Reporter Goes Rogue on Russian News Network

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 21 2013 3:18 PM

Reporter Goes Rogue on Russian News Network, Blasts Kremlin's "Horrific" Homophobia

Critics of Russia's draconian new anti-gay law on Tuesday learned that the kissing Russian sprinters who provided what looked like an instantly iconic protest image weren't actually protesting anything after all. This being the Internet, however, the world didn't have to wait long for a new anti-Putin protest to help fill the void. It came Wednesday in the form of freelance American journalist James Kirchick, who went rogue during a segment on the Kremlin-funded and questionably independent RT (also known as Russia Today) to take the network to task for ignoring the gay-rights abuses happening in Russia.

As the above video suggests, Kirchick clearly arrived on set with a plan. You can see him pull on his rainbow-colored suspenders at the start of the clip as he quotes openly gay playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein. He then made it perfectly clear he had no desire to address the segment's planned topic—the sentencing of Bradley Manning—which he had presumably been booked to discuss. "You have 24 hours a day to lie about the United States and to ignore what's happening in Russia," Kirchick said as hosts attempted to steer him back to their topic of choice. "I'm going to take my two minutes and tell people the truth." Moments later, Kirchick's time as a guest was brought to an unceremonious end. (He "disappeared from the program’s split screen," as the Washington Beacon rather ominously put it.)

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The video largely speaks for itself, but two quick points: 1) Setting the topic of Kirchick's remarks aside for one second, any network control room would have likely made the same decision to cut off a guest once it became clear he was hijacking the segment (others, however, might not have gone as far as to allegedly try to cancel his taxi ride that followed mid-trip to the airport). And, 2) RT hasn't technically ignored Russia's anti-gay law. It's more an issue of how they've chosen to cover it, as the AtlanticWire pointed out earlier today. A small sampling of RT headlines will give you an idea of the pro-Kremlin tilt on display: "Russian Jews outraged after Stephen Fry compared gay propaganda ban to Nazi Germany"; "Russia's 'gay propaganda' law causes outrage abroad but finds support at home"; and "Anti-gay law controversy ‘invented by media’ – Russia’s sports minister."

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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