News Brief

Kremlin TV Channels Agree with Fox News on US Election Probe

The indictment of three former Trump campaign staff in the Russia investigation is “a nothing burger.”

It was one of President Trump’s most vocal supporters in the U.S. who actually said that — Fox News host Laura Ingraham. But her catchy line pretty much sums up the response of Russia’s powerful state media to the news of the first indictments issued by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller, in his continuing investigation into allegations of Kremlin interference in last year’s elections.

“Not a word about Russia,” was the headline for a segment aired on state-controlled Rossiya-1 after the indictments were announced. Its anchor effectively dismissed the money laundering and tax evasion charges Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort is facing as irrelevant, adding that there are “no other results from the five-month investigation.”

Channel 1, one of the most widely watched government-controlled outlets, echoed that line, saying that “there is no discussion about Russia.” The Americans had found no evidence for claims that Manafort had been working with the Russians to influence the election, the anchor added. “Now it is clear that nothing like this happened.”

The third indictment that ruined this narrative was either played down or ignored altogether on most state-controlled channels. That concerns George Papadopoulos, Trump’s former foreign policy adviser, who has been charged with lying to the FBI about a meeting with suspected Russian intelligence intermediaries.

Many outlets also highlighted President Trump’s repeated Twitter denials of any collusion and his statement that Manafort had been indicted for actions he took before he joined the campaign.

Rossiya-1 did give Papadopoulos a brief mention, but effectively portrayed him as a loner who “hid the fact that he met with foreigners, including Russians.” Channel 1 skipped that element of the story entirely.

NTV, owned by the state-run energy giant Gazprom, was an outlier, giving more room to the details of the former foreign policy adviser’s alleged activities. It mentioned that Papadopoulos discussed possible “dirt” about Hillary Clinton and that the FBI believes that he met with representatives of the Russian government.

State-controlled media gave similarly selective coverage of reports that posts by Russian agents on U.S. internet platforms may have reached as many as 126 million voters.

Instead, outlets like Sputnik focused their reporting on Google executives telling Congress that Russia Today’s use of YouTube does not violate any of the tech giant’s rules.

The Russian media is far from alone though in appearing to take a selective slant on the U.S. investigation. Fox News, which has long taken a pro-Trump line, has been accused of playing down the indictments. And hamburgers were part of the story again.

Fox critics alleged the channel had run a lightweight piece about an Emoji cheeseburger while other stations were carrying live footage of Paul Manafort turning himself in at the FBI’s office in Washington.

That charge is false, according to the fact-checking website Snopes. Nonetheless, CNN has reported that many Fox staff have been furious at the editorial line the channel has been taking.