A day after the crash, when the Russian Investigative Committee had had time to submit a final report on the disaster, which resulted in the deaths of 41 of the flight's 78 passengers, the New York Times' Andrew Kramer couldn't help but fault Russian media sources for having reported breaking news that turned out not to be accurate, even though it was corrected later as more information was made available.
"As the scale of the disaster emerged, many Russians reacted with outrage at the initial, soothing reports on state media and in a statement from the airline that had suggested that all aboard had survived the jet fuel inferno," the Kramer wrote. It provided no source for the claims of "many Russians" reacting "with outrage."
The report continues, naming RIA Novosti as the ne'er-do-well news source: "On Sunday, RIA Novosti, a Russian state-run news site, initially reported that all passengers had evacuated safely, even as videos showed the plane engulfed in flames. Before authorities announced the death toll, Aeroflot issued a statement praising its crew for a swift evacuation."
One such crew member, a 22-year-old flight attendant named Maxim Moiseyev, perished in the blaze as he rushed to usher passengers from the rear of the plane forward, toward the emergency ramps. Moiseyev reportedly refused to leave the area before any passenger.
In its rush to blame absolutely anything it could on nefarious Russian media, the Times missed the key point, even though it's in its own story: as breaking news unfolds, news agencies don't have all the facts; they only have what officials tell them, what they can see and what is reported. Initial reports, including statements from the airline, said things had gone smoothly enough, giving writers reason to believe a catastrophe had been narrowly averted.
"The evacuation was carried out in 55 seconds while the industry norm is 90 seconds," Aeroflot's initial statement read. "The commander of the aircraft was the last to abandon the burning machine."
Later, as more facts came in, this proved to be false, and news agencies like RIA Novosti updated their stories at that time.
However, not content to let the NYT get the credit for striking the lowest blow, Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth gloated on Twitter about the news Tuesday, quoting the Times article's attack on what he dubbed "Russian propaganda," suggesting it had backfired after deaths were reported on the flight.
Russian propaganda backfires: "many Russians reacted with outrage at the initial, soothing reports on state media and in a statement from the airline that had suggested that all aboard had, improbably, survived the jet fuel inferno." 41 people didn't. https://t.co/A7ero1zEIH pic.twitter.com/Z050xCWTc6— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 7, 2019
"Russian propaganda backfires: ‘many Russians reacted with outrage at the initial, soothing reports on state media and in a statement from the airline that had suggested that all aboard had, improbably, survived the jet fuel inferno.' 41 people didn't," Roth tweeted.
Apparently, no shot is too cheap to take for those who wish to demonize Russia at any turn. Indeed, it seemed Roth was pleased at the reversal: though Russian media had reported no deaths, fortunately, dozens of people perished in a raging airplane fuel fire, enabling him to mount his coup.
Are you celebrating a plane crash, kooky Ken? SICKO.— Anya Parampil (@anyaparampil) May 8, 2019
Other Twitter users were quick to note the disgusting opportunism of Roth's tweet, and even though it only got 15 likes, it quickly accumulated over 100 comments denouncing his behavior.
No RIP?, No condolences to the family and friends of the victims of a tragic accident? 100% screw the victim's let's make this a political attack on the Russian govt. NED (CIA) / Soros funded HRW mask is slipping.— Michael (@MichaelNo2War) May 8, 2019
MY condolences to the family of those who've been lost. RIP.
Many noted the sad irony that the director of a human rights organization could show such a complete lack of empathy with disaster victims.
you are being really a nice human being. hope your mother is very proud.— Rorschach (@danilobelgrade) May 8, 2019
We hope that neither the Times nor Roth react with such rage at other news sources as they update their reports during developing stories, but given their obsession with demonizing all things Russian, we know they will likely be more charitable with their Western compatriots.