Kirill Kleimyonov hosts the program Vremya (Time) on state-owned Channel One. It is the most-watched television program in Russia and the former Soviet countries.
On Saturday, October 26, much of the program’s airtime was dedicated to the United States, as is usually the case with Vremya.
Kleimyonov first informed his viewers of the “mail bomb” incident, suggesting that if one party in the U.S. is “totally eliminated” only one political party will remain. “We already have a name and a mascot for it,” Kleimyonov said, pointing to the screen behind him, where there was a doctored picture with “United America” written over the two symbols of the main U.S. political parties, the donkey and the elephant, photo-shopped as one monstrous hybrid.
“Don’t get it wrong, it’s not a donkey suffering from constipation. It’s a donkelephant, or whatever the American people decide to call it in a free democratic vote without any of our interference,” Kleimyonov said before switching to the next topic – also concerning the United States.
“It’s just been announced that Megyn Kelly’s program, our favorite American TV anchor, is being taken off the air,” he said. The NBC action followed an outcry over Kelly’s racially insensitive comments on her program. After speculating about the insignificance of the race issue, he proposed a “healing recipe” for Kelly.
“Dear, dear Megyn, spit on your bosses, just spit and come to us, to Russia, to the hero-city of Moscow,” Kleimyonov proposed, looking at an image of Megyn Kelly doctored into the studio interior sitting next to him.
Addressing the American journalist, Kleimyonov used the informal “ty” for “you,” which in Russia, is used only with friends and family, instead of the formal “vy.” The choice between “ty” and “vy” is also a way of showing people their position compared to yours – younger or less important.
Kleimyonov suggested that Kelly co-host his program, promising her “the love of millions of our men and the envy of millions of women.”
“Extinguishing a star”
The offer was followed with a report headlined “Extinguishing a star,” in which Channel One’s correspondent in the U.S., Zhanna Agalakova, commented on Megyn Kelly and the race issue in the U.S.
“Smart and beautiful, she now is an outcast and a white crow – or, as Americans say a black sheep,” Agalakova said at the start of her report.
After a brief review of the scandal that cost Kelly her job with NBC, Agalakova then switched to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Kelly interviewed in 2017. Archived video footage showed Kelly speaking with Agalakova about Putin, with Kelly stating: “I think he likes to be challenged. He is a very smart man. I couldn’t ask him any questions to which he did not know the answers.” That was followed by footage of the Russian president and Kelly chatting and smiling at each other.
The footage was seemingly structured in way designed to convince Russians that “the true reason” behind NBC’s decision to terminate a contract with Kelly was, as Vremya host Kleimyonov put it, “our love for her.”
That claim is false: NBC said the anchor would no longer host the “Megyn Kelly Today” after she made racially insensitive comments during the October 25 edition of her show.
Kelly is widely quoted as questioning, with a panel, what actions would be considered racist: “Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween. When I was a kid, it was OK as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character,” Kelly is quoted as saying on October 23.
While Kelly’s remarks caused outrage, neither her critics nor NBC mentioned her stance toward Russia. Kelly has since apologized for the racially-tinged comments.
Vremya is Russia’s flagship news show. Its name and prime-time slot at 9 p.m. daily have remained unchanged since it first went on the air in the Soviet Union in 1958.
When Vremya celebrated its 50-year anniversary On January 1, 2018, President Putin came to the studio for a special interview with Kleimyonov. Putin said Vremya’s anniversary was a national holiday and called the program a “leader of information programs” in Russia and abroad.