Russia Today Anchor Quits Over Ukraine Coverage; Former Host Says Network’s Credibility Is “Destroyed”

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 5 2014 6:25 PM

Russia Today Anchor Quits Over Ukraine Coverage; Former Host Says Network’s Credibility Is “Destroyed”

One of the odd features of covering libertarians and conservatives in Washington is that you bump into RT. The Kremlin-funded news network has been here for years, building up staffs of young reporters, with some of its talent finding work at HuffPost Live and MSNBC. Easy to see why; when, you know, Russia isn't currently invading a sovereign nation, RT is covering America from a declinist, civil libertarian perspective. RT's all over the WikiLeaks and Snowden stories; RT's covering Rand and Ron Paul whenever they make a peep.

Currently, Russia is invading a sovereign nation. Its coverage of the Crimean crisis has been as slanted to the Putin side of things as the average Boston fan blog is favorable to the Bruins and Red Sox. So far, two of RT's American on-air talents have revolted. First, Abby Martin (whose previous reporting and activism had delved into conspiracy theories about 9/11) told her viewers that she opposed "state violence" and Russia's war.

Advertisement

Today, RT reporter Liz Wahl ended her broadcast by condemning the invasion and announcing her resignation, effective then and there.

Shortly after Wahl did this, as the video was getting around, I talked to former RT host Adam Kokesh. In 2011 the libertarian anti-war veteran and activist had hosted a series called Adam vs. the Man. It didn't last long. He returned to activism, eventually getting arrested for purposefully violating D.C's gun laws (he held a gun, on camera, coincidentally across the street from the D.C. Council), then getting out of jail. 

"I've seen some of the horrendously biased coverage that's come out recently on RT," Kokesh told me over the phone. "When a news organization's becomes so that it challenges its credibility, people don't want to associate with it. I think that's what happened here. Their credibility is destroyed, and people who want to preserve their credibility will dissociate with them."

Kokesh had joined RT a while after the network covered Russia's intervention in Georgia. Had that bothered him, that association, at the time?

"When I was at RT, I maintain my standards and my editorial integrity absolutely," said Kokesh. "They knew that, and that was the primary reason they ended the show."

UPDATE: Jamie Kirchick, who definitely has earned dibs on all RT stories, talks to Wahl. She is torching anything that looks vaguely like a bridge.

“It actually makes me feel sick that I worked there,” Wahl says. “It’s not a sound news organization, not when your agenda is making America look bad.” As much as Wahl had to suppress her guilty conscience during the two-and-a-half-years she worked for RT, she believes it’s the networks viewers—1.2 billion on YouTube—who are hurt most by its constant and deliberate distortion of the truth. “In a way I feel bad for those people because they really believe strongly that we’re telling the truth and we’re on the right side. And that’s crazy to me.”

And Rosie Gray has a statement from RT, which labels its former host a grandstander who wouldn't "quit like a professional."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Votes to Remain in U.K.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Can Democrats Keep Counting on Republicans to Offend Women as a Campaign Strategy?

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 19 2014 11:36 AM Breaking Up Countries Is Still Hard to Do
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 19 2014 11:37 AM Why Urban Outfitters and Other Brands Troll Their Customers
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 19 2014 11:32 AM Why Do Pirates Talk Like That?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 11:51 AM This Is All That’s Left of New York’s Once-Thriving Borscht Belt 
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 11:40 AM Apple Invented the Perfect Way to Handle Your Giant New Phone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM The Curious Incident of the Supernova in the Nighttime
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.