An American public relations firm who has placed pro-Russian op-eds in several key publications helped Russian President Vladimir Putin's byline appear in The New York Times on Wednesday.
New York Times Spokesperson Eileen Miller admitted to BuzzFeed
that Putin's column
, "A Plea for Caution from Russia," was placed through the Ketchum public relations firm and went through the newspaper's normal editing process.
Ketchum, a New York City-based public relations firm, has received millions of dollars in recent years from the Russian government for placing op-eds it writes under bylines of "seemingly independent professionals" and runs them in media outlets that have included CNBC and The Huffington Post, an investigation by ProPublica reveals
According to the story, written from research into documents filed through the Department of Justice, Ketchum's latest filing revealed the Russian government paid the company $1.9 million in a six-month period that ended May 31, and another $3.7 million for work done for Russian energy giant Gazprom over that same period.
Over the years, from 2006 to 2012, Ketchum earned about $23 million in fees and expenses on the Russian government account and another $17 million from Gazprom, according to government filings.
The New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote Thursday
that the newspaper was approached by an American public relations firm representing Putin on Wednesday, offering the piece.
"At the same time, Mr. Putin's spokesman had called The Times' Moscow bureau with the same purpose in mind," she said, not naming Ketchum. She told BuzzFeed the omission was not intentional, but that she simply had not asked editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal the name of the company before she wrote her blog entry.
While The Times has gotten a great deal of criticism for publishing the op-ed, Rosenthal stands behind his decision to review the article and publish it.
"I thought it was well-written, well-argued," he told Sullivan. "I don’t agree with many of the points in it, but that is irrelevant. Syria is a huge story and Putin is a central figure in it."
Rosenthal said there is no way to know whether Putin, or for that matter, who, really wrote the article because "with a public official you can never know," as they often have staff workers who write speeches and other communications.
However, he described the raw article as being "an amazingly good translation," that needed very little editing or changes.
Ketchum does employ "two businessmen, a lawyer and an academic" to write columns that praise the Russian government for its "ambitious modernization strategy" and "enforcement of laws designed to better protect business and reduce corruption," ProPublica reported.
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