Tucker Carlson hosts the top-rated show on Fox