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James Kirchick (//; born 1983) is an American reporter, foreign correspondent and columnist. Kirchick attended Yale University and wrote for its student newspaper, the Yale Daily News. He is a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative in Washington; prior to this he was writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
For over three years, Kirchick worked at The New Republic, covering domestic politics, intelligence, and American foreign policy. While he remains a contributing editor for TNR, Kirchick’s reportage has appeared in The Weekly Standard, The American Interest, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Columbia Journalism Review, Prospect, Commentary and World Affairs Journal. He writes frequently for newspapers including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and Ha’aretz.
Kirchick is a regular book critic and reviews frequently for Azure, Commentary, the Claremont Review of Books, Policy Review, and World Affairs, among others. He is a contributing writer to the Advocate, the United States' largest gay publication, and a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Excellence in Student Journalism Award and the Journalist of the Year Award.
In 2008, Kirchick wrote about newsletters that contained homophobic and racist material, published under the name of Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. The story became prominent in the 2012 presidential election. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post also wrote in an article on the newsletters that there is evidence from old interviews with Ron Paul that he was writing for the newsletter during the period of time that the racist language was being published in his newsletter.
It was later claimed by television station Fox19 that Ron Paul was not the author of the newsletter segments which contained the material in question. In their second newscast on the scandal in January 2012, based on information provided by Lew Rockwell who had also worked on the newsletter, Fox19's Reality Check claimed that the offending articles may have been written by one of the freelance writers who were said to have been employed at the time.
Erik Wemple for The Washington Post wrote an article that included Kirchick's response to Fox19's second newscast, where Kirchick implied that the writer of the Fox19 article, Ben Swann, was incorrect in his naming of the supposed writer of the "Special Edition on Racial Terrorism".
Ron Paul did not initially deny authorship of the offending material, though he had begun denying it by 2001. He has accepted responsibility for the content regardless of its author, as it was published under his name.
August 2013 RT appearance
After advocating the death penalty for Bradley Manning on 30 July 2013 in the Daily News, Kirchick was invited to appear on RT's live panel discussion awaiting Manning's sentencing on Wednesday, 21 August 2013. He accepted; however, once it was his turn to speak, Kirchick refused to discuss Manning's sentencing, instead choosing to protest Russian legislation he considers homophobic. In addition to referring to Russian gay legislation as "horrific", Kirchick also went after RT, accusing it of being a "Kremlin-funded propaganda network". When reminded by panel host Yulia Shapovalova to state his opinion on the Manning sentence, Kirchik shot back:
I'm not really interested in talking about Bradley Manning, I'm interested in talking about the horrific environment of homophobia in Russia right now. And to let the Russian gay people know that they have friends and allies in solidarity from people all over the world. And that we're not going to be silent in the face of this horrific repression that is perpetrated by your paymasters, by Vladimir Putin. That's what I'm here to talk about. And I don't know as a journalist how you can go to sleep at night in seeing what happens to journalists in Russia who are routinely harassed, tortured, and some cases killed by the Russian government. How you can call yourself a journalist and how you can go to sleep at night, I find that abominable. You should be ashamed of yourself. Everyone who works for this network should be ashamed of yourself. You should cover what's happening in Russia. You have 24 hours a day to lie about the United States and to ignore what's happening in Russia. You have 24 hours a day to do that, I'm going to take my 2 minutes and tell people the truth.
Asked by another panelist, RT news editor Ivor Crotty, if he's now ready to have a conversation about Bradley Manning with the assembled panel, Kirchick retorted angrily: "RT has been Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden 24/7. I haven't seen anything on your network about the anti-gay laws that have been passed in Russia and the increasing climate of violence and hostility towards gay people. Where's the coverage of that". As Crotty was explaining that RT did a panel discussion on the laws with LGBT representatives, Kirchick interjected: "...LGBT representatives who can't make these comments on Russian television, they can't write these comments in Russian newspapers, they can't hold a demonstration in Russian squares". His protest lasted two minutes before he was taken off air. Kirchick repeatedly asked if he was really live on the broadcast to avoid RT cutting out his protest. However RT did not cut any material of the show and even uploaded it on their YouTube Channel. While taking off his microphone and talking to a person off-camera in the Stockholm remote link-up studio, Kirchick also said he only came on the station to "fuck with the Russians".
Tweeting shortly afterwards, Kirchik claimed RT "just called taxi company that took me to studio to drop me off on the side of the highway on way to Stockholm airport".
