WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) – U.S.-based attorney Mike "Pap" Papantonio says his new weekly gig, airing later this month on a Russian state-sponsored news network, is about revealing corruption in corporate America.
Comments during a recent conference, however, suggest it might also be a vehicle for the Left.
Papantonio announced during the Mass Torts Made Perfect conference in Las Vegas held in late October that his new program, America's Lawyer, will air on Russia Today (RT) America starting in mid-November, and he invited trial lawyers and left-leaning colleagues to participate.
"I invite you, please, to give us your story," Papantonio said to a group of trial lawyers. "We’ll tell it right. Larry King will tell your story right. Then (Thom) Hartmann will tell the story right. Ed Schultz will tell the story and a whole host of really great journalist names will tell your story."
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who also spoke at the event, already is on board, Papantonio told attendees of the plaintiff attorney conference and seminar at the Bellagio Hotel on Oct. 19-21.
"It will be viewed in every English-speaking country in the world, and it is called America’s Lawyer," Papantonio said. "Bobby will be appearing on that, telling some of the stories as he pointed out (in his comments earlier) that we can tell. He is going to be able to tell some of his stories that he can’t on ABC, NBC, CBS. They can’t afford to do it because advertisers won’t let them."
Papantonio is a senior partner at Levin Papantonio in Pensacola, Florida, one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, and has been a regular legal and political commentator on MSNBC, Free Speech TV and Fox News. He also founded Mass Torts Made Perfect, is a past president of The National Trial Lawyers and co-hosts the liberal show Ring of Fire.
"(T)he traditional core legs of power of the
progressive Democratic Party of this country, the Civil Rights Bill, which is still there, the media -- and we did have a
liberal media at one point -- that is gone," Kennedy said.
Kennedy - the son of politician and former Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 - lamented that liberals are losing their voice in the U.S. news media.
unions are gone. The thing that is left is the trial lawyers," he said.
Papantonio urged trial lawyers to send story ideas.
"We only ask a couple of things," he said. "We prefer the case actually be filed to where we can talk about the filing that protects from slander or libel, and we have a couple of documents so we can substantiate what you have."
America's Lawyer will be aired on RT America, the Kremlin-backed, English-language news network with the slogan "Question more." The Russia Today news channel has endured criticism from news reporters, including former RT reporters, who have claimed that it is a conduit for Russian government propaganda and spreading misinformation.
RT America broadcasts from Washington as part of Russia Today's global television news network. Russia Today broadcasts around the clock in English, Arabic and Spanish from its studios in Moscow, Washington and London, and claims a viewing audience of 70 million each week in 38 countries. Russia Today also claims to be the most watched TV news network on YouTube, with more than 4 billion views.
RT's detractors often point to the experience of former Russia Today anchor Abby Martin during Russia's 2014 invasion of the Ukraine, Russia's neighbor to the southwest. RT's coverage claimed Russia had been forced into the invasion to stabilize the region and safeguard its interests in Crimea, claims dismissed in most of the rest of the world. Martin condemned the invasion, speaking on air and into a live mic.
Russia Today responded with an endorsement of Martin's free speech rights and announced she would be sent to Crimea. Days later, RT Washington bureau anchor Liz Wahl resigned on air, also into a live mic, saying she "can not be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin."
Martin now is a presenter on the weekly investigative news teleSUR broadcast The Empire Files while Wahl went on to be a D.C.-based correspondent. Russia Today's reputation sparked the founding of Real Russia Today, the online site that promises "Things you won’t hear from propaganda-driven media."
Papantonio is the latest U.S. news commentator to join up with RT America. Long-time talk show host Larry King is hosted on RT America, as is The Big Picture with political commentator Thom Hartmann, and Watching the Hawks with Tyrel Ventura, Tabetha Wallace and Sean Stone.
Earlier this year, progressive talk radio host and former MSNBC personality Ed Schultz joined RT America. During a CNN Money interview, Schultz brushed off questions about the Russian government driving RT America's news coverage and pointed out that Russia Today is on the rise.
"While others are cutting back, RT America is expanding," Schultz said.
Russia Today announced in October that it will begin airing America's Lawyer and released a video promo that features Papantonio.
"I'm a trial lawyer," Papantonio says in the promo. "I've spent countless hours poring through documents that tell the story about the ugly side of corporate America. Corporate media refuses to talk about these issues. I'm going to paint a clear picture about how disturbing, how corrupt corporate conduct has become in modern America. These are stories that no one else can tell."
Kennedy said: "Pap says there is something more to this than just making a big pile for ourselves and whoever dies with the most stuff wins. We have a special responsibility in this democracy. The thousand attorneys that are at this event this weekend are the glue that is now holding - in this very, very troubled time - that is holding our democracy together."
All of the traditional foundations of progressive democracy have been eroded, Kennedy said.
"The unions in this country are 10 percent of their historical strength," he said. "The media we’ve lost altogether."
Russia Today did not respond to a Legal Newsline request for comment. Neither Papantonio nor Kennedy could be reached for comment.