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White House Advisor Downplayed COVID-19 On Russian Backed TV

November 2nd, 2020 14:16

US media is report­ing that White House coro­n­avirus advis­er Dr. Scott Atlas has apol­o­gized for appear­ing on RT (for­mer­ly Rus­sia Today) , a state-con­trolled inter­na­tion­al tele­vi­sion net­work fund­ed by the Russ­ian tax­es. Accord­ing to the NPR report, Atlas claimed he was unaware that RT is a reg­is­tered for­eign agent in the US:

White House coro­n­avirus advis­er Dr. Scott Atlas apol­o­gized on Sun­day for doing an inter­view with Rus­si­a’s state-backed RT net­work, say­ing he “was unaware they are a reg­is­tered for­eign agent.” RT, for­mer­ly known as Rus­sia Today, is an inter­na­tion­al tele­vi­sion and dig­i­tal news net­work financed by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. The pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny behind its U. S. arm, RT Amer­i­ca, reg­is­tered as a for­eign agent under the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act in 2017, mean­ing its con­tent is labeled as pro­pa­gan­da attempt­ing to influ­ence U. S. pub­lic opin­ion, pol­i­cy and laws. RT is one of more than a dozen media out­lets that Face­book began label­ing in June as under state con­trol. RT’s Twit­ter page is also labeled as “Russ­ian state-affil­i­at­ed media.” “I regret doing the inter­view and apol­o­gize for allow­ing myself to be tak­en advan­tage of,” Atlas said in a tweet. “I espe­cial­ly apol­o­gize to the nation­al secu­ri­ty com­mu­ni­ty who is work­ing hard to defend us.” A 2017 report by nation­al intel­li­gence agen­cies said that RT, as part of Rus­si­a’s “state-run pro­pa­gan­da machine,” con­tributed to the cam­paign to inter­fere in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion by “serv­ing as a plat­form for Krem­lin mes­sag­ing to Russ­ian and inter­na­tion­al audi­ences.” Nation­al secu­ri­ty experts have raised sim­i­lar con­cerns in the 2020 elec­tion. In the inter­view pub­lished Sat­ur­day, Atlas down­played the sever­i­ty of the U. S. coro­n­avirus surge and said that lock­downs aimed at curb­ing the spread of COVID-19 are “not impact­ful” and “killing people.”

Read the rest here.

In Octo­ber, US media report­ed that Twit­ter had removed a Tweet from Atlas that “that sought to under­mine the impor­tance of face masks because it was in vio­la­tion of the plat­for­m’s Covid-19 Mis­lead­ing Infor­ma­tion Policy.”

In 2017, the NYT char­ac­ter­ized RT (for­mer­ly Rus­sia Today) as follows:

Ana­lysts are sharply divid­ed about the influ­ence of RT. Point­ing to its minus­cule rat­ings num­bers, many cau­tion against over­stat­ing its impact. Yet focus­ing on rat­ings may miss the point, says Peter Pomer­ant­sev, who wrote a book three years ago that described Russia’s use of tele­vi­sion for pro­pa­gan­da. “Rat­ings aren’t the main thing for them,” he said. “These are cam­paigns for finan­cial, polit­i­cal and media influ­ence.” RT and Sput­nik pro­pel those cam­paigns by help­ing cre­ate the fod­der for thou­sands of fake news prop­a­ga­tors and pro­vid­ing anoth­er out­let for hacked mate­r­i­al that can serve Russ­ian inter­ests, said Ben Nim­mo, who stud­ies RT for the Atlantic Coun­cil. What­ev­er its impact, RT is unques­tion­ably a case study in the com­plex­i­ty of mod­ern pro­pa­gan­da. It is both a slick mod­ern tele­vi­sion net­work, dressed up with great visu­als and styl­ish pre­sen­ters, and a con­tent farm that helps feed the Euro­pean far right. View­ers find it dif­fi­cult to dis­cern exact­ly what is jour­nal­ism and what is pro­pa­gan­da, what may be “fake news” and what is real but pre­sent­ed with a strong slant.