ABC Yawns at 'Mysterious Death' of Former Putin Advisor; NBC Covers

ABC's morning and evening newscasts, as of Friday evening, have yet to cover the Thursday announcement by Washington, D.C. law enforcement officials that Mikhail Lesin, a former advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, died in November 2015 of "blunt force injuries of the head." Friday's NBC Nightly News devoted a full report on the Lesin's death; while earlier in the day, CBS This Morning aired a 21-second news brief on the story. [video from NBC's report below]

Lest Holt trumpeted the "new twist in the mysterious death of a former ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin" during his lead-in for correspondent Pete Williams's report. Williams first noted that "for his aggressive control of Russian media, Mikhail Lesin was called 'The Bulldozer' while serving Russian President Vladimir Putin," and soon pointed out that Lesin "had an apparent falling out with Putin's associates in late 2014, and stepped down from running a media empire." That "media empire" included the state-run English TV network, RT.

The NBC journalist detailed that "police and the medical examiner now say he died of — quote, 'blunt-force injuries of the head' — and had injuries to his neck, torso, arms, and legs." He also highlighted that "police say surveillance video shows him entering the hotel the night he died looking disheveled — suggesting he might have been injured before coming back here."

Williams later underlined that "the suspicious death of a former Kremlin insider raises obvious concern. British authorities say former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned — possibly on orders from Putin. And a fierce Putin critic, Boris Nemtsov, was shot and killed in Moscow shortly before he was to lead a protest." He included a soundbite from Putin critic and former KGB agent Oleg Kalugin, who asserted that "he doubts Lesin met a similar end" as Litvinenko and Nemtsov.

Gayle King's news brief on CBS This Morning about Lesin didn't give mention previous "mysterious deaths" of former Russian government employees:

GAYLE KING (voice-over): The Washington Post reports that severe blows to the head caused the death of a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mikhail Lesin's body was found last November at a Washington hotel. His family said they thought he had a heart attack. D.C. police said it's not been determined if the injuries were the result of a crime. Lesin left a top media post in Russia about a year ago.

The full transcript of Pete Williams's report from the March 11, 2016 edition of NBC Nightly News:

LESTER HOLT: There is a new twist in the mysterious death of a former ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Four months after he was found dead in a Washington, D.C. hotel room, authorities now say he died from blunt-force trauma — not a heart attack, as first thought.

We get the details from NBC's Pete Williams.

[NBC Graphic: "Mysterious Death; Was Ex-Putin Aide Murdered In DC?"]

PETE WILLIAMS (voice-over): For his aggressive control of Russian media, Mikhail Lesin was called 'The Bulldozer' while serving Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now, new information about his death in a Washington, D.C. hotel is raising questions about a man Putin publicly praised when he died late last year; but who had an apparent falling out with Putin's associates in late 2014, and stepped down from running a media empire.

Four months after Lesin's death, police and the medical examiner now say he died of — quote, 'blunt-force injuries of the head' — and had injuries to his neck, torso, arms, and legs. When his body was found in his room last November, it was thought he died of a heart attack.

WILLIAMS (on-camera): Police say surveillance video shows him entering the hotel the night he died looking disheveled — suggesting he might have been injured before coming back here — and investigators say he'd been drinking heavily.

WILLIAMS (voice-over): But the suspicious death of a former Kremlin insider raises obvious concern. British authorities say former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned — possibly on orders from Putin. And a fierce Putin critic, Boris Nemtsov, was shot and killed in Moscow shortly before he was to lead a protest.

Even so, a former top Russian spy in the U.S. says he doubts Lesin met a similar end.

OLEG KALUGIN, FORMER KGB STATION CHIEF: There were no political assassinations ever committed by the Soviets or the Russians on the territory of the United States — anywhere, any other country — but not the United States.

WILLIAMS: For now, D.C. police say they're not even sure Lesin was murdered, but his death has become an international mystery. Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center