- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
“Just when I thought #CNN could not sink any lower.”
That Tweet was not, for once, from U.S. President Donald Trump (although he did tweet Friday morning, “The FAKE MEDIA is working overtime today!”). No, that statement came from the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Twitter account, and the words were ostensibly penned by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
What made Zakharova take so forcefully to social media? On Thursday, reports emerged that the White House had been tricked by the Russian delegation, and that nobody expected photos of President Trump meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak to be released to the media. According to reports, White House officials thought that only photos of Trump and Lavrov together would be released, leaving it forever a secret that Kislyak was there, too. (Why Trump, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House advisor/son in law Jared Kushner, would want to hide meeting Kislyak, whose job is literally to meet with U.S. higher ups, is unclear.)
Zakharova continued, “I do not believe that I’m writing this, but the #US media are outraged by the publication of official photos!!!”
Oh, believe it.
Zakharova makes the argument that if the Russian state-backed news agency TASS had not published the photos, they would have been leaked and used as evidence of collusion between the United States and Russia. (TASS was the only media outlet present, as U.S. media was not permitted to attend the closed door meeting between Trump, Lavrov, and Kislyak, who, just to be clear, was very much there.)
“And one more thing. Does CNN think that anyone will believe that the channel has reliable ‘sources in the White House’? This is the funniest part of this unfunny story.”
Zakharova is not laughing up her sleeve, or at all.
She also noted that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin (or, as she calls him, #Pavlo) was also in the Oval Office, and literally got his fingerprints on the desk, so there.
The TASS photographer who took the now famous pictures, Alexandr Scherbak, accused the American media of hysteria. “I’m appealing to American journalists not to lose their sense of professional dignity,” he said, “and not to pass onto other people their own failure to organize a photoshoot with U.S. press access.”
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on Friday that the U.S. “emotional obsession” with Russia will end soon, and also that Russia “never interfered in U.S. internal affairs and are not going to do it in the future.”
Photo credit: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images