A sphinxlike Russian newscaster named Tatiana Limanova flipped the “bird” while pronouncing Barack Obama’s name on Russia’s REN TV – the country’s largest privately owned channel. The video of this exotic event is spreading like wildfire over the Internet as if it were a UFO sighting, causing Americans to question the algorithm of Hillary’s “reset” button. As a Russian speaker, I have received quite a few emails asking for the translation of the lovely anchorwoman’s segment.

Responses to the Russian video in the American blogosphere range from marriage proposals and offers to get Tatiana on Fox News to reporting her to the White House website AttackWatch.com. Not to discourage America’s newly found respect for the Russians, it is my sad duty to inform all that the reality is less poetic, for the Russian anchor’s middle finger is not what it’s being made out to be. In case you’re wondering, this is not a parody or yet another progressive truth adjustment. Sometimes you win; not this time.

This is what Tatiana Limanova says in Russian:”Dmitriy Medvedev has become the chairman of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) today.” She stutters while pronouncing the name of the summit and continues: “Previously this position was held by Barack Obama.” That’s when she flips the bird and dispassionately goes on to describe the APEC press conference in Honolulu, with Medvedev talking about the Russian-American missile treaty.

Apparently Tatiana’s gentle finger was directed at her filming crew, who probably had made comments about her stuttering in the first sentence. She heard it in her earpiece and flipped the bird in response, thinking she was speaking off camera over the footage of the conference. Reading Obama’s name as she did was a mere coincidence.

Tatiana Limanova has a reputation to uphold — after all, she is a winner of the prestigious TEFI award, presented to her by the Russian Academy of Television for being the best newscaster in 2010. Flipping the bird at another country’s leader doesn’t agree with that status, nor does it agree with the unwritten ethics of “edgy” journalism that require attacking one’s own ruling elites first. Given that REN TV is considered the last bastion of free media in Russia, an “edgy” newscaster there would sooner flip a bird to her own president, Medvedev, than to the U.S. president.

In addition, Russians typically don’t make the same distinction between the president and the country as we do; Obama for them personifies America. So if the “bird” were intentional, it would be directed at the United States as a whole rather than at Obama personally. And that is unlikely since the rest of REN TV programming is mostly made of the following American shows in Russian translation:

  • Formula-1 motor racing
  • Family Guy (as Гриффины)
  • The Simpsons (as Симпсоны)
  • Friends (as Друзья)
  • The X-Files (as Секретные материалы)
  • M*A*S*H (as МЭШ)
  • My Name Is Earl (as Меня зовут Эрл)
  • Top Gear Russia (Russian: Top Gear: Русская версия)
  • Prison Break (as Побег)
  • The 4400 (as 4400) — a science fiction TV series produced by CBS Paramount Network
  • Supernatural (as Сверхъестественное)
  • Jetix, children’s adventure programming from Disney