By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
CNN’s Chris Cuomo had his heart in the right place when he “interviewed” paid Russian propagandist Peter Lavelle. “We are live in front of the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, in Netherlands,” Cuomo said. “This is where MH17 began its journey.” Cuomo was genuinely moved by the great loss of life suffered by the people of the Netherlands when the plane was shot down by pro-Russian terrorists. Among other things, he wanted answers about the desecration of the bodies at the crash site by the Russian-backed and managed forces, usually described as just “rebels” or “separatists.”
But he was not prepared for the blizzard of lies told by Lavelle, whose channel, Russia Today (RT), has been hit by resignations over Moscow-dictated lies about events in Ukraine. RT is financed by the Kremlin and called KGB-TV by its critics.
“I want to ask you,” Cuomo said to Lavelle, “why hasn’t Russia, specifically Vladimir Putin, why hasn’t he come out and strictly and in a straight way condemned how the crime scene was handled, how the dignity of the dead was abused, how crime scene investigators weren’t let in? Why hasn’t Russia? Why hasn’t Vladimir Putin come forward and condemned how this crime scene has been handled?”
Lavelle, whose Facebook page features a photo of him sitting next to Putin, said, “Well, I think the answer to that is very, very straightforward and simple. Ukraine is not in Russia. Vladimir Putin doesn’t control a crime scene in a foreign country. I think it’s quite ludicrous for you to ask that question.”
This was a lie so big that it seemed to throw Cuomo for a loop. After all, the plane crashed in a part of Ukraine not under the control of the central government. The plane crashed in a part of the Ukraine under the control of Putin-supplied troops. What’s more, a Russian anti-aircraft weapon had brought the plane down.
But here was Peter Lavelle saying Putin had no role in any of it. It was “ludicrous” to suggest otherwise, he claimed. He went on to suggest the U.S., not Russia, was hiding information.
Putin and his propagandists are notorious liars. You may remember that Putin denied that Russian soldiers had invaded the Crimean part of Ukraine at the end of February and had taken over the government buildings and military bases there. Later, he acknowledged that the troops in unmarked uniforms, who captured Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, were indeed Russian soldiers.
Cuomo had just come from the crime scene, where he noted that the Russian forces in control had left bodies “in the sun for days” and were “scaring away monitors who want to come in to look…”
Lavelle shot back: “Oh, that’s Vladimir Putin’s fault. That’s ludicrous. That’s ludicrous.” It was Putin, he insisted, who had called for a “thorough investigation.”
Cuomo had the facts on his side, but he wasn’t prepared for the verbal assault from someone whose job it was to defend Putin and his regime at all costs.
Cuomo has to understand that Lavelle works for someone who murders journalists—as well as KGB dissidents, such as Alexander Litvinenko. (The British government has just announced a new inquiry into the circumstances of how the Russian regime murdered Litvinenko in London.)
Tragically, this story is an old one. Analyst Pawel Styrna, a researcher at the Institute of World Politics (IWP), has written about the Russian role in the April 10, 2010 plane crash that killed nearly 100 members of the military and political elite of Poland, at the time a key U.S. ally on NATO’s border with Russia. Those killed were mostly pro-American, anti-communist members of the Polish government. They were on the way from Warsaw, Poland to Russia to attend an event marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre, a mass execution of Polish citizens in 1940 by the Soviet KGB. The plane crash occurred in Smolensk, Russia.
“The similarities are striking,” Styrna tells Accuracy in Media, “especially in terms of Russian behavior: the denials, the contamination of the crash site (including the removal of plane parts), the desecration of the bodies (i.e., dumping them onto trucks), the failure to secure the site (allowing the credit cards and other belongings of the victims to be plundered), etc.”
In the wake of the destruction of the plane, understanding the sheer terror of what had transpired, the Polish government went along with the Russians, blaming “pilot error” for the crash. You can imagine that the Poles were scared to death of what Moscow was able to accomplish and what they were capable of. An invasion of their country, two years after the Russians invaded the former Soviet republic of Georgia, could not be ruled out.
Earlier this year, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the crash, physicist Dr. Kazimierz Nowaczyk delivered a lecture at the IWP in Washington, D.C. on what happened. He presented evidence that explosions occurred, bringing down the plane, and noted how Russians on the scene contaminated and desecrated the crash site and tampered with the evidence.
The truth about what happened in eastern Ukraine is already at hand, despite what Peter Lavelle told Chris Cuomo on CNN.
In this case, the RT propaganda channel has an ally in Iranian Press TV, which has run an article claiming that an American Stinger missile brought down the Malaysian plane.
The source of the allegation is Rodney Martin, identified as “the director of the World View Foundations, a website, and a host at the American Nationalist Network, an internet radio station.” In the video version of the story, Martin is identified as a “former U.S. congressional staffer” who defends the “Russian nationalist movement” in Eastern Ukraine.
On his website, he identifies himself as an “American Ethno-Nationalist,” whose work has “not gone unnoticed by Movement heavyweights” such as David Duke, the former KKK leader. Duke, you may recall, surfaced as an associate of Aleksandr Dugin, an adviser to Putin with communist and fascist links who is helping shape Russian geopolitical strategy. (Duke is also a favorite of Iranian Press TV, and attended a Holocaust deniers conference in Iran.)
All of these connections are important in understanding what the people of Ukraine are up against, in terms of propaganda channels with a global reach—even deep inside the United States.
In retrospect, the Peter Lavelle interview went badly for Chris Cuomo. As one publication put it, “the gloves came off.” The hapless CNN anchor didn’t understand what he was getting unto. He thought he could have an open and honest discussion with a paid Putin propagandist. Lavelle is one step above a “useful idiot,” to use a term from the Cold War.
But this is just one round in an information war. It should be a wake-up call for CNN and the rest of the American media.
What we now need from the media is an in-depth analysis of RT and its operations, and how the channel is working hand-in-glove with the Iranian propaganda apparatus to deceive the world about Moscow’s—and Iran’s—intentions. After all, Iran’s nuclear weapons program wouldn’t be possible without Putin’s help.
Then, an analysis is needed of what, if anything, the United States is doing through the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to counter the lies.