Thursday, June 01, 2017

Megyn Kelly’s first interview for NBC News was a debacle

Aaron Rupar/Think Progress

Megyn Kelly’s first interview for NBC News aired on Thursday morning’s Today show as part of a person-on-the-street segment from Saint Petersburg, Russia. The former Fox News host ostensibly chatted to everyday Russians to get their thoughts about the Putin regime’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
The first person Kelly talked to during the segment is a man she simply identifies as “Russian broadcaster” Sergey Brilev.
“There is a lot of kindergartenish stuff going on,” Brilev says. “It’s humiliating — self-humiliating for such a great country as the United States of America to think that your election was decided in Moscow.”


What Kelly doesn’t tell you is that Brilev is “a top executive at a state news agency who played a key role in one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda efforts,” as Media Matters reports.
More from Media Matters:
Brilev is deputy director of Rossiya, a Russian state-owned television network, where he anchors a weekly news program. He is also affiliated with the Kremlin-founded Russian International Affairs Council. State-run news outlets like Rossiya serve as propaganda outlets that are allowed to exist in order to promote Putin’s worldview. “Brilev is a Putin man,” Helena Goscilo, a professor at The Ohio State University who specializes in Russian culture, confirmed to Media Matters in an email.
Brilev is perhaps best known for his role in Direct Line with the President, the annual live broadcast in which Putin takes phone calls from Russians. The program “was presented to the public as a spontaneous exchange, [but] evidence point to the fact that it was thoroughly prepared and scripted,” writesMichael Gorham, a professor at the University of Florida who focuses on Russian communication, journalism and culture, in an essay for the 2012 bookPutin as Celebrity and Cultural Icon.
According to Gorham, Brilev was a “trusted newsreader” who anchored the first seven broadcasts of the program and subsequently “received the state Friendship medal… for [his] service.”
Given his intimate ties to Putin, it’s not surprising that Brilev would publicly tamp down the notion that Russia meddled in the election on behalf of Trump. But Kelly leaves viewers with the impression that he’s nothing more than an impartial observer.
At the end of the segment, Kelly announced she was granted an exclusive interview with Putin that will air on Sunday night.
That interview comes on the heels of Putin getting closer than he ever has to admitting the Kremlin’s role in meddling in Trump’s election.
During comments to reports on Thursday, Putin denied direct Kremlin involvement in cyberattacks on Hillary Clinton, but said “patriotically minded” hackers might have acted on their own.
“If they are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions — which are right, from their point of view — to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia,” Putin said.
Kelly faces a test during her interview with Putin, who the intelligence community believes is still actively trying to influence U.S. politics. He likely views the NBC interview as a chance to speak directly to an American audience.
It’s unclear whether Kelly’s up for it. Though she infamously criticized Trump for his history of misogynist comments during the first Republican presidential debate in August of 2015, she took a very different approach during the one-on-one softball interview she did with him the following May.
“She asked Trump, off the bat, when he first imagined that he could be president: This is just the sort of softball that [Barbara] Walters tees up, hoping to elicit inspiring tales of triumph against the odds,” Isaac Chotiner of Slate wrote about that interview. “Kelly then turned to the death of Trump’s brother, and Trump’s divorces, asking him mawkishly whether he learned anything ‘about love’ or ‘about himself’ from these experiences. She followed up by asking if he had ever been ‘emotionally hurt,’ before turning back to his penchant for insults.”
Though Kelly didn’t have anything to say about Russian state-owned media of the sort Brilev is involved in during her first NBC interview, the U.S. intelligence community did in its declassified intelligence report about Russia’s meddling in the presidential election that was released in January. A significant portion of it details Russian state-owned television station RT’s efforts to help Donald Trump.
In addition to accusing RT employees of collaborating with WikiLeaks, the report said RT “consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional U.S. media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment.”
Following Trump’s victory, RT “hailed President-elect Trump’s victory as vindication of Putin’s advocacy of global populist movements — the theme of Putin’s annual conference for Western academics in October 2016 — and the latest example of Western liberalism’s collapse.”
As detailed by former FBI special agent Clint Watts during congressional testimony in March, Trump and his aides occasionally used Russian active measures during the campaign, touting fake news stories published by Russian websites at rallies and weaponizing emails hacked from Democratic targets that were published by WikiLeaks.
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