Tuesday 6 December 2016

Russian newsreader says middle finger ‘flipping’ insult to Barack Obama was a misunderstanding

Andrew Osborn

Published 28/11/2011 | 08:21

Tatyana Limanova, an award-winning senior newsreader at the channel, can be seen briskly reading out an item about APEC Photo: Youtube
Tatyana Limanova, an award-winning senior newsreader at the channel, can be seen briskly reading out an item about APEC Photo: Youtube

THE Russian newsreader who lost her job after appearing to brandish her middle finger at Barack Obama during a live broadcast has accused her critics of having a sense of humour failure and has said she was only fired after the clip went viral on the internet.

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In her first interview on the subject with the Western press, Tatyana Limanova insisted that the middle finger had not been an insult but an indication to the television crew to raise the autocue.



Miss Limanova said she had not been brought up to make rude gestures and that most people had reacted to a simple misunderstanding with humour. She was horrified to discover that she had become known worldwide for the incident.



“The world is unfair,” she told The Daily Telegraph. “I did not consider it necessary to justify myself (at the time) because it was so absurd. You can either take it seriously or view it as a curious incident. Most people in Russia reacted to it with humour.



“I really did not enjoy the celebrity. I am quite a private person and I was happy to remain famous in only narrow professional circles. It was unpleasant.”



Speaking about her sacking by Russia’s REN TV channel she added: “They summoned me on the day it happened for an explanatory chat and said they would be considering my future and then thought about it for a long time. After it went viral on the internet they fired me.”



The newsreader shot to global prominence last week when footage of her raising her left arm and brandishing her middle finger just after she had referred to the US president’s name during a news broadcast went viral on the internet.



Mr Obama’s detractors rushed to congratulate her on insulting their arch enemy, while others interpreted her gesture as a sign that Cold War-style anti-Americanism was alive and kicking in Russia. “There was an unhelpful confluence of chance events,” said Miss Limanova, who is an award-winning news anchor who had worked for REN TV for a decade. “It was fate.”



Her autocue had, not for the first time, broken down, she said, forcing her to read from a sheet of paper. The show’s producer had told her via her earpiece that pictures were rolling meaning she was out of shot.



“I made that gesture with my finger to signal to them to raise the autocue. I was irritated but I did not know that I was in shot. It could have happened after I had said any word but happened to occur after I had just spoken about Barack Obama.”



Miss Limanova insisted she had no cause to insult Mr Obama. “I have a completely neutral view of him,” she said. She also utterly rejected the idea that her gesture was a sign of anti-Americanism. “Russians do not hate Americans and the Kremlin did not phone me and tell me to do it,” she added, clearly exasperated.



Ten years ago such an incident would not have attracted so much attention but she conceded that the internet had, for better or worse, changed all that. “But what really upset me was how it was interpreted and how anyone could seriously think I would do something like that deliberately. I was brought up to be polite and I do not resort to such gestures even in my everyday life.” REN TV, a channel controlled by an associate of President Vladimir Putin, has said it believes her explanation but has argued that it did not “detract from her guilt” and was therefore not a valid excuse.



Calling her behaviour “a gross violation of discipline and a manifestation of unprofessionalism,” the channel, which is broadcast to 120?million people, said that it therefore had no choice but to fire her.



Sipping green tea, Miss Limanova said she had decided to view the whole thing philosophically and ironically and to press ahead with the business of finding a new job. She has already had several approaches about work though she conceded that the well paid television career she had worked so hard to build now lay in ruins.



“It was my mistake. I should have checked that I was not on air. It is a wonderful lesson in how things can be misinterpreted,” she said.



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