US anchor for Russia Today network quits over its bias on Ukraine crisis

Resignation is second on-air outburst by RT network journalists against Russian actions in Ukraine

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 12:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 10:30pm

An American presenter for the Moscow-funded Russia Today television network resigned live on air in protest at the deployment of Russia-backed forces in Ukraine.

Liz Wahl said during a broadcast that she could no longer work for the network, which she accused of “whitewashing” moves by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“My grandparents came here as refugees during the Hungarian revolution, ironically to escape the Soviet forces,” she said. “Personally, 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 is why, after this newscast, I am resigning.”

Her resignation comes after another US-based RT host, Abby Martin, criticised the actions of pro-Russian military units on her show.

Reacting to the latest embarrassment, RT accused Wahl of a ”self-promotional stunt” and questioned her professionalism.

“When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organisation, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional,” it said.

“But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt," it said.

Wahl told CNN that she initially hesitated before deciding to make her views public. “I feared what measures they would take against me, what retaliatory measures they would take against me,” she said, adding that she had been ”contemplating quitting for a long time”.

Personally, I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin
Liz Wahl, former RT presenter

“What’s become very clear... especially in the face of this crisis with Crimea, is that the objective of RT has been to promote the Putinist propaganda, to promote the conflict as Putin wants us to see it and to bash the US,” Wahl said.

Speaking to The Daily Beast news website, Wahl said “it actually makes me feel sick that I worked there”.

Martin, the host of RT’s Breaking The Set, had announced towards the end of a broadcast that she was “strongly against” military intervention in Ukraine.

“What Russia did is wrong,” she said. The network responded on that occasion by saying Martin “does not possess a deep knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea” and promising to send her to the peninsula to “make up her own mind from the epicentre of the story”.

Martin later wrote on Twitter that she would not be going to Crimea.

Russia came under heightened diplomatic pressure on Thursday as the UN Security Council and European leaders scheduled emergency talks on Ukraine, after the seizure of Crimea created the worst East-West crisis since the cold war.

The EU summit starts at around 11am local time in Brussels (around 6pm in Hong Kong), when leaders will meet with Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who took over after the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych last month following three months of deadly protests.

During the conference, around 40 unarmed military personnel are expected in Crimea in a mission by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to try to defuse tensions in the flashpoint region.

Later, the 15-member UN Security Council will hold fresh closed-door talks from 7.30 GMT in New York (3am on Friday, Hong Kong time), the body’s fourth consultations on the subject since last week.

As a permanent member of the council, Russia holds veto power and can block the body’s draft resolutions.