A declassified intelligence report released Friday afternoon paints a damning picture for cable news channel RT America as a “messaging tool” for a “Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the U.S. Government and fuel political protest.”
The office of the Director of National Intelligence claims that the Russian government-funded news outlet, widely identified as a propaganda arm for the Kremlin, has pushed a pro-Russia agenda in its coverage for years. A declassified version of the DNI report focuses heavily on RT America, which operates from Washington, D.C. The report alleges that RT America “has substantially expanded its repertoire of programming that highlights criticism of alleged U.S. shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties.” Seven of the report’s 25 pages break down RT stories and motives of its stories and leadership: “RT’s leadership has candidly acknowledged its mission to expand its U.S. audience and to expose it to Kremlin messaging,” the report reads.
On Friday, hosts of the RT roundtable program Watching the Hawks defended the reporting of RT has free speech and democratizing.
In September, Trump gave a televised interview to Larry King, who has a talk show on RT. In December, NPR reported that it was the one news channel for which Trump retained some affinity.
The DNI report cites coverage such as RT America’s programming that opposes fracking, “highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health.” Such programming might not raise eyebrows, since U.S. outlets also cover fracking in similar light. But this report alleges that these RT America stories are motivated by a desire to keep U.S. natural gas interests from competing with Russian company Gazprom’s profitability.
According to the report, “RT’s leadership has candidly acknowledged its mission to expand its US audience and to expose it to Kremlin messaging.” The news outlet denies intentionally meddling with U.S democracy, though.
RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan is quoted in the report, lending credibility to these claims. “According to Simonyan,” reads the report, “‘the word ‘propaganda’ has a very negative connotation, but indeed, there is not a single international foreign TV channel that is doing something other than promotion of the values of the country that it is broadcasting from … when Russia is at war, we are, of course, on Russia’s side.’”
The report goes on to claim that Presidential Administration Deputy Chief of Staff Aleksey Gromov is closely involved in RT’s operations, going so far as to order “media attacks on opposition figures.”