Former Russia Today Anchor Liz Wahl Reveals Details of Her Spontaneous On-Air Resignation
Wahl tells THR how she she wrote her March 5 resignation "on a piece of paper in the bathroom" before going on-air.
Two weeks after she made a dramatic resignation live on-air voicing her disgust over Russia Today's "bias reporting" of the Ukraine crisis, the former network anchor opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about what sparked her public statement.
Liz Wahl reveals that rather than being a highly-calculated self promotion move, which she's been accused her, she made a spur-of-the-moment decision to resign while the cameras were rolling on March 5.
"I knew that I had to quit in the wake of what was going on and was thinking about it for a couple of months, but it took a while to gain the courage. I was going to quit quietly, however on this day I was particularly appalled and disgusted by the coverage of the Ukraine, especially when one of my interviews was censored," says Wahl, who joined RT in 2011 after working overseas as a reporter on the island of Saipen.
"All these things pushed me over the edge and I thought, ‘I can’t do this quietly. I needed to do it publicly and let the viewers know exactly what the station is about.’
"I went to the bathroom and scribbled some thoughts on a piece of paper and decided that this was the course of action to take. And then it went down on air," she reveals.
Expecting "just to go home and hang out with my dog," the next thing Wahl knew she was getting calls from CNN's Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan. "I never would have imagined that the response would blow up to that degree," she told THR.
"For the most part, the attention has been good. It has been inspiring and encouraging to hear from people all over the world, from Canada, China, Hungary, and most importantly from the Ukraine voicing their appreciation. I've heard from veterans, parents, and teachers saying they've shown the video to their students," she says.
"I have also received some hateful responses from people questioning my motivations, sprouting conspiracy theories – some even saying I am a C.I.A. operative and that I was paid to do this. I don't know how to respond to these people! I've also been dealing with some hate mail and Internet trolls.
"I haven't felt like my life has been in imminent danger and I haven't had any death threats, but there’s been some pretty terrible things out there in the depths of Twitter and on blogs. I just try not to read them and I feel pretty safe where I am in Washington D.C."
As for the reaction from her former employers, the statement released by RT in the wake of the scandal read: "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. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt. We wish Liz the best of luck on her chosen path."
"The network responded by putting out some statements trying to attack my character and question my motives, which I thought was very telling," Wahl claims. "Their process was to attack the messenger instead of addressing the message -- which was that in the wake of the crisis in the Crimea, the station is being used as a propaganda tool to further the agenda of the Kremlin.
"I felt I had to let the viewers know exactly what the station is about. I think I have the truth on my side," she says, adding that she hopes she's helped raise awareness about the Ukraine among people who watched the video that went viral.
Wahl has been asked countless times since why she took the job at the network knowing that they got funding from the Russian government. "They came to me with an opportunity to report news that the mainstream media ignored and to do hard-hitting compelling stories," she says. "I was a little cautious, but was hired to be a reporter and not as a propagandist, and as far as I was concerned, the Cold War was over.
"But the more I worked there the wider my eyes were opened. In the wake of what is happening in the Ukraine, I just didn't want to be a part of it."
Wahl has not spoken to anyone at the network since she resigned, nor has she been in contract with Abby Martin, the anchor who had openly criticized Moscow's intervention in the Ukraine and the media's biased news coverage but remained in her position.
"I don’t think she is happy with what I did. We are two very different people on very different shows, and she has a narrative that RT likes. We were friends, she's a strong woman and is someone that I admire -- she advocates what she believes and we always tried not to talk about politics."
After being aware that her public resignation could end her career in media, Wahl is "working on my next move and exploring all my possible options. I am figuring it out now. I would like to stay in journalism, but have been thinking of going to law school and other possibilities."
One person who initially had doubts about her motives but then changed her mind was Barbara Walters, and The View host has since even professionally endorsed Wahl. "I have faith that it will work out. I wanted to get attention and I did want to make a splash -- but I never thought it would make so many waves," she tells THR.