US intelligence agencies have pointed toward the Russia Today television channel as part of an ongoing effort to prove the Kremlin conducted a pro-Trump “influence campaign” in the run-up to the presidential election.
The long-awaited and recently declassified intelligence report into Russian influence in the election claimed that Russia’s “state-run propaganda machine” contributed to this influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to both Russian and international audiences. The report dedicated seven of its 25 pages to RT America—an offshoot from RT’s main Moscow-based international operation—which is funded by the Russian government.
But it’s not just intelligence agencies characterizing RT America as a vehicle for pro-Trump messaging. The accusation has become a common theme across traditional US media outlets as anti-Russia hawks and both liberal and conservative analysts seek to discredit anyone who strays from the accepted narrative on RT as a Kremlin stooge.
The problem with the claim that RT America is pro-Trump is that it is simply false. Many of the channel’s biggest names were either ardently anti-Trump or highly skeptical of what a Trump presidency might mean for America.
Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, who hosts the show On Contact, was consistently anti-Trump in his outlook. Hedges has called Trump “woefully unprepared” for the presidency and said his election could mean the creation of a “draconian police state.”
Stalwart liberal Thom Hartmann, who hosts The Big Picture, has aired programs with names like: “Dictator Trump Threatens Free Speech,” “Why Trump’s Cabinet Is a Basket of Deplorables,” “How Trump Could Bring on the Crash of 2016,” “Does Trump Mean the End of the Internet as We Know It?,” “Why Trump’s Win Is a Koch Coup Against Our Democracy” and “Is Donald Trump the Master of BS?”—to name a few.
Larry King, one of America’s best-known interviewers, who now hosts Politicking on RT America, interviewed Trump himself. After introducing the then–GOP nominee as a “good friend,” King proceeded to push back against Trump on a number of issues, including his “secret plan” to defeat ISIS.