‘Historic’ 1st visa-free trip by Pole to US mocked as stunt

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish state television’s reporting on the “emotional” and “historic” first visit by a Polish citizen to the United States without need of a visa has faced scrutiny and ridicule after viewers noticed the traveler was one of the broadcaster’s own employees.

The TVP report highlights the extent to which state-run media under the ruling right-wing party, Law and Justice, has been used to trumpet the party’s messages.

In this case, TVP was clearly eager to highlight the entry of Poland on Monday into the U.S. visa-waiver program. It is a hugely popular development with Poles and one the government is claiming as its own success.

The traveler, TVP journalist Marcin Bakalarski, checked in at Warsaw’s international airport and flew to Los Angeles, where he was greeted by Polish professional basketball player Marcin Gortat, who last played for the Los Angeles Clippers.

The material did not make clear that Bakalarski was one of its journalists, not that he was once an activist and local spokesman for the ruling party.

“It was a truly historic moment full of emotion,” a TVP reporter on site in Los Angeles reported in a live broadcast on Tuesday. “After an 11-hour flight, it happened. The first Polish citizen in history crossed the border into the United States without a visa.”

Clearly that claim overlooked the many Poles who traveled to the United States in earlier eras, often by ship fleeing hardship at home.

The broadcaster denied manipulating the truth, calling suggestions of a set-up “fake news” and saying it just wanted to show viewers how to fly without a visa to the U.S.

Last week Polish President Andrzej Duda also faced some criticism for his handling of the announcement of the decision that Poland would enter into the visa-waiver program on Monday, the nation’s Independence Day.

He stood at a news conference side-by-side with U.S. Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher to make the announcement. Polish experts on diplomacy said Duda violated diplomatic protocol, which dictates that heads of state do not appear as equals with ambassadors.

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