MOSCOW — If you think the American elections look ugly where you are, you should watch the coverage in Russia. News about them is all over Russia’s mainstream media, and it’s brutal.
When Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tried to power through pneumonia and had her fainting spell on Sept. 11, the Russia 24 channel informed its audience of almost 8 million viewers that she’d been “reported” dead.
According to Russia 24, Clinton’s demise had been caught on camera but allegedly edited out by the American network ABC when it broadcast the footage.
We can now say with some confidence that Hillary Clinton is still alive. But in Russia, the beating goes on.
Thanks to relentless propaganda encouraged by the Kremlin, this is Trump country from St. Petersburg to Siberia. And Trump returns the compliment, repeating at any opportunity that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “far more a leader” than U.S. President Barack Obama.
More substantively, on critical issues like the fate of Ukraine and the strategy for Syria, Trump appears to be firmly in the Kremlin’s camp, and he seems to have no qualms about Putin’s efforts to rebuild the Russian, if not indeed the Soviet, empire.
So it’s not surprising that Trump gets more favorable coverage here. “That is predictable, as Trump has never said that the revival of the Soviet Union would be a disaster,” Vadim Dengin, a politician from the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, told The Daily Beast. “Unlike Hillary, he makes friendly comments about Russian power.” And then there’s the matter of business interests. “If he builds a hotel in Moscow, I am sure it will be popular,” said Dengin.
But what is surprising, indeed shocking, is the vituperation against Clinton.
One of the most aggressive pro-Putin radio and TV presenters, Vladimir Solovyov, claimed on his Polny Kontakt (“Absolute Contact”) show that “the yellow American press is accusing Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump of poisoning Hillary Clinton.”
Solovyov claimed he had interviewed some U.S. politicians and doctors, and discovered: “The diagnosis that seems much more correct than pneumonia, overheating, or dehydration is Parkinson’s disease, and if one supposes that the Russian secret services managed to infect Clinton with Parkinson’s, that is a new discovery about the disease.” Getting every bit as wound up as America’s Rush Limbaugh, Solovyov declared that if Washington officially accused Russia of poisoning Clinton, “that would be a reason for declaring war.”
No such declaration was in the offing.
Last week, the major television channel Rossiya devoted an hour-long talk show to the U.S. presidential campaign. State Duma members and political experts argued emotionally about Clinton’s illness.
“She was hiding, hiding it!” several participants yelled. Donald Trump’s face emerged on the screen in the studio with a citation of the candidate promising to publish his medical tests. The audience applauded in approval.
Some politicians seemed wary of this love fest. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov did not seem too confident Trump would live up to his friendly words. “America has never been a good partner for us,” said Zyuganov. “The States do not need us to be strong competitors, let’s think and develop our own country.”
But Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russia’s biggest advocate for Donald Trump, immediately hit back, blaming the communists for poor relations with the United States. “Who broke up with America in 1945? That was you who broke up,” Zhirinovsky told the Ccmmunist leader. “If we stayed in union with America, there would have neither been Korea, Vietnam, nor Cuba,” Zhirinovsky said, rattling off the names of the old Cold War conflicts.
The Kremlin was upset that the Obama administration is playing “a Russian card and our president’s card,” Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said, insisting that the discussion of Russia in the U.S. elections is often a demonstration of “blunt Russophobia.”
No Kremlin-controlled media seemed serious about investigating the Republican presidential candidate’s business connections in Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Kiev.
“I am interested, but I have a sense I could be buried for such an investigation, as there are some dangerous guys who were involved in that business,” the pro-Kremlin observer and editor-in-chief of the popular Moscow Speaks radio show, Sergei Darenko, told The Daily Beast.
When it comes to Hillary Clinton, Moscow’s media remain bitter and aggressive, as if the first American woman who might actually win the presidency is Russia’s worst enemy already.
In his Podyom (“Get Up”) show, Darenko made ironic comparisons between Clinton and the recently deceased president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, who lingered for quite a while in the hospital: “She is going to be dying for as long as Karimov,” Darenko informed the broadcast’s million listeners.