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A U.S. anchor for Russia Today quit live on-air Wednesday because she disagreed with the network’s coverage of military interventions in the Crimea region.
Liz Wahl, who was a producer in the Washington, D.C., bureau for the Russian state television network, resigned due to her disgust over Moscow’s actions in the Ukraine.
At the end of her 5 p.m. broadcast, Wahl officially announced her resignation to viewers, saying she could no longer be “part of a network that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I am resigning.”
After causing ripples in the broadcasting world for her blunt comments, Wahl revealed what led to her seemingly sudden political proclamation.
“It makes me sick that I worked there,” Wahl told the Daily Beast later on Wednesday, adding that the decision was not made rashly. “When I came on board, from the beginning I knew what I was getting into, but I think I was more cautious and tried to stay as objective as I could.”
She went on to claim that the network’s management manipulates its employees. “In order to succeed there you don’t question,” Wahl told the Daily Beast.
Wahl went on to appear on Piers Morgan Live, where she told the CNN host that she had “personal reasons why I felt morally inclined to resign. My grandparents were refugees who came to America to seek a better life. My dad ended up, because of this, joining the military. I feel lucky to live in this country.”
She was then asked by Morgan, “If you feel this strongly then why would you join RT America to start with, seeing as it has got a history of being favorable toward Putin. Why would you want to work for that organization in the first place?”
“I didn’t know exactly the extent of the propaganda that is this machine. I thought that the Cold War was over and maybe I didn’t realize that there would be this much of an infringement on the editorial…as much pressure,” she attempted to explain. “I tried to make the most of the situation. I am not saying that I haven’t done work that I’m not proud of. I tried to use my platform to pitch stories that I thought were important.
“I think the management knew that I wasn’t comfortable. I have been contemplating quitting for a long time.”
Her resignation came just one day after another Russia Today anchor, Abby Martin, openly criticized Moscow’s intervention in the Ukraine and the media’s biased news coverage.
“I can’t say enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation’s affairs,” said Martin, at the close of Breaking the Set. “What Russia did is wrong. Military intervention is never the answer, and I will not sit here and apologize or defend military aggression.
“Furthermore, the coverage I have seen of Ukraine has been truly disappointing from all sides of the media spectrum and rife with disinformation,” she stated, as she marched off the set.
RT responded by saying it was sending Martin to Crimea to learn more about the situation, the Guardian reported. “Contrary to the popular opinion, RT doesn’t beat its journalists into submission, and they are free to express their own opinions, not just in private but on the air. This is the case with Abby’s commentary on the Ukraine,” said a statement released by the network.
When Wahl was asked by Morgan if Martin should quit, she replied: “I can’t speak for Abby Martin — I respect her, she is very outspoken. I don’t want to say what Abby should or shouldn’t do. Abby speaks her mind. Her show doesn’t experience that much editorial control because…the views happen to be a narrative that RT likes,” she added.
Calling Wahl’s move “a self-promotional stunt,” RT released a statement to CNN on Wednesday night that read:
“Ms. Wahl’s resignation comes on the heels of her colleague Abby Martin’s recent comments in which she voiced her disagreement with certain policies of the Russian government and asserted her editorial independence. The difference is, Ms. Martin spoke in the context of her own talk show, to the viewers who have been tuning in for years to hear her opinions on current events, the opinions that most media did not care about until two days ago.
“For years Ms. Martin has been speaking out against U.S. military intervention only to be ignored by the mainstream news outlets — but with that one comment, branded as an act of defiance, she became an overnight sensation. It is a tempting example to follow. 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.”
Before her own resignation, Wahl — who describes herself as Filipina-Hungarian-American — called Martin “my girl” in a supportive Twitter post, following which she posted about her own personal connection to the situation.
Just spoke to grandparents who came to US as refugees escaping Soviets during Hungarian revolution. Amazing to hear amid new Cold War fears
— Liz Wahl (@lizwahl) March 5, 2014
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Russia Today for comment.
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