Katie Hopkins is being lined up to present a new show on RT, staff at the Kremlin-backed station have told BuzzFeed News, raising concerns among some employees that the broadcaster is shifting its output to the political right following Brexit and the triumph of Donald Trump.
Hopkins, who became famous after appearing on the British version of The Apprentice, has transformed herself into a right-wing demagogue pundit with a column on MailOnline and a show on LBC. Now insiders say she could be about to get her own show on the station formerly known as Russia Today, which is subsidised by the Russian government.
One RT employee who said they had seen a pilot for Hopkins' show said staff in the UK were unhappy at the prospect of her becoming a presenter.
"They think having Katie as a host in the studio will bring in viewers," the employee said. "A few people have said they'd leave [if Hopkins get a show] but why should we quit? If there's an internal battle for the soul of a media outlet, why walk away?"
A second RT employee said: "It's uncertain whether she'll be a permanent fixture of this new show filming now or just the occasional pundit. The former is very likely. Plenty of RT UK staff [are] unhappy about it, given her vile views. I have been absolutely outraged with her hiring. It's one thing to pander to a certain demographic with more stories of a certain type. It's quite another to publish or broadcast Hopkins' populist, ultra-conservative rhetoric."
Hopkins has repeatedly spoken of her support for US president-elect Donald Trump, who praised her last December.
There is now a concern among some members of staff that the channel is shifting its political focus. One of the staffers told BuzzFeed News that many British employees had joined the station to challenge dominant right-wing media narratives and now found themselves unhappy with its recent "big shift towards UKIP and Trump" in terms of story choices and presenters.
"We used to like to challenge dominant narratives from the left but since the migrant crisis there's been a massive shift to the right," the source said, suggesting the channel's bosses have increasingly found it easier to find pro-Russian voices on the right-wing, nationalistic end of the political spectrum while relying on stories highlighted by the likes of the Daily Mail and Breitbart.
"The policy is a general shift of the channel to be more right-wing and more alt–right. Russia says we've got leftists like Owen Jones talking negatively about us and we've got right-wingers who want to like us."
However, the second RT staff member insisted this was not a recent shift and that the channel was already appealing to right-wing viewers: "Many of channel's viewers are anti-establishment right-wingers. UKIP-ers or further. They probably love Trump and they all think the BBC is basically a Westminster mouthpiece.
"The readership of the website in particular is obsessed with Muslims and ridiculously in love with any kind of conspiracy theorist. Their favourite topic, however, is sex. Sex robots, blow job cafés... I wouldn't be surprised if that's the demographic they are going for."
A spokesperson for RT said: "Katie Hopkins appears from time to time on air at RT UK to comment on stories and say ‘Hi’ to her large fanbase at the office, including some of your 'unnamed sources'.
"It is ironic to claim RT UK is leaning ‘right’ whilst mainstream media consistently labels us leftist every time we interview Jeremy Corbyn or trade unionists."
But the channel did not respond when asked specifically whether it would be commissioning a show with Hopkins as a presenter.
Hopkins' spokesperson would not deny that she is developing a show with RT but refused to clarify or give further details, saying: "I can't say anything. I can't comment on that."
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.