CNN's Cuomo spars with 'Russia Today' anchor on air over MH17 evidence

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
Yahoo News
Cuomo spars with Lavelle on New Day. (CNN)
Cuomo spars with Lavelle on New Day. (CNN)

In a contentious live interview on CNN Wednesday, "New Day" anchor Chris Cuomo sparred with "Russia Today" anchor Peter Lavelle over Russia's response to the downing of Flight MH17, with Cuomo at one point accusing Lavelle of "carrying water for Russia."

Speaking at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, where the doomed Malaysia Airlines plane took off, Cuomo asked Lavelle why Russian President Vladimir Putin has not condemned the handling of the crash site.

"Well, I think the answer to that is very, very straightforward and simple," Lavelle, host of the aptly named "CrossTalk," said. "Ukraine is not in Russia. Vladimir Putin doesn't control a crime scene in a foreign country. I think it's quite ludicrous for you to ask that question."

Russia, Lavelle said, has released its assessment of reconnaissance and surveillance satellites near the crash site.

"We don't have that coming out of Washington," he said. "So I think that's what you should be asking is, 'Why is the State Department relying upon Twitter and YouTube and other social media for its case?'"

"Maybe you haven't been following it," Cuomo replied, "but the U.S. is actually coming out with a lot of its own intelligence that connects what happened to MH17 to the acts of Russian militants and perhaps to the involvement of Russia in either training, equipping, or maybe even assisting in this horrible operation of brining down this plane."

[Related: U.S. tracked missile that brought down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17]

"What forensic evidence are you referring to? Twitter?" Lavelle asked.

Cuomo accused Lavelle of being "flip"; Lavelle accused the U.S. State Department of the same.

"Where's the evidence?" Lavelle said. "It's not coming out of Washington. Even intelligence officials are saying they don't know who did this. They don't know where it came from. The United States spends $100 billion a year on global intelligence and they can't find out?  This is extraordinary.  There are NATO ships in the Black Sea watching Ukraine like a hawk. ... Ask me an intelligent question."

U.S. officials say Moscow-backed rebels armed and trained by Russia shot down the passenger jet, killing all 298 people aboard.

"I'm not a representative of the U.S.," Cuomo said. "You seem to be acting like a representative of Russia."

Cuomo again asked Lavelle why Putin had not condemned separatists for "leaving bodies in the sun for days" and for "scaring away" international monitors trying to investigate the crash.

"Oh, that's Vladimir Putin's fault," Lavelle replied. "That's ludicrous. ... The U.S. government and its allies condemned Russia even before the bodies were taken off the ground. What kind of logic is that? What kind of sympathy is that?"

Later in the interview, an exasperated Cuomo scolded Lavelle.

"Here's the difference between you and me, Peter," the CNN host said. "You are obsessed with clearing Russia from culpability, that's OK. I am focused on talking about how this plane and its victims were treated."