Is this how Stalin charmed New York Times reporter/Soviet apologist Walter Duranty?
Former "Today" show co-host Meredith Vieira has become the latest example of a prominent figure in American media with a weak spot for an autocrat ruling Russia. Vieira appeared last night on "Late Show with David Letterman" and described covering the Winter Olympics in Sochi for NBC. (Video after the jump)
Letterman told Vieira how he was impressed by the "enormity" of props that "appeared to be just flying" in the games' opening ceremonies, including four of five huge snowflakes opening to represent the Olympic rings, the fifth snowflake failing to open on cue.
Vieira confirmed something that was reported at the time, that television viewers in Russia saw rehearsal footage instead in which the glitch did not occur.
"But the rest of the world saw the snowflake withering there," Letterman said.
"Yes, it was sad," Vieira sighed, bringing to mind her observation during the opening ceremonies that the end of the Cold War was a "bittersweet moment" in Russian history.
Letterman, passing along a rumor that the person responsible for the snowflake glitch had been quickly dispatched by Putin, asked Vieira if Putin saw the error as a "blight" on him and the Russian Olympics.
"You know, you have to think that it upset him a little bit," Vieira responded, adding that the rest of the ceremonies were "absolutely beautiful" and "they even poked fun at it" during the closing ceremonies.
Still, Letterman said, "this one was a little different because the scrutiny, not only on Russia, but Vladimir Putin, who we think is kind of a bad actor, slippery, kinda like, you better keep your eye on this guy sorta guy."
Turns out Vieira has keep a close eye on Putin, though only in a specific circumstance.
"Well, he looks good without a shirt on," she said, tossing up her hands for emphasis as the audience laughed. "He does. You know, you gotta give the man credit for something."
Really? Agreed, Il Duce shouldn't have invaded Ethiopia and he aligns himself with some truly unsavory characters, but at least the trains are running on time. Recall also Churchill's observation about the BBC, that it would have given equal time to Judas.
Perhaps Vieira would not be so easily swayed by Putin if she were employed in the life-threatening work of journalism in Russia.