“You don’t want someone who looks like your dad preaching to you all the time,” Alyona Minkovski says at a Washington bar. The Alyona Show on RT might not be the best-known primetime news and commentary program, but it’s one of the most refreshing, and not just because its 25 year old host is instantly charming. Equal parts Daily Show and cable news arena, The Alyona Show does political talk with razor-sharp wit. The topics are mostly serious – media laziness, Washington corruption, Wall Street tomfoolery – but Minkovski isn’t above having a bit of fun, whether it’s slipping in a sly joke or her nightly “Happy Hour” segments. Minkovski closes every show riffing on the day’s silliest bits of news over a round of martinis. Ok, the vodka’s fake, but the insight is very real.
How did you wind up with a TV show?
I first started working for RT in December 2008. It was a small office and I was hired as a producer. A month later my boss pushed me on air and said, “Go do a live hit.” It was Inauguration Day, so I won’t forget that. The expansion moved really quickly, but they actually had someone else in mind for their first live show. But a couple days later they wanted a second pilot and my boss said, “We want a second option.” I had three days to deal with all this.
We both moved here around the same time, when there was kind of that “Obama got elected, all these young people are moving to Washington” thing. Did you feel lumped in with that?
A little bit. It’s hard for me to judge because I didn’t live here before, but that’s what everyone told me. “Oh, since Obama got elected there’s just been this huge swell of young people.” But to me it seemed normal because it was the first thing I experienced here. It was like a big party came to town. It almost feels like the thrill is gone. On your show, you’ve recently been calling the Obama Administration corrupt. I call them out big time. That’s my job. I fundamentally believe there is a need to open people’s eyes. I think that unfortunately some people don’t always want to hear the truth, and it might not be pretty, but unless you put it in their face and make them hear that truth, there can’t be change. I think that’s the way the country becomes better.
You’re pretty tough on your fellow broadcasters.
They’re a big part of why I think there’s a problem. I think they like to give everyone their [sleeping] pills and try to appease the crowd with some pretty pictures and fluffy clouds. But if you want straight news you go online. At least that’s where our generation goes. And I want to kind of bring people back to TV. But mainstream news, that’s not where you go to get anything. I really admire people like Dylan Ratigan. Some days you can just tell he’s got this look that says, “I can’t believe I’m doing this stupid story but my producers are forcing me.”
Do you have those stories?
We choose all our own stories. Sometimes for “Happy Hour” we’ll do something dumb, but that’s the nature of “Happy Hour.” It’s the last five minutes of the show for stories I don’t believe deserve this whole epic showing like on CNN.
It seems like a lot of the media fixate on things that no longer matter.
On the top of our show we do [a segment called] the “Mainstream Miss.” It’s something more in Jon Stewart’s style. I love his monologues. I’m not a comedian, but if there’s hypocrisy you find in playing one clip, then another, it’s very obvious you can walk through the logic. I like to point out something they’re covering that doesn’t deserve coverage. I went pretty wild when they would not give Casey Anthony a rest. We still have the Arab Spring going on. We have this horrible economy. It’s just absurd. So I either call them out for something that’s being over-covered and direct people to something that’s being under-covered, or if there’s a story they’re covering but not hitting the right spots.
Everyone’s talking about Libyans in the square and waving flags. That makes a good visual, but then you have Fox or MSNBC asking, “Who won domestically? Is it a political win for Obama?” They’re totally ignoring the fact that this war was waged illegally to begin with. I cannot believe that he has gotten us involved without asking Congress. It’s the biggest abuse of executive power. And those are the things I like to call Obama out on because he said he was going to abide by the
rule of law.
You did a Halloween show where you dressed up as Glenn Beck. Do you miss him at all now that he’s not on TV? Now you have to be someone else for Halloween. Believe me, the wheels are turning. My boss, for instance, suggested Michele Bachmann. She looks a little crazy going off on her religious babble bullshit sometimes. But there’s just not enough material, whereas with Glenn Beck, he’s on all day. Do I miss him in a selfish sense just because he provided a lot of material? Yes. But do I think the world is better off because he isn’t on TV scaring the shit out of people? Absolutely. He’s still on the radio though, so you can’t win.
You were one of the first people to interview Julian Assange.
I think we were one of the first to interview him because in April 2010 because no one was paying attention to him. WikiLeaks had been around a couple of years but they hadn’t had the huge dumps of the scale of the  “Collateral Murder” video. They said they had video they were going to release of the helicopter in Iraq shooting civilians, as well as two Reuters journalists. The Pentagon had fought against disclosing anything, and here you have the video showing it. He was debuting the video at the National Press Club, which is across from our office. But that was way in the beginning. If I got to do it over again I would have 5 million more questions about him and about WikiLeaks.
RT is funded by the Russian government – not exactly an institution known for its transparency and openness.
I feel like it’s an easy thing to bring up but it then overlooks whatever work I may be doing. I did this debate program recently and they introduced me as “Alyona Minkovski, a hard-left, Russian-born, ‘blah blah blah’ who works for the Russian-funded…” What does that have to do with the arguments I make?
It makes it sound like you’re Putin’s girl in Washington.
Some people don’t want to listen to the arguments I make first, and then judge [for] themselves; they like to throw these little things at me. I feel like they use something like that to discredit what I do.
Does it bother you?
It only bothers me when people try to call me anti-American, because for me, it’s a little emotional. I’m very clearly not anti-American.
– Benjamin R. Freed