Updated 9:28 a.m., March 5
WASHINGTON — Abby Martin, the anchor at government-run Russia Today who condemned Russia’s invasion of the Crimea region of Ukraine, didn’t accept an offered trip to Crimea because she didn’t want the network to offer her a “vetted PR experience,” she told BuzzFeed.
“I turned down the offer to go to Crimea because I didn’t want to take the chance to have a vetted PR experience while there,” Martin said. “I said I would reconsider in the future if I had time to make my own contacts in Ukraine and Crimea.”
Martin, who hosts the show Breaking the Set on the Kremlin-funded television network, made headlines on Monday when she criticized the Russian military incursion into Ukraine. Other RT coverage of the conflict has hewed to a vehemently pro-Russian line.
In response, Russia Today said it would send Martin to Crimea to have a look for herself.
Though managed dissent has at times been part of Russia’s propaganda strategy,
Martin said in an email to BuzzFeed that no one at the network had looked over her script before the show. She said she had prepared an extra paper copy as insurance in case her teleprompter script was changed.
“I made the decision because I felt morally obligated to after seeing the Russian military advance in Crimea and the completely biased coverage from all sides about the conflict,” Martin said.
“No one vets my scripts or looks at what I am about to say,” Martin said. “I have my scripts in a prompter but no one reads them in advance, therefore no one knew what I was going to do. I had it printed out on paper just in case.”
Martin stood by her remarks on Tuesday’s show, saying, “I do stand my opinion and I stand by everything I said.”
She also defended RT, saying that even the alternative media doesn’t adequately critique the “corporatocracy.”
“That’s why I do my job, that’s why I do this and that’s why I work here at RT,” she said.
Martin said that she had not lost her job over the incident, and continued in her criticism, dismissing Russia’s “really bizarre pretext to use military force to protect an ethnic people in a different land.”
Martin is an antiwar activist and artist who has had some involvement with the 9/11 truth movement. The New York Times noted on Tuesday that she has devoted segments of her show to defending 9/11 conspiracy theories, and was interviewed at a rally in 2008 where she referred to the Sept. 11 attacks as an “inside job.”
“I don’t know if 9/11 was an ‘inside job,’ but I do stand by my opinion that we were lied to about what happened that day,” Martin told BuzzFeed. “That video is six years old, so it’s unfortunate that it is becoming a viral discrediting factor in a completely unrelated story.”
Glenn Greenwald lauded Martin on Tuesday, writing that she “remarkably demonstrated last night what ‘journalistic independence’ means by ending her Breaking the Set program with a clear and unapologetic denunciation of the Russian action in Ukraine.”