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Tue Apr 12, 2022, 02:25 PM

How a 27-Year-Old Texan Became the Face of Russia's American TV Network as It Imploded

RT America had to fold when it was kicked off the air after the Ukraine invasion. But Rachel Blevins is still broadcasting Kremlin propaganda.

The last programming that viewers of RT America saw, on the morning of March 1, was a half hour of BoomBu$t—the Russian-funded network’s business show. That day, cohost Rachel Blevins, a 27-year-old from Mineral Wells, an hour west of Fort Worth, had led with a roundup of economic fallout from Western sanctions against Russia over, as she put it, “its ongoing military operation in Ukraine,” using Vladimir Putin’s euphemism for his war.

Though that day’s coverage of the conflict on BoomBu$t was mellow compared to the previous RT America show, which had featured one guest averring that “not all Ukrainians are Nazis” and another complaining that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was being hailed as a “hero.” Blevins focused on the negative impacts from the sanctions: higher oil prices, a potential 2008-style global financial crisis, recession fears, and even tensions over the International Space Station. Next: a plug for The World According to Jesse—hosted by Jesse Ventura, the wrestler, conspiracy theorist, and former Minnesota governor—followed by a cheeky house ad that said, “RT is not alt-left or alt-right, but we are a solid alternative to the bullshit.” Then, abruptly, the screen went dark and a message appeared: “This channel is no longer available. DirecTV.”

It was another blow to a network that was seeing its reach drastically curtailed due to government bans in Europe (an EU ban took effect the next day) and restrictions imposed by big tech companies such as Facebook and TikTok. Two days later, RT America announced that it was suspending its operations altogether. Launched in 2010, the channel was the Washington, D.C.–based offshoot of the network formerly known as Russia Today. RT had begun broadcasting in 2005, soon expanding into a globe-spanning network of TV channels and digital media funded by the Russian government and run by close affiliates of Vladimir Putin. RT America became a home for iconoclasts, second-act pundits, and opportunistic apparatchiks, many of whom pretended not to notice their employer’s alignment with the Kremlin.

Texas Monthly

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