WASHINGTON — Staci Bivens knew something was seriously wrong when her bosses at Russia Today asked her to put together a story alleging that Germany — Europe’s economic powerhouse — was a failed state.
“It was me and two managers and they had already discussed what they wanted,” Bivens, an American who worked in RT’s Moscow headquarters from 2009 through 2011, said of a meeting she’d had to discuss the segment before a planned reporting trip to Germany. “They called me in and it was really surreal. One of the managers said, ‘The story is that the West is failing, Germany is a failed state.’”
Bivens, who had spent time in Germany, told the managers the story wasn’t true — the term “failed state” is reserved for countries that fail to provide basic government services, like Somalia or Congo, not for economically advanced, industrialized nations like Germany. They insisted. Bivens refused. RT flew a crew to Germany ahead of Bivens, who was flown in later to do a few standups and interviews about racism in Germany. It was the beginning of the end of her RT career.
“At that point I’d been there for a little bit and I’d had enough of the insanity,” Bivens said. She stayed until the end of her contract in 2011 and didn’t make an effort to renew it.
Judging by interviews with seven former and current employees, Bivens’ story is typical. RT, the global English-language news network funded by the Russian government, has come into the spotlight since the Russian invasion of Crimea, which the network has defended tooth-and-nail. The invasion has led to two high-profile rebellions within the ranks: first, an on-air condemnation of the invasion by RT America host Abby Martin, followed days later by the live resignation of another host, Liz Wahl.
Martin, who hosts an opinion show, said that Russia’s actions were wrong; Wahl, a news anchor, went one step further, saying that she could not work at a network that found Russia’s actions acceptable.
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