A news anchor for the Russian- funded network Russia Today resigned on air after claiming that she cannot be part of a network that “whitewashes” President Putin’s actions. As Liz Wahl closed her show, she talked about the “ethical and moral challenges” she faces working for Russian Today. For one thing, her family fled to America during the 1956 Hungarian revolution to escape Soviet forces. She is also the daughter of a U.S. military veteran and is the partner of a physician who works at a U.S. military base.
“And that is why, personally, I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin,” Wahl said, in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin. She continued, “I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I’m resigning.”
Russia Today gave a statement regarding the actions of Wahl claiming that, “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.”
The network also added, “When someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt.”
Wahl talked to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday and stated that the idea she did this “for personal gain… couldn’t be father from the truth.” She claimed that she had “hesitated to speak on this for a while for fear of repercussion,” but ultimately decided to act due to her belief that “the propagandist nature of Russian Today had come out in full force” over its coverage of the Ukrainian crisis.
Wahl told CNN, “Russia Today is not about the truth; it’s about promoting a Putinist agenda, and I can tell you firsthand, it’s about bashing America.”
Although her resignation did not explicitly mention the situation in Ukraine, she did mention later that it was a driving factor. The presence of Russian troops in Crimea is a blatant violation of Crimean sovereignty, according to officials from Ukraine. While Putin has denied sending in more troops to Ukraine, the situation is central to Russia Today’s coverage.
Wahl claimed that she had recently become upset over portions of one of her interviews being cut. She said the interview covered a “very dangerous” segment on neo-Nazi elements among the Ukrainian opposition. She also claimed that there were “very, very loaded” questions being planted by Russia Today’s management.
“I felt that I could no longer work here and go on television and tell the American people that this is what’s happening and have it pose as news,” Wahl said.
On March 4, another news anchor on Russia Today, Abby Martin, referred directly to Russia’s military occupation of Crimea. Martin, who, like Wahl, is based in Washington D.C., claimed, “I can’t stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation’s affairs. What Russia did was wrong.” Despite the fact Martin refused to “defend military aggression,” she did not leave Russia Today.
Both Wahl and Martin’s comments brought the true meaning of RT into focus. Wahl said that those who do not follow the lead of network management, the senior members of which are based in Moscow, are young, “inexperienced” and “eager to please” their bosses. “Eventually you earn what management likes, what management dislikes,” she said. “ They kind of make sure the narrative is delivered one way or another.”