It’s funded by the Russian government and rarely strays from the official line.
Probably by now you’ve read and heard a good deal about the first anchor, Abby Martin, and if not, you can catch up here. In short order, after her critique, RT said it would send her to Crimea to maybe learn more about what the troops from the home country were doing there, a kind offer she immediately refused. Then many media outlets, including The New York Times, published pieces on Martin’s history as a 9/11 “truther.” In any case, she was back on the air the next day.
Then the second anchor/reporter, Liz Wahl, dropped her bombshell, and went further (see video below). She said she can’t work for a TV network that “whitewashes the actions of Putin.” Many in the US applauded, while some pointed out that she had to know where the RT funding was coming from all this time.
Wahl, interviewed by The Daily Beast, claimed she’d been “disgusted” by what she had to report. While trying to stay “objective” she’s often been overruled by superiors. “It actually makes me feel sick that I worked there,” Wahl said. “It’s not a sound news organization, not when your agenda is making America look bad.”
She then went on CNN’s Anderson Cooper show (watch) and detailed pressure from management—and just today she had part of her interview with Ron Paul cut. As a reporter you need to “seek the truth,” she said, but RT is “not out for the truth” (though she knew that when she signed on) and merely “Putinist.”
Asked how RT will likely respond, she said she hadn’t seen an “official response.”
Well, she didn’t have to wait long. RT responded to Anderson Cooper’s people, who posted it on his site. Excerpt: “When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt.”
Wahl then went on on Piers Morgan’s CNN show and again accused RT of presenting “Putinist propaganda.” Piers asked why she went to work for RT to begin with. She replied, “That’s a very good question.” (No kidding.) She said she didn’t think there would be that much “propaganda” and “pressure.” Asked if she thinks Abby Martin should quit, she demured, saying Martin is allowed to speak out—because her “line” in her show is one RT likes (and can count on her backing).
Then Abby Martin went on Piers’s show and said she backs whatever Wahl chooses to do but she is not tempted to quit. Claiming she has full “independence,” she accused all of the TV networks in the US of being just as compliant with US policy and officials. “Corporate media” in US is no different than government-funded network, she claimed. Piers pushed back just a bit, suggesting that he spoke out often against US policy.
Well, Abby Martin has a point, to be sure, but apparently did not watch MSNBC in the final years of the Bush reign or Fox News every night of Obama’s two terms. Roll the video tape: Let’s see a few examples of more than a sliver of Putin criticism on RT (before this week).
The better point is how the American networks have gone along with so many US official lies and other nonsense—when, unlike RT, they didn’t really have to.
UPDATE Lengthy, and angry, response posted at RT.com by the network’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan. After hitting the US media reaction, it concludes:
I can see very clearly why I continue to work for a channel that stands alone (!) face-to-face with thousands and tens of thousands of Western news outlets, showing everybody the other side of the story, under daily attacks from the media against which it can hardly fight back. It’s my country. There is no other choice for me. But the foreign journalists who work for RT across the globe do have a choice. Some of them might be asking themselves, “Why would I have to defend Russia at the expense of my career, my future, my reputation, why would I tolerate humiliation by my fellow journalists?” Few can say “Because I’m telling the truth, and there’s no one else to tell it.” Some will fail to find the answer and quietly resign. Others will perform their resignation on air in a self-promotional stunt, perhaps securing fantastic career prospects they wouldn’t have dreamt of before.
By the way, CNN is now covering the leaked phone call on speculation about the deadly snipers in Kiev mentioned in the post.
Read Next: Stephen Cohen on how the American media misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine