Russia Today, or RT, is a network that goes to great lengths to portray the United States in a negative light. It’s also a network that traffics in conspiracy theories, many of which are aimed at portraying the United States in a negative light. These two facts are just about beyond argument, or should be by anyone who isn’t attempting to satisfy an agenda. This isn’t to say that RT doesn’t occasionally have some decent reporting or that all of its opinion is completely off-base, only that the network is controlled and funded by Russia and while the Putin government isn’t a direct adversary of the U.S. on paper, it still considers the West to be a political “frenemy” at best.
With all of this in mind, watching the English-language pro-Putin theater the network has been putting on since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is especially fascinating. In just the past week, long-time RT correspondent Sara Firth has quit the network, saying that she’s tired of lying for Putin and that her bosses’ attempts to whitewash Russia’s role in the tragedy that killed 298 innocent people was the final straw for her. But there are obviously those at RT who either truly believe the Russian government’s position on what happened to MH17 or simply go along with it because that’s their job. Who knows where RT presenter Peter Lavelle stands, but he sure is relentless when it comes to defending Vladimir Putin.
This morning on CNN’s New Day, Lavelle got into an explosive 11-minute-long shouting match with anchor Chris Cuomo. Cuomo, reporting live from Amsterdam, where the first bodies from the crash were landing today, took Lavelle to task about not only Russia’s continued deflection and Putin’s refusal to crack down on the pro-Russia, government-aided rebels who were more than likely responsible for the shoot-down, but also about what he claimed was RT’s refusal to be actual journalists and question the line they’re being fed by the Kremlin. Lavelle argued that Cuomo was simply being a mouthpiece for the U.S. State Department, but to his credit Cuomo was shockingly tenacious, indignantly demanding to know why Lavelle brushed off information coming from other countries about the nature of the tragedy and who was responsible for it.
It’s true that news departments within nations that are at odds politically and culturally can become unwitting victims of their countries’ respective ideologies, but Cuomo’s right when he argues that he has the ability to exercise journalistic freedoms Peter Lavelle either can’t or won’t at RT and that Lavelle seems to have forgotten what his job is (or what it’s supposed to be anyway). What’s really amusing, though, is watching Lavelle — a staunch defender of Putin against all comers on a good day — stubbornly demand “evidence” that ties Russia to the MH17 disaster, despite the potentially damning information Cuomo feeds him about an interview he did with the leader of the Russian separatists in which that self-appointed governor deflected when asked about whether Russia was backing him. An anchor for RT suddenly holding up a pristine standard for proof is laughable considering, again, the kind of conspiratorial nonsense the network often deals in.
Regardless, watch this and make your own decision as to who’s making the better argument. One thing’s for sure: there’s no love lost at all between these two guys. At one point, Cuomo disgustedly asides that there’s no point in even talking to Lavelle. Lavelle no doubt feels the same way.