Not long after she resigned on-air from RT on Wednesday, Liz Wahl made a number of allegations against her newly former employer in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper: That her employer was heavy-handed, committed to bashing the United States and otherwise just not committed to “the truth.”
That night, the Erik Wemple Blog sought out an interview with RT to get their take on Wahl’s allegations, which came in the midst of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis. No interview, came the reply from RT. Try e-mail. So we passed along a number of questions to RT, and early this morning the answers came back, via Anna Belkina, RT’s “chief press service specialist.”
Issue No. 1: Wahl alleged that an interview she’d done with Ron Paul included a question about how the United States should respond to the Ukraine crisis. That question, she told Cooper, had been deleted from the interview. RT responds that the interview “aired originally during the 4 pm broadcast in full, including the question/answer Ms. Wahl was referring to.” It is also available here, notes RT’s Belkina, who also points out that Paul himself has expressed support for the interview.
That’s a “lie,” counters Wahl in an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog. A video-editing colleague of Wahl’s, she says, was instructed to cut out a part of the video in which Wahl asked, “How do you feel about the Russian invasion into the Ukraine.” “I wasn’t allowed to use the term ‘Russian invasion,'” says Wahl, saying that RT management would have been happier with “humanitarian” mission.
Compare for yourself:
This YouTube version of the interview contains this Wahl-to-Paul question (7:19): “What do you think we should do in light of current events, what’s happening over there with Russia invading? How do you think the United States should respond to that action?”
Now check out the version that’s on the RT website. Here, Wahl’s question is a bit more clipped (7:15): “What do you think we should do in light of current events?”
Issue No. 2: Wahl complained about how RT was characterizing the Ukrainian opposition, saying specifically that the outlet was playing up neo-Nazi elements.
RT replies that the “presence of these elements was confirmed not just by RT’s own reporting” — here and here — but also by other news organizations: BBC, The Nation, Channel 4 UK and the Daily Beast.
Wahl tells the Erik Wemple Blog that her gripe is that RT is “trying to demonize the opposition as a whole.” As she told Cooper on Wednesday night, there are some neo-Nazi “elements” in the opposition, but RT is casting the “opposition as completely” extremist.
Issue No. 3: In her CNN interview, Wahl said that since this crisis started, there have been very “loaded” questions coming from management. When asked about that allegation, RT told the Erik Wemple Blog that “Ms. Wahl would have to clarify which questions she was referring to and what she meant by ‘loaded.'”
Wahl tells the Erik Wemple Blog that she’ll be providing examples of such questions.
Issue No. 4: The Putinist perspective on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, said Wahl on CNN, has been driven more and more aggressively.
When queried on that matter, RT said they have “always covered international news from an alternative perspective, and, when relevant, represented Russia’s perspective on Russia-related news events. Developments of the last several months – from Syria’s chemical weapons disarmament to the Sochi Olympics to the crisis in Ukraine – have drawn Russia into unprecedented levels of international media spotlight. Every outlet is discussing Russia in one context or another on a daily basis. RT’s editorial line has not changed throughout this time.”
No quarrel from Wahl, who interprets the statement as affirming that RT has been “consistently pro-Putin.”
Issue No. 5: When asked by Cooper why she resigned this week instead of anytime over the past two years, Wahl replied that in the current crisis, “the propagandous nature of RT came out in full force.” The Erik Wemple Blog asked RT if this was an example of opportunism on Wahl’s part, and here’s the response:
Only Ms. Wahl knows the answer to that question. She had never voiced any concerns over the network’s editorial decisions to her editors or RT management during her two years with the network. Thus the timing of such a public expression of what sounds like a vast, long-building collection of grievances is, at the very least, curious.
Upon hearing that assessment, Wahl roars, “That’s absolutely egregious. I brought my concerns to them many times.”