Photo: Courtesy of RT.
In a move that shocked her employers and the news media world, Russia Today anchor Liz Wahl resigned live on-air Wednesday night. An American working in the Washington bureau of the state-funded Russian news organization stated, "I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that’s why after this newscast I’m resigning."
Instantly, the Internet, the news outlets, and the media as a whole voiced their support — and shock. With all eyes on Russia and the Ukraine, viewers have noted the seemingly less-than-subtle influence on RT's news reporting. The Daily Beast points out some of the network's more curious headlines of late, such as "Tea, sandwiches, music, photos with self-defense forces mark peaceful Sunday in Simferopol."
But, among the voices of support, there were questions, too. Hours after her announcement, Piers Morgan asked Wahl why she worked there 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." She goes on to say that tensions between herself and the management had been strained for a significant period of time.
Furthermore, just a day before Wahl's announcement, fellow RT anchor Abby Martin went off script, voicing her personal stance on Russia's intervention in the Ukraine. "I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation's affairs." It was a brave move — and one that first seemed to highlight a loosening of the editorial reigns at RT. However, the network responded by saying they would be sending Martin to Crimea, so she could learn more about the situation. This public statement was the first Martin had heard of her new assignment, which she has since declined.
In response to Liz Wahl's abrupt resignation, RT released a statement, saying: "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."
The final accusation is not entirely unjustified, but, on balance, nor is Wahl's bold statement against what she alleges is a corrupt organization. "I feel sick that I worked there," Wahl told Anderson Cooper last night. "RT is not about the truth; it's about promoting a Putinist agenda. And, I can tell you firsthand, it's about bashing America."