Fact Check

Did Russian State TV Refer to President Trump as an 'Agent'?

We should note here that the term was in quotation marks.

Published Dec. 23, 2019

TAMAN, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 23:  Russian President Vladimir Putin points while visiting the exhibition after riding a train across the bridge linking Russia and Crimean Peninsula at Taman railways station on December 23, 2019 near Anapa, Russia. Putin on Monday inaugurated a raliway bridge to Crimea, the longest in Europe, which is intended facilitate links with Crimea, a disputed territory, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images) (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
Image Via Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
Russian state television called U.S. President Donald Trump an "agent."

On Dec. 16, 2019, the news and opinion website The Daily Beast published an article with the following headline: "Russia’s State TV Calls Trump Their ‘Agent.'"

The Daily Beast piece was written by Russian media expert and native Russian speaker Julia Davis, who had reviewed a segment on a weekend news program that aired on Dec. 12, 2019, on Russia 1, a state-owned Russian television channel. The Russia 1 segment was titled "'Puppet Master' and 'Agent' — How to Understand Lavrov's Meeting with Trump." As Davis explained in the Daily Beast story:

Sometimes a picture doesn’t have to be worth a thousand words. Just a few will do. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov returned home from his visit with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last week, Russian state media were gloating over the spectacle. TV channel Rossiya 1 aired a segment entitled “Puppet Master and ‘Agent’—How to Understand Lavrov’s Meeting With Trump.”

Our attempts to reach Davis before publication were unsuccessful, however we independently confirmed her translation with Daniel Treisman, a professor of political science at the University of California at Los Angeles who focuses on Russia. Treisman said that the title of the segment on Russian television did indeed translate to "puppet master" and "agent," though he noted that the terms were in quotation marks, which suggests possible irony.

Davis reported that Russian media were "gloating" over an image, tweeted by Trump, of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov standing behind the president seated in the Oval Office in a meeting granted to the Russian envoy. Davis noted that meeting occurred even as "Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is still waiting for that critical White House meeting with the American president: the famous “quid pro quo” for Zelensky announcing an investigation that would smear Democratic challenger Joe Biden. As yet, Zelensky hasn’t done that, and as yet, no meeting has been set."

Davis further reported that "[Russian] President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda brigades enjoy watching the heightened divisions in the United States, and how it hurts relations between the U.S. and Ukraine."

The TV segment aired amid impeachment proceedings against Trump, who is accused of attempting to extort Zelensky by withholding crucial military aid while Ukraine is at war with Russia, in exchange for Zelensky producing damaging information on Biden, Trump's potential electoral rival. Zelensky has also been requesting a meeting with Trump at the White House to, as the Washington Post reports, "solidify his position as Ukraine’s new leader and demonstrate the United States’ ongoing support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia."


Davis, Julia. "Russia’s State TV Calls Trump Their 'Agent.'"   The Daily Beast. 16 December 2019.

Bump, Phillip. "Trump Promised Zelensky a White House Meeting. More than a Doze Other Leaders Got One Instead."   The Washington Post. 13 December 2019.

Wong, Edward. "Officials Discussed Hold on Ukraine Aid After Trump Spoke With Country’s Leader."   The New York Times. 21 December 2019.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more

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