Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili may think that he’s got the upper hand in his political fight with arch-nemesis Bidzina Ivanishvili, but the billionaire suddenly has pulled out a surprise weapon -- American TV legend Larry King.
Apparently, despite having little or no known knowledge of Georgia, King is keeping a close eye on developments in the South Caucasus country and is ready to help the young station cope with the challenges it claims it faces from the Georgian government.
“I am proud to become a member of the TV9 advisory board,” King was quoted as saying in the station's statement.
King's press agent could not be reached to confirm the announcement.
By looping in King (if, in fact, he has), Ivanishvili must be hoping to lend both credibility and protection to his fiercely anti-government channel. Cable and satellite television carrier Global TV, partly owned by Ivanishvili’s brother, Alexander, recently saw hundreds of its satellite dishes expropriated by the state on voter-bribery charges.
This is not the first time an opposition-owned Georgian news outlet tries to shield behind the prestige of foreign media. Several years back, another dissenting Georgian billionaire, Badri Patarkatsishvili, tied his then opposition-minded television channel Imedi to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps.
The connection, though, did not prove a great help during 2007 police-protester clashes in Tbilisi, when the government accused Imedi of stoking the crisis with distorted and inflammatory reporting, and sent in riot police to shut the station down.
But memories can run short in an election year, when cash runs long. Beyond Tbilisi, Saakashvili and Ivanishvili, both armed with international lobbyists and PR agencies, are battling it out on the key battlefields of Washington and Brussels.
Will President Saakashvili now pull out a token American media personality of his own? Charlie Rose? Jerry Springer? Oprah?