On November 29, Dmitry Kiselyov, television host and head the Russian state-owned media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya, ran a segment on his “News of the Week” program, broadcast on the Rossiya-1state television channel, about U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s staffing picks.
It is possible, Kiselyov said, “to speak figuratively about a third Obama term,” as Biden has chosen veterans from President Barack Obama’s administration, in which Biden served as vice president, to fill a number of top posts.
Kiselyov turned his attention to Jen Psaki, who served in the Obama administration as U.S. State Department spokesperson and later White House communications director. He called Biden’s decision to pick Psaki as presidential press secretary “symbolic,” treating her as emblematic of Obama-era foreign policy and a more confrontational approach towards Russia. He ridiculed her as gaffe-prone.
Kiselyov’s portrayal of Psaki was misleading.
“Jen Psaki, when she was working for Obama, became a household name,” he said.
“This Psaki calmly declares that gas in Europe flows from West to East. It was she who was going to send the (U.S.) fleet to the shores of (landlocked) Belarus. She propagated nonsense about Ukraine and Donbas.”
“As a result, even the ‘Psacking’ meme appeared as a designation of arrogant stupidity, which became a characteristic feature of all American diplomacy at that time.”
During the segment, Kiselyov ran a clip from an April 10, 2014, press conference, in which Psaki can be heard saying:
“And what that means is there are flows of gas, of natural gas I should say, that go through, from Western Europe through Ukraine to Russia, and we—or I’m sorry…”
That is misleading; the video cuts away mid-sentence. In fact, while Psaki did initially misspeak by citing the wrong direction for natural gas exports originating in Russia, she immediately corrected herself.
Here is what she actually said:
“And what that means is there are flows of gas, of natural gas I should say, that go through, from Western Europe through Ukraine to Russia, and we—or I’m sorry, the other way—from Russia through Ukraine to Western Europe.”
Kiselyov wasn’t alone in attacking Psaki. On November 30, Sputnik News, which is part of Rossiya Segodnya, posted an article headlined: “Things That We Have (Not) Missed About Jen Psaki.” It accused her of “falsely assuming that it was Western Europe that was actually supplying Russia with natural gas.”
Yet Sputnik embedded an unedited video of her comment that actually refuted its own characterization.
Also on November 30, another Rossiya Segodnya outlet, RT, posted an article, headlined “Foot-in-mouth Jen Psaki is the perfect spokesperson for gaffe machine Joe Biden,” which rehashed the same mischaracterization of her words. Another item published by RT that day called Psaki “the blooper making face of Obama-era foreign policy.
The purported Belarus reference was similarly misrepresented, except that it attributed words to Psaki which she never uttered.
In 2014, an internet meme attributed the following quote to Psaki: “In the event of a Belarusian invasion of Ukraine, the 6th US Fleet will immediately be deployed to the shores of Belarus.”
At the time, some Russian media outlets noted the statement was an internet-generated joke.
But others did not.
On November 30, Tsargrad TV, owned by Konstantin Malofeyev, a pro-Kremlin businessman who has been targeted by U.S. and European sanctions, ran an article on its website about Psaki, in which it rehashed the quote without clarifying it is a fake. “The lady was not even aware of the fact that Belarus, in principle, has no shores, since it does not border on any sea,” the article falsely stated.
RT also claimed in one of its November 30 articles on Psaki that “she frequently defended a policy of sanctions and increased diplomatic tensions with Russia” over what she called Moscow’s role in the unmistakable “escalation of violence” in Ukraine’s Donbas region.
During her tenure as U.S. State Department spokesperson, which lasted from February 2013 to March 2015, attacks on Psaki included altered photo images of her, cartoons, satirical reports and edited video, Reuters reported.
Global Voices, a non-profit that analyzes international media, wrote at the time that Psaki had “become a stigmatizing catch-all term for everything Russians dislike about U.S. foreign policy.”
During his November 29 TV program, Dmitry Kiselyov said Biden’s pick of Psaki as press secretary likely marks a return to Obama’s foreign policy, ticking off a litany of Russian complaints about that era.
“Now this all of this seems to be ahead for the world again: Incomparability, aggression, irreplaceability, being doomed to [U.S.] leadership for the sake of prosperity on the entire planet, exceptionalism,” he said.
Kiselyov said that John Kerry, who served as Obama’s secretary of state from February 2013 to January 2017, was rated, according to polls, “the worst secretary of state in U.S. history.” (It is true that in 2014, the Ivory Tower survey, a collaboration between Foreign Policy magazine and the College of William & Mary which drew from 1,615 international relations scholars at 1,375 U.S. colleges and universities, ranked John Kerry as the “least effective” secretary of state of the previous 50 years.)
Biden has tapped Kerry to be the first-ever U.S. special presidential envoy for climate
In 2014, Psaki dismissed concerted Russian media attacks on her, calling them a “badge of honor” because “the United States supports a strong democratic Ukraine, along with the majority of the international community and the Ukrainian people.”
“I will say I’m in good company because I’m just one of many American officials, especially women ... targeted by the Russian propaganda machine,” she said.
On December 1, she tweeted: "For anyone who hasn't been the target of Russian propaganda ... the purpose is to discredit powerful messengers and to spread misinformation to confuse the public. Anyone who repeats it is (unwitting or not) simply a puppet of the propaganda machine."