Politics

‘I Haven’t Seen Any Russians,’ Arizona Candidate Says in Sputnik Interview

GOP candidate Wendy Rogers under fire for interview with Russian outlet seen as Putin propaganda tool

Wendy Rogers, candidate for Arizona’s 1st District, did an interview with a Russian state-owned news agency. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The midterm election news blitz will come to a close soon, but one Arizona Republican candidate’s interview with a Russian government-owned news agency is drawing criticism on Election Day. 

Wendy Rogers did an interview earlier this month with Sputnik News, which NATO officials have accused of being part of a “Kremlin propaganda machine” distributing biased articles and “misinformation” to influence political opinion around the world.

Rogers is vying to unseat Democrat Tom O’Halleran in Arizona’s 1st District. She has linked herself to President Donald Trump, borrowing his “America First” slogan for her campaign website.

“Wendy Rogers proved she is wholly unqualified to represent the people of Arizona’s First Congressional District by interviewing with an outlet for Russian propaganda,” O’Halleran said in a statement Tuesday. “This is just one more shameful chapter in her career as a professional political candidate. She has spent this entire campaign dodging Arizona reporters and dropping out of televised debates, and voters are noticing.”

In the interview, Sputnik News asked Rogers, “What impact can the results have on the anti-Russia hysteria that has dominated the Democratic party’s agenda in the elections? What impact did it have on the election results?”

“I can tell you, Russia isn’t interfering in Arizona’s 1st District. I haven’t seen any Russians,” she responded.

[2018 Election Results, Race by Race]

Top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies warned that Russia, China and Iran are running influence campaigns seeking to sway American voters in the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential campaigns.

These include “using social media to amplify divisive issues, sponsoring specific content in English-language media like RT and Sputnik, seeding disinformation through sympathetic spokespersons regarding political candidates and disseminating foreign propaganda,” said a statement issued jointly by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in October.

Sputnik was established in 2014 by the Russian state-owned and operated news agency Rossiya Segodnya, which was itself created by an executive order by Vladimir Putin. It produces content in more than 30 languages and has international offices in London, Edinburgh, Washington, Cairo and Beijing.

Gopal Ratnam contributed to this report. 

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