Russian Media Spins Saakashvili's Tie Chewing

YoutubeSaakashvili chewing his tie while he waits for a BBC interview last week.
As he waited for a BBC interview to begin, Mikheil Saakashvili took a call on his cell phone, absentmindedly stuffed the end of his red silk tie in his mouth and began to chew it in an apparent attack of nerves.

What he did not know was that the cameras were already rolling and the BBC would broadcast the footage on Friday, with a joking comment about the Georgian leader chewing over his next move.

The clip was soon picked up by Russian news sources, which gave it a more sinister spin, calling in criminal psychiatrist Mikhail Vinogradov to comment on Saakashvili's mental state.

Vinogradov, who specializes in serial killers, told the Vesti news channel on Saturday that Saakashvili "shows the highest degree of anxiety" and that he is "psychologically inadequate."

It was not the first time that the psychiatrist had volunteered an expert opinion on Saakashvili. In the Tvoi Den tabloid last week, he called the Georgian president a "sociopath."

On its Saturday news show, Channel One quoted unidentified psychiatrists as saying that Saakashvili had "clear signs of a mental disorder."

The Pravda.ru web site went further, writing that "such mental unbalance leads to irresponsible political decisions, which lead to chaos, human deaths and humanitarian catastrophes."

The tabloids also seized on the incident to criticize Saakashvili. "Doctor, Saakashvili Can't Control Himself," ran a headline in Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Tvoi Den used the incident to make a satirical point about international aid to Georgia. Saakashvili seemed very hungry, it wrote on its web site. "Obviously Georgia really is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and needs the help it gets from the United States."

The popularity of the tie-munching clip in the Russian media follows accusations of Western censorship and anti-Russian bias last week after Fox News cut short an interviewee who criticized Georgia.

On Aug. 13, Fox News aired a live interview with a 12-year-old girl, Amanda Kokoyeva, who had been visiting relatives in South Ossetia, about her views. It cut to a commercial break soon after she and her aunt identified Georgia as the aggressor.

The anchor then returned to the air but warned the girl and her aunt that they only had a minute of airtime left. The clip was later posted on sites including YouTube.

Channel One ran a lengthy clip from the interview on Friday. "A little girl from South Ossetia turned out to be an unsuitable guest for American television news," it wrote on its web site.

NTV also showed part of the clip, and the anchor described it as showing "how censorship is carried out over who is to blame for the conflict in the Caucasus."

Fox News "stepped away from its basic principle that 'We report. You decide,'" Izvestia wrote Monday.

Russia Today channel ran the story on its web site with the headline "Fox News cuts American child for thanking Russian troops."

The deputy head of the presidential administration, Alexei Gromov, said, "Such behavior from a host, and also from the channel, is the height of shamelessness," Interfax reported.

Fox News representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

The video clip had notched up more than 975,000 views on YouTube by Monday afternoon.

Despite this, Izvestia and Lenta.ru accused Google, which owns YouTube, of falsifying the viewing figures for the video to downplay its popularity. The view counter stood still for a period and even went down, they wrote.

Google said in a statement that the count was not falsified, Lenta.ru reported.