William Shatner angrily defends his new show on Kremlin-funded TV

William Shatner (Bob Bekian/Flickr)

William Shatner has spent the past two days lashing out at journalists and others blasting him for what one critic called his “Hanoi Jane” moment — hosting a new talk show on the Kremlin’s notorious state-funded network, RT.

The 90-year-old TV legend, who played heroic Captain Kirk in the “Star Trek” TV and film franchise, announced this week that his new general talk show, “I Don’t Understand,” would debut this month on RT America.

The parent network is RT, formerly known as Russia Today. RT has long been dubbed an arm of the Kremlin “propaganda machine” by journalists and experts across the world, including by U.S. intelligence agencies in 2017, the New York Post said.

“This is your Hanoi Jane moment, and despite best intentions, it’s not going to go well,” a Canadian open source research consultant named Steffan Watkins replied to one of Shatner’s tweets about the show.

Watkins reference was to Jane Fonda’s controversial visit to North Vietnam in 1972, which was seen as a rebuke of U.S. soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. Watkins also tried to appeal to Shatner by saying he, too, attended the actor’s high school in his native Canada. “We’ve walked the same stairs, and the same halls; please reconsider the RT thing.”

Shatner, an often irascible presence on Twitter, hit back at Watkins’ admonition with a GIF of “The Brady Bunch” character Marcia Brady saying “Sure, Jan,” with laughing emojis.

Shatner seems especially incensed by criticism from Alexey Kovalev, an investigative editor for Meduza, one of the most popular independent Russian-language news outlets, the Daily Beast reported.

Kovalev issued a series of tweets that said that Shatner was being co-opted by RT, which would use his name and celebrity to “whitewash” some of its most “vile, racist” views, whether or not that was Shatner’s intention.

Kovalev linked to his own tweet from April, in which he wrote: “A reminder to otherwise well-meaning folks who go on @RT_com thinking it’s just a regular news channel: your name will run alongside an op-ed calling Derek Chauvin a brave fellow who cleansed his city of human garbage and unironically comparing his trial to the Dreyfus affair.”

Kovalev also linked to a thread that ended with: “Don’t go on RT, unless you are okay with sharing a mic with some of the most vile racist degenerates out there. It’s not a legitimate media platform. It has no redeeming qualities. And if no other platform will have you, then you really shouldn’t have —any— platform.”

Shatner hit back by saying Kovalev should first watch his show before he decides it’s propaganda and should refrain from judging him for what essentially is a distribution deal, implying he wasn’t working for RT.

Shatner continued his offensive against Kovalev, by calling him a “hypocrite” and saying that the journalist is “directly supporting the very regime you are berating me about” by choosing to live in Moscow.

“Perhaps instead of rebuking me with facts that have zero influence on my show; a better use of your time @Alexey__Kovalev would be to move?” Shatner said.

The actor’s argument made no sense to those who questioned why a Russian journalist would want to leave his home country, where he is working for the causes of transparency and accountability in his government.

A Canadian attorney and writer tore into Shatner for suggesting that someone supports an oppressive regime by living in it. “You can see why folks think the show won’t attract the highest intellectual discourse,” tweeted Michael Serebriakov

A self-identified Russian added that he was disturbed by Shatner’s “inconsiderate behavior” to Kovalev, writing: “There are political prisoners in our country, and RT is a taxpayer-sucking propaganda outlet. Many Russians despise Putin’s propaganda to the extent of not watching TV at all.

The Daily Beast reported that various RT news shows feature Vladimir Putin loyalists who dedicate significant amounts of airtime denigrating the United States. The outlet also noted that RT’s editor-in-chief, Margaret Simonyan, congratulated Shatner for associating himself with the network, tweeting: “Captain Kirk went over to the good side.”

Shatner’s RT controversy caught the attention of exiled oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was once the wealthiest man in Russia, the Daily Beast reported. He had a different take on Shatner’s defense, tweeting: “No regrets I’ve never watched #StarTrek.”


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