Liz Wahl quit her job as an anchor and correspondent at the Kremlin-funded propaganda network Russia Today with a dramatic on-air speech Wednesday in which she declared she could no longer “be part of a network that whitewashes the actions” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan responded Thursday with a blistering editorial implying Wahl’s speech was a “self-promotional stunt” aimed at “securing fantastic career prospects.” Wahl’s spectacular exit from RT did get her appearances on all three of the big cable news channel, but could it really get her a permanent job with another network?
Business Insider talked to a pair of cable pros to find out and the verdict on Wahl’s prospects was decidedly mixed.
One network executive who’s worked in both broadcast and cable news told us they believe multiple outlets are probably “taking a look” at Wahl as a result of her newfound fame.
“I would assume everybody’s going to talk to her, that’s how the business works,” the executive said.
Despite RT’s reputation as a mouthpiece for the Russian government, the executive said they doubted anyone in cable news would have qualms about working with Wahl, who spent two-and-a-half years at the network.
“Yes, RT is wacky, but … when you enter into the national cable conversation as she did, it doesn’t really matter from which angle you are coming. Once you’re there, you’re there and everybody takes a look,” said the executive, adding, “Some people might have ethical concerns, but I don’t think anybody who’d be in a position to hire her would.”
Business Insider also spoke to a producer for a primetime cable news show who was far less bullish about Wahl’s future.
“There are times when, I mean, Dan Rather’s a good example, you know, where he was a reporter in Dallas for a local station when Kennedy was shot and that’s how he came to the attention of CBS News,” the producer said. “This I don’t quite put up there, obviously, at that level. You know, is she attractive? Yes. Could she be a good newsreader? Yeah. But I think it’s flash in the pan. She could end up somewhere, but I would think it would be local rather than national.”
The producer said they would want to “look at her tapes,” but they described Wahl’s performance in her initial round of interviews after quitting RT as “inconsistent.” “Seriously, there are a million people like her out there, I mean, blonde, attractive, you know, fairly good newsreader,” they said. “If I were somebody who was a talent scout, I would know that I had seen 7,000 people like her. There would be no reason for me to go after her.”
However, the producer said they doubted anyone would hold working for RT against Wahl. They said people in the television news business would see her as someone who was “young and maybe was trying to get some on air experience.
The producer also cited examples of people who switched between MSNBC and Fox and the infamous “Fox Mole” who wrote a tell-all about his time at the conservative channel as evidence people can work at outlets that don’t reflect their personal beliefs. “I would think that would be hard to work under on a daily basis, but I think there are people who are able to turn their head the other way and wear a mask,” said the producer.
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