Boris Johnson attacks Jeremy Corbyn for appearing on Russia Today before learning they also interviewed his father

Six Tory MPs also guests of broadcaster

Harriet Agerholm
Wednesday 18 October 2017 12:15
Boris Johnson attacks Corbyn for Russia Today appearance: It's "an absolute scandal"

Boris Johnson has said Jeremy Corbyn's appearance on Moscow-based broadcaster RT was an "absolute scandal" — weeks after his own father was a guest of the TV network.

Former Conservative MP Stanley Johnson, the Foreign Secretary's dad, was interviewed by the Russian channel in September during promotion for his latest novel.

It also emerged six current Tory MPs have appeared on the channel, including Brexit minister Steve Baker.

RT receives funding from the Kremlin and critics - including the Foreign Secretary himself - say it spreads pro-government propaganda. It has previously hosted guests touting conspiracy theories and regularly provides a platform for marginalised political views.

Mr Corbyn was interviewed by the broadcaster in 2015 when he was first running for leader of the Labour Party. A number of Labour MPs have also appeared on the channel.

Mr Johnson criticised Mr Corbyn in response to a question by fellow Tory MP Helen Whatley during Foreign Office Questions. She told the House of Commons "red skies" in recent days served as a "timely reminder" of suffering that happened during the Russian Revolution.

“Does the Secretary of State share my concern that Russia’s state broadcaster appeared to be providing a platform to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party and its campaign to inflict socialism on the UK?” she asked.

Mr Johnson responded: “If we study the output of Russia Today and consider the state of the press in Russia at present, we see that it is an absolute ... scandal that Labour Members should be continuing to validate and legitimate that kind of propaganda by going on those programmes.”

He added: “I am assured by my ministerial team that none of them does so.”

Among the six Conservative MPs who have appeared on the network are Government whip Mike Freer and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Chancellor Philip Hammond Kwasi Kwarteng.

RT has expanded its reach in recent years, opening several international branches broadcasting in local languages. The network now employs a number of established American journalists including Chris Hedges and Ed Schultz.

Although the network has a relatively low viewership, the broadcaster is considered to have large pull on social media and its stories are widely shared.

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