Russia Today, the Russian-government-sponsored news channel, is blasting comments made by former NBC News president Andy Lack, who was sworn in this week as CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. In an interview Wednesday with The New York Times, Lack said the BBG, which runs government-financed media including the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, faces challenges from international rivals financed by governments in Russia, China and elsewhere.
“We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram, “ Lack said. “But I firmly believe that this agency has a role to play in facing those challenges.”
“We are extremely outraged that the new head of the BBG mentions RT in the same breath as world’s number one terrorist army,” said Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief. “We see this as an international scandal and demand an explanation.”
The network is devoting considerable time covering Lack’s comment–and unveiling a hashtag, #NewsIsNotTerror. In one story, RT correspondent Gayane Chichakyan says “seeing RT as competition is one thing. But putting alongside terrorist organizations, sounds like something very different.” The network notes Secretary of State John Kerry has previously knocked RT, calling it a “propaganda bullhorn.”
RT had a scandal of its own last winter when one of its anchors resigned on air. Liz Wahl talked about “the ethical and moral challenges” of working for RT, then quit.