All the ways RT ‘influenced’ American politics ‒ it’s not what the ODNI thinks
The US intelligence community has released the unclassified findings of its investigation into what it says was Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and RT apparently takes a significant chunk of the blame. Or does it?
We’ve gone through the 25-page report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), nearly half of which discusses RT’s effects on the 2016 presidential election “by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.”
RT began “openly supporting President-elect Trump’s candidacy” during the primaries, according to the ODNI. Meanwhile, RT’s coverage sought to “denigrate” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and “harm her electability and potential presidency.”
There’s a lot of rehashing of old allegations, but the document doesn’t seem to include much in the way of specifics about our coverage.
Embarrassing as it sounds, top US spies apparently are also not aware of the Russian date format. The report cites a July 4 interview with RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan published in Kommersant, though the interview was actually published on April 7, 2012. Apparently, the authors were not aware that in Russia, dates are usually listed in DD.MM.YYYY format rather than MM.DD.YYYY. Did they skip their Russian classes?
So we decided to do their jobs for them.
Lots of accusations, no hard proof
“Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report said.
Starting in March 2016, RT was among the “government-linked actors” that “consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional US media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment,” the report said.
RT’s coverage of Clinton “focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism.”
Our first story about Clinton’s health came after she collapsed and was later diagnosed with pneumonia, both of which caused social media to collectively freak out. RT was far from the only news outlet to cover the “pay-to-play” probe into the Clinton Foundation or the connections between the charity and governments with ties to terrorism. (Side note: We also covered plenty of missteps by Trump’s businesses and charity, including pay-to-play.) And were we supposed to ignore when Trump called Clinton the “founder of ISIS”?
RT “has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks,” the ODNI said, citing founder Julian Assange’s former show on the channel, and adding that “RT routinely gives Assange sympathetic coverage and provides him a platform to denounce the United States.”
Guilty as charged. Just like Fox News and other news outlets who have had exclusive interviews with Assange over the years.
“On 6 August, RT published an English-language video called ‘Julian Assange Special: Do WikiLeaks Have the E-mail That’ll Put Clinton in Prison?’ and an exclusive interview with Assange entitled ‘Clinton and ISIS Funded by the Same Money.’”
Yay, specifics! That “exclusive interview,” however, was produced by Dartmouth Films, not RT. The network only aired the Assange sit-down.
“RT’s most popular video on Secretary Clinton, ‘How 100% of the Clintons’ ‘Charity’ Went to...Themselves,’ had more than 9 million views on social media platforms. RT’s most popular English language video about the President-elect, called ‘Trump Will Not Be Permitted To Win,’ featured Assange and had 2.2 million views.”
Throughout the report, the ODNI has trouble differentiating between news and commentary. Here’s a hint: Lori Harfenist, aka the Resident, provides “daily studio commentary pieces” for RT America, her website says. Oh, and “Trump will not be permitted to win” was a quote from Assange in his interview ‒ you know, the one produced by another company.
Lies, damn lies and old news
The report also included an annex that was published in December 2012 entitled “Russia -- Kremlin’s TV Seeks To Influence Politics, Fuel Discontent in US.”
As the Daily Beast’s Noah Shachtman tweeted: “Tons of accusations, little new evidence.” RT understands the need to save taxpayers’ money through recycling.
Two shows that no longer air on RT ‒ "Breaking the Set" and "Truthseeker" ‒ “overwhelmingly focused on criticism of US and Western governments as well as the promotion of radical discontent,” the report said.
The ODNI seemingly implies that criticizing the US government is not acceptable. So much for the First Amendment’s right to free speech and freedom of the press.
“In an effort to highlight the alleged 'lack of democracy' in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third-party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’”
As we did in 2012, RT again aired third-party debates. Since 39 percent of Americans consider themselves an independent, according to the most recent Gallup poll on party affiliation, it seems we actually underestimated how little the two-party system represents the views of Americans.
RT framed the Occupy Wall Street movement as “a fight against ‘the ruling class’ and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations,” the report said.
Apparently it’s bad journalism to report the news.
And possibly illegal.
“RT's reports often characterize the United States as a ‘surveillance state’ and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use.”
Some stories are just too hard to ignore. The first reports of the NSA spying came about in 2006, long before Edward Snowden (or before RT had such a global reach). It’s also not our fault that we jumped on stories ‒ such as police brutality ‒ before they became national hot-button issues.
Plight of western Aleppo, Dakota pipeline protests & Flydubaigate: Underreported stories of 2016 https://t.co/rm023mGuEX— RT (@RT_com) December 31, 2016
“RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt.”
Well, we focus on American news, and give voice to those whose stories are ignored by the mainstream media. It’s hard to cover the US and not report on those stories.
“RT runs anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government's concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom's profitability.”
Does that mean the US Geological Survey ‒ an American government entity ‒ is also in the pocket of Gazprom?
According to the US government, RT should apparently be more like them and stop caring about Americans’ health and safety. Sorry, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, our bad for giving you a voice six months before the mainstream media.
Oh, and thanks for the free advertising, ODNI! Be sure to check out more of our coverage on the RT America YouTube page.