Donald Trump’s interview with Larry King on the Russian-government-funded television network RT America is being widely seen in the mainstream U.S. media as evidence of unseemly coziness between Trump and authoritarian Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The interview came after months of claims by Democratic Party officials and news media pundits that the Russian government is trying to get Trump elected.
RT America has a long history of coverage that benefits the Russian government and is critical of the United States, as many former employees have complained.
But there’s one problem with the theory that RT America and the Russian government are fond of Trump: RT America is sometimes more critical of Trump than U.S. media.
The interview with King itself was far from a softball event — with the host pressing Trump on topics from releasing his tax returns to his utter lack of any strategy in the Middle East. And it’s not uncommon to see criticism of Trump on the network.
Host Lee Camp has called Trump a “mediocre wizard who can magically turn unemployment into racism.”
Following Trump’s immigration speech in Arizona last week — in which he doubled down on harsh rhetoric after supposedly “softening” — RT host Thom Hartmann took Trump to task. “Trump Now Flip Flopping Hourly” read the chyron on the segment, as guest Mark Weisbrot exclaimed, “He doesn’t have a coherent position that stays the same, really, from one day to a next on really any of these issues.” Hartmann’s show has repeatedly labeled Trump’s politics as “fascist,” showing little hesitation with using the word compared to mainstream media.
During Trump’s trip to Mexico, anchor Ed Schultz hosted progressive writer and former Texas agricultural commissioner Jim Hightower, who described Trump and the Mexican president as “one president, and one presidential wannabe who have approval ratings down at the mad cow disease level in both of their countries, so they’re both hugging each other up hoping that this actually means something. It’s a freak show.”
King, who has a well-earned reputation for being an easy interview, actually pushed back when Trump said he’ll release his tax returns only once an audit of them is completed. “Why does the audit, it just confuses me. All you have to do is release the first three pages which is not part of the audit, it just states income, what taxes you paid,” King protested.
Trump’s claim that he has a secret plan to tackle ISIS also elicited King’s scorn. “You said that you’ve got a plan on ISIS and you don’t want to reveal it because you don’t want the enemy to know. Nixon said the same thing about Vietnam, but there really was no plan,” King also noted.
Unlike NBC’s Matt Lauer, King was not afraid to interrupt Trump to correct him.
Trump said about Iraq: “Once you go in, you gotta go out the right way, and Obama just took everybody out and it was like a shock to the system, and ultimately ISIS developed and now we have them in 26 to 28 countries and it’s a disaster.”
“The timetable was arranged by Bush for the leaving,” King corrected him.
“Well, you know what, let’s look to the future,” Trump said.
King’s last question to Trump caused the interview to end altogether.
“Let’s get something clear, because I know you a long time. On this immigration issue, what are your feelings about Mexican immigrants. What in your gut about — what do you feel about this?” King asked.
Trump offered no response, and the line went silent.
“Donald are you there?” King asked aloud.
“I don’t know what happened there, we did not lose the connection,” he told his audience.
On Friday, the Trump campaign insisted Trump did not know the interview would end up on the Russian-funded network.
RT America for its part ran an article on Friday noting that the media networks that complained about Trump’s interview with King are owned by corporate conglomerates and Trump foes.