Starting later this month, the 90-year-old actor will host a new programme aptly called I Don’t Understand on RT America, whose parent network RT was in 2017 described by US intelligence agencies as part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine,” and has since that year been registered as a “foreign agent” in the US. When Google said it would “derank” stories from Kremlin-linked publications in 2017, RT called it a form of censorship.
“I don’t understand anything, I’m going to ask questions,” the Star Trek actor can be heard saying in a brief promo released by RT America.
RT America said Shatner will seek to answer “fascinating and timely questions that pique the natural interest of everyone, but that the establishment media all too often hesitates to tackle”, including, for example, “Should I worry about space debris falling from the sky?”
RT has been widely described as a major international propaganda outlet for the Kremlin. RT is funded through the Russian federal tax budget, its headquarters are based in Moscow, and it is ultimately controlled by the Russian state.
Defending his decision to work with RT America, Shatner wrote on Twitter that the BBC World Service was partially funded by the UK defence budget, which is literally not true.
RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, who is also editor-in-chief of Rossiya Segodnya, a news agency owned and run by the Russian government, is close to Vladimir Putin and is widely seen as a Kremlin loyalist. In 2018, it was Simonyan who interviewed the two men identified by the UK as suspects in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, as they improbably claimed they were merely tourists who wanted to visit Salisbury, and not GRU hitmen.
Simonyan welcomed Shatner to the network by saying that – according to Google Translate – “Captain Kirk went over to the side of good,” which sounds a lot like the meme of Captain Picard/Gandalf imploring Harry Potter to “use the force.”