Later that day, Politico reached out to both Kirchick and RT for comment. Now in Estonia, Kirchick, saying his motivation to go on RT was drawing more attention to the topic and "shaming" the network, added: "I thought they would cut me off much sooner. They actually sort of engaged me in the topic which I’m shocked by". He further called for a "boycott" of RT: "Anyone who works for it in a free country like the United States or Britain should be ashamed of themselves. They're not journalists, they're propagandists. If you're going to go on RT you should do what I did. And that's the only way under contempt for the people who work there and speaking the truth to power". RT responded in an e-mail, saying: "Mr. Kirchick was invited to appear on RT's panel as author of article “Bradley Manning gets off easy,” in order to contribute to RT’s discussion of the Bradley Manning verdict – obviously the major international news event. Mr. Kirchick decided to instead use this time to express his opinion on LGBT rights, a matter which, while important, was entirely unrelated to the subject of the panel. Regretfully, RT had no other recourse but to continue the discussion without him".
The Washington Post PostPartisan blogger Jonathan Capehart commended Kirchick for "taking his displeasure with Russia's homophobic laws to heroic new heights". The New Republic's Julia Ioffe talked of Kirchick's "trolling of RT" bringing her "pure, unalloyed joy for several reasons", one of which being that "RT is a ridiculous sham of an organization" before concluding Kirchick aptly demonstrated that Russia shouldn't be boycotted, it should be trolled — boycotting them gives them a sense of wounded pride and artificial importance; trolling, they don't know what to do with.
The day after
The next day, Kirchik's opinion piece titled "Why I ambushed Russia's news network with rainbow suspenders" got published by The Washington Post. In it Kirchik claims that despite "swearing off appearing on any news channel funded by an authoritarian government", he accepted RT's invite to join a panel discussing the Bradley Manning sentencing when a sudden idea popped into his head about using the opportunity "to publicize the abominable anti-gay laws passed by Russia's lower house of parliament". In the piece, Kirchik further denounces RT as broadcasting "sophisticated conspiracy theories and “anti-establishment” attitudes to push a virulently anti-American and illiberal agenda" while relying on "a pool of talking heads, including 9/11 truthers, anti-Semites and other assorted extremists, who espouse the sort of views found where the far left and the far right converge". Listing what he said on-air, Kirchik admitted surprise that "the anchor and her panel allowed me to go on like this for more than two minutes". Finally, he says that condemning Russian homophobia and supporting that country's gay community were not the only purposes for his action: "I also hoped to expose RT's pernicious influence as an outlet that poses as a legitimate news organization, yet is anything but. For too long, journalists in democratic countries who take Western freedoms for granted have either accepted job offers or appeared on this network and others like it, lending these propaganda outlets undeserved credibility. They should instead treat RT with the contempt it merits".
The same night, the video of Kirchick on RT was aired on MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell with the host Lawrence O'Donnell giving Kirchik a standing ovation while announcing him as guest on the following night's show.
Two days later
On Friday, 23 August, Kirchik appeared on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell via remote link-up from Tallinn, Estonia. Introducing his guest, O'Donnell called Kirchik's action "the best protest I have seen so far of Russia's anti-gay laws" and "a perfect piece of video". The two opened the 8-minute segment by discussing the Russian deputy PM Dmitry Kozak's letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), with Kirchick calling it "utterly preposterous and a ridiculous excuse that should not be listened to" and O'Donnell referring to it as "a meaningless Russian letter that's full of stupidity" as well as the IOC's statement in response to it, which O'Donnell labeled "absolutely disgusting" with Kirchik adding that "IOC has to be one of the most corrupt organizations in the world for many many years". The two then moved on to RT with Kirchik's expectation that the station's coverage of Bradley Manning will not change now that he went through a gender change and became Chelsea Manning "because RT is not broadcast in Russia and they can ignore the gender issue while continuing to uphold Chelsea Manning as a hero because that's a very anti-American cause that makes America look very bad, which is ultimately what RT's agenda is all about". Kirchik also dismissed the RT's coverage of Russia's gay legislation as "completely one-sided, staged, and utterly cynical" before denouncing Martyn Andrews, the openly gay person at RT, as "a Stepin Fetchit" as well as dismissing other RT-employed Western journalists as "complete failures in their own countries who can't get a job at MSNBC, CNN, BBC or any respectable news outlet".
- 2006 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Excellence in Student Journalism
- 2007 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Journalist of the Year
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- Tweet;21 August 2013
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- Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell;MSNBC, 22 August 2013
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- IOC Statement;IOC, 22 August 2013
- Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell;MSNBC, 23 August 2013