The “Freedom selfie” from James Kirchick’s Twitter feed.
For her public act of protest against Russia Today's coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory and supposedly advancing the agenda of Vladimir Putin in Washington, D.C., previously unknown news anchor Liz Wahl has suddenly become one of the most famous unemployed people in America. After her on-air resignation from the cable news channel, Wahl appeared on the three major American cable news outlets - CNN, Fox News, MSNBC - to denounce the heavy-handed editorial line she claims her bosses imposed on her and other staffers.
"What's clear is what's happening right now amid this crisis is that RT is not about the truth," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "It's about promoting a Putinist agenda. And I can tell you firsthand, it's also about bashing America."
Wahl's act of defiance eventually earned her invitations from "The View
" and "The Colbert Report
," offering her the opportunity to introduce millions of Americans to a Russian government-funded network whose Nielsen ratings have been too low to measure, but which commands a massive following on YouTube. Wahl was the toast of Washington, winning plaudits from a variety of prime-time pundits, from MSNBC's Chris Hayes
("remarkably badass") to the conservative Amanda Carpenter
("Liz Wahl is proud to be an American and in the last five minutes I think she made everyone else proud to be one, too.")
The celebration of Wahl fed directly into a BuzzFeed expose
on "How The Truth Is Made at Russia Today," with writer Rosie Gray painting a portrait of an "atmosphere of censorship and pressure" on American staffers toiling in RT's D.C. offices. RT had long been the subject of criticism and ridicule for its promotion of Zeitgeist-style trutherism and libertarian paranoia, but Wahl now placed RT under unprecedented scrutiny, with mainstream U.S. media sounding the alarm about a bulwark of soft Russian power situated just blocks from the White House.