Despite Russian Aggression, Liberal Thom Hartmann Still with RT

Despite Russian Aggression, Liberal Thom Hartmann Still with RT

Despite what many feel is Russia’s illegal attempt to annex the Crimea region of Ukraine, and in the face of condemnation from his own fans, liberal cable talk show host Thom Hartmann has refused to cut ties with the Russian-controlled cable network RT.

Hartmann’s cable TV show, The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann, has been on the air with the RT network since 2012 but is also syndicated on several other small cable networks.

The RT cable news network has for some time come under criticism for being fully controlled by Putin’s government in Moscow. Last year, union activist and socialist Eric Lee warned that even folks on the left should avoid working for or being guests on the cable network.

Only last month, Slate‘s David Weigel also noted that the cable network is too biased to trust and that many of his D.C. acquaintances are beginning to avoid appearing on or working for the Moscow-controlled network.

Even left-wing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has criticized the state-sponsored RT network for being a “propaganda bullhorn” that has been “deployed to promote president Putin’s fantasy about what is playing out on the ground.”

It isn’t just Americans criticizing the network for its blatant anti-western – and in particular anti-American – bias. Some of RT’s own employees have quit the network, in particular for the network’s actions over the situation in Ukraine.

Liz Wahl, an American anchor for the network, resigned right on the air early this year, saying that the network was “whitewashing” Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

“Personally, I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin,” Wahl said just before she signed off for the last time.

“I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I am resigning,” she continued.

RT isn’t the only Russian media outlet losing employees. Two other Russian journalists recently quit their jobs in Russia over Putin’s censorship of the media.

Putin’s oppressive actions against the media aren’t only being turned against Russian journalists, either. During the unrest in Crimea, NBC’s Richard Engel and his TV news crew were detained by Russian forces for having the temerity to try to cover what was going on there.

With all this suppression of the freedom of the press, some are wondering why Thom Hartmann, liberal icon and one of the nation’s most listened to liberal radio talk show hosts, is still sticking with the RT cable network.

On his radio program (but not on his cable TV show) Hartmann has said that since he has creative and editorial control of the show, the fact that one of the outlets that airs his show is the Putin-controlled RT is not a big deal.

However, while Hartmann’s cable show may be owned by the host himself, since 2012 his entire TV production staff have been employees of RT. So his ties aren’t merely incidental, despite his blasé claims.

With the mounting lack of freedom of the press in Putin’s Russia, not to mention rumors of political murders of reporters, one wonders how the liberal Hartmann squares the circle of continuing his association with a Putin-controlled cable network.

It may seem a strange dichotomy for a liberal who has recently written that American democracy no longer works to be in business with a network controlled by the leader of one of the world’s re-emerging dictatorships.

Breitbart asked Mr. Hartmann’s offices for a comment on this story, but he did not respond before publication.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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