Oh to be a fly on the wall of the NBC boardroom. “Gentlemen, we have the gang at MSNBC under contract. We have Al Sharpton. We have Maddow. We have Melissa Harris-Perry. We even tried to make it work with Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir, but alas, they just couldn’t deliver the goods.”
“Who can we hire that’s even further to the left? Surely, there has to be somebody out there, right?”
“Sir, there’s only man who fits that bill. And he’s got plenty of broadcast experience. Snappy dresser, great tone and enunciation. Two words. Just two simple words:
“Brilliant! Sign him up now, and have Bob Costas interview him from the 2014 Russian Olympics!”
Yesterday, Deadline.com noted that NBC-Universal “Adds Controversial Russian Journalist Vladimir Pozner To Olympics Coverage”:
Two days after announcing it had hired New Yorker editor (and former Washington Post Moscow bureau chief) David Remnick to provide SochiOlympicsNBCguest commentary on the network’s air during its coverage of the upcoming Sochi Winter Games, NBCUniversal announced it had hired Moscow-based TV journalist Vladimir Pozner as a correspondent for its Olympics coverage in Sochi. Pozner will appear with Bob Costas on a late-night program, offering a Russian perspective of the Games, the company said.
Vertu Constellation Launch Party In Moscow, Russia to Celebrate The Launch of the New Constellation Touch Screen Handset – Inside“With his deep Russian roots and American upbringing, Vladimir Pozner is uniquely qualified to provide a Russian outlook to our audience during the Sochi Olympics,” said Jim Bell, Executive Producer, NBC Olympics, in this morning’s announcement, calling this “another significant moment in Russia’s history.” Costas, know [sic] for his outspoken commentary, recently told The Associated Press he won’t comment on Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” law that’s causing people to protest NBC’s participation in the upcoming Games because he’s hoping to land an interview with what AP called “responsible people.”
Pozner’s a controversial guy. About a year ago, Radio Free Europe reported he’d blasted the state of justice in Russia, over the abduction and alleged torture of opposition activist Leonid Razvozzhayev, as well as the prison sentences of Pussy Riot members. He’s not controversy-free in this country either. Pozner’s U.S. media experience, NBCU noted, includes co-hosting Pozner/Donahue – a syndicated weekly, issues-oriented roundtable program that aired on CNBC from 1991-1996 – and numerous appearances across the landscape, including NBC’s Today, and ABC’s Nightline.
For those who were fortunate enough not to be exposed to as much cable television as I watched in the late 1980s and early 1990s, allow me to flash back to that era, if only to describe the roomtone. At least compared with today’s “Triumph of the Vulgarians” on cable TV, it was a relatively classy affair. The A&E Network in its formative stages attempted to be something akin to PBS with commercials, or an American BBC — they even imported BBC shows, such as this segment on Mies van der Rohe. A&E and the USA network seemed to run Woody Allen movies every week, before Woody self-destructed with Soon Yi. MTV was still watchable, although the rot was setting in, even then. Their sister network VH-1 ran plenty of sophisticated adult pop (didn’t everyone have a crush on Sadé back then?), and a nifty jazz show on Sunday nights hosted by jazz musician Ben Sidran.
But even back then, there were plenty of head-scratching moments presaging today’s media as bloodsports — Al Sharpton was given his first exposure on national television, courtesy of cable’s WWOR-TV and proto-Springer Morton Downey, Jr., whose shows always seemed to end with all of the guests throwing chairs at each other, and/or at Downey. And Vladimir Pozner seemed to pop up all the time on Nightline and Phil Donahue, explaining the joys of the Soviet Union in full Baghdad Bob mode, even, as we now know, while Soviet communism was imploding. Or as Rush Limbaugh noted back in August:
Posner eventually teamed up and co-hosted a show with his communist buddy Phil Donahue. Do you remember this now on MSNBC? Back when MSNBC actually had an audience. I mean, there was a time when MSNBC was worth watching. It was ’92 to ’95, it was a legitimate news network. They did news during the day. They had the right kind of synergy with NBC News. I thought they had tremendous potential, what they were trying to do. And then it all went to hell. Snerdley screened a couple radio shows over at MSNBC at that time. One time Chris Matthews guest hosted this show, before he went Looney Tunes on everybody.
Anyway, Posner was a regular guest on American TV, PBS, ABC, Nightline. Vladimir Posner was unabashedly pro-Soviet, anti-US, hated Reagan, loved Gorbachev and all these Soviet leaders. I look back on these guys now and I have all kinds of affection for ‘em now looking back, but they were good. They humanized a despotic regime like nobody ever has. Vitaly Churkin and Vladimir Posner were able to make the Soviet Union look like a paradise, when of course it was the exact opposite. It was a Third World country with a superpower military, is what it was. And I hadn’t heard of Vladimir Posner in years. I thought he was Phil Donahue’s majordomo up at his estate there in upstate New York with Marlo Thomas. But apparently he’s back home, and he’s got a TV show now.
Here’s a 1987 interview with Pozner in full pro-Soviet-spin mode:
Pozner’s Wikipedia profile adds these details:
In his Western media appearances Posner was a charismatic and articulate apologist of some of the Soviet Union’s most controversial foreign and domestic policy decisions. A master of tu quoque, he would frequently draw parallels and point out similarities between Soviet and Western policies as well as candidly admit the existence of certain problems in the USSR. However, while stopping short of unequivocal endorsement and support, he nevertheless rationalized, among others, the arrest and exiling of Andrei Sakharov, the invasion of Afghanistan and shooting down of KAL 007. In his 1990 autobiography Parting with Illusions. Later, he wrote that some of the positions he had taken were wrong and immoral. In a 2005 interview with NPR’s On the Media, Posner spoke openly about his role as a Soviet spokesman, stating bluntly, “What I was doing was propaganda.” Comparing his former role to that of Karen Hughes, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, he commented that, “You know, as someone who’s gone through this and someone who regrets having done what he’s done, and who spent many, many years of his life, and I think probably the best years of my life, doing something that was wrong, I say it just isn’t worth it”.
The Deadline article on Pozner yesterday featured this telling quote from Ted Koppel:
Here’s what Nightline’s original anchor, Ted Koppel had to say, in 2004, about Pozner’s first appearance on the newsmag on January 23, 1980, ” the night of what would turn out to be Jimmy Carter’s last State of the Union Address.” when the Soviet Army had recently invaded Afghanistan…and Carter had some tough things to say about that.
“We turned to someone who was described to us as a Radio Moscow Commentator. His name … Vladimir Pozner,” Koppel said. His comments, on ABC’s website, are followed by an excerpt of Pozner’s appearance on Nightline that night:
POZNER: You realize that I do not agree with what you call an invasion. I’m very happy to have the opportunity to say our viewpoint, and I want to thank you for it.
TED KOPPEL: Please do.
POZNER: The Soviet Union, as you know, has agreements with Afghanistan and sent in military aid at request of the Afghanistan government. We do not see that at all as an invasion. But, as simply, honoring our commitment. And I’d like to make that absolutely clear.
Koppel added, in 2004: “It used to drive my colleague George Will crazy when I introduced Vladimir Pozner as a Soviet Journalist. ‘It’s a contradiction in terms,’ George would insist. ‘The Soviet Union doesn’t have journalists in the sense that we do.’ And he was right.”
And presumably, Koppel knew that full well in 1980, but it didn’t prevent him from having Pozner on as a regular guest. The same with Donahue, a decade or so later on MSNBC. And now he’s back.
Can NBC pick ‘em these days, or what?