Liz Wahl is a journalist who made international headlines a few years back when she quit her job with the Russian government-owned news network RT, previously known as “Russia Today”. Wahl announced that she was resigning in 2014, in a dramatic speech which she delivered live and on-air. After quitting RT Wahl continued to work as a journalist but stayed largely out of the public eye.
Then, on January 3, Wahl announced that she plans to run for a congressional seat in Texas. Wahl said she’ll be running as a Democrat against Will Hurd, the Republican incumbent in Texas’s 23rd Congressional District.
Here’s what you need to know about Liz Wahl:
1. Wahl Says She’s Running for Congress Because She Wants to Hold Trump Accountable
Wahl announced her plans to run for Congress just a few days after Christmas, 2018. Will Hurd, the Republican she plans to challenge in 2020, had just won his re-election to the congressional seat. Hurd won by a tiny majority, beating out his Democratic challenger, Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones, by just 926 votes. Ortiz says she also plans to run again in 2020.
Wahl told the Houston Chronicle that she’s running because she believes that she could hold President Donald Trump accountable for his actions more than Hurd could. Wahl noted that Hurd has differed with the president on some issues, but she said that the district needs a congressmember who can stand up to the president more aggresively and act as an effective check against him.
Wahl says that healthcare and public education are two of the biggest issues for the district. But she also says that in Texas, and throughout America, there’s a growing need for “fresh faces” and new leadership. Wahl wrote, on her Crowdpac page, “Now more than ever, we need leadership that will have the courage to stand for truth and take bold steps toward healing the country and rebuilding our standing in the world. My experience has taught me that no matter your background, a single person that has the courage to speak up when it matters can make an enormous impact.”
2. Wahl Quit RT Because She Said the Russian Government Was ‘Whitewashing’ the Actions of Vladimir Putin
Wahl worked for RT from 2011 until March of 2014. She resigned from the network because, she said, she couldn’t stand being a part of a system that was “whitewashing” the actions of Vladimir Putin in Crimea, which had voted to secede from Ukraine and was quickly occupied by Russian forces. Wahl said that the station had been producing distorted coverage of the news in Crimea and Ukraine and that she no longer wanted to be a part of it. She later wrote about her decision to resign in a piece for Politico.
“I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I’m resigning,” Wahl said, during a live broadcast.
RT has since been ordered to register with the US Justice Department as a foreign agent. At the time, RT called Wahl’s on-air resignation a “self-promotional stunt,” saying, “When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt.”
Since leaving RT, Wahl has been working as a freelance journalist and public speaker.
3. Wahl Is Married to John Pavlus, an Air Force Physician
Wahl first met John Pavlus in a bar in Washington DC’s Logan Circle, back in 2012. Pavlus is a surgeon serving in the US Air Force; he specializes in radiology and diagnostics. The couple bonded over their love of karaoke, Disney songs, and puppies. They eventually married in 2015.
Wahl described Pavlus as incredibly patient and supportive. She said that he helped give her the strength to quit RT, something which she said was a tough decision which caused enormous stress and strain. She told the Washington Post that one morning, she called Pavlus and told him she was planning to quit; she told him she planned to resign on-air, so that viewers would understand her critique of the network. “If you feel like you need to do it, do it,” he told her. “I’ll be behind you 100 percent of the way.”
4. Wahl Was Born on a US Naval Base in the Philippines
Wahl, 33, was born in Subic Naval base to a Filipino mother and a father of Hungarian descent. She grew up in Connecticut. Wahl said that her father’s family had fled from Russian persecution, which impacted her view of RT and its coverage of Ukraine.
Wahl also said that much of her mother’s family in the Philippines still live in “grinding poverty” and that she feels lucky to live in the United States. She cited this fact as another reason why she had grown disillusioned with RT.
“As a reporter on this network, I face many ethical and moral challenges, especially me personally, coming from a family whose grandparents . . . came here as refugees during the Hungarian revolution [in 1956], ironically to escape the Soviet forces…I have family on the opposite side, on my mother’s side, that see the daily grind of poverty. And I’m very lucky to have grown up here in the United States. I’m the daughter of a [U.S.] veteran. My partner is a physician at a military base, where he sees every day the firsthand accounts of the ultimate prices that people pay for this country. And that is why personally I cannot be part of [a] network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin,” Wahl said, during her on-air resignation from RT.
5. Wahl Has Testified to Congress about ‘Russia’s Weaponization of Information’
In 2015, Wahl appeared at a hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to talk about her experience working with Russian media. (The hearing, on “Russia’s Weaponization of Information,” took place on April 15 of 2015, just over a year after Wahl’s resignation from RT.)
Wahl told the committee that ” during the war in Ukraine, the Russian-funded television channel RT was mobilized as a weapon to manipulate people into believing half-truths and lies skewing reality in the Kremlin’s favor.” She argued that, “through denial and deception, the Kremlin was able to shape reality or at least make it difficult to uncover what that reality really is.” Wahl argued that this “deception” made it easier for Russia to get away with sending tank into Ukraine and annexing Crimea. You can read the full text of her remarks here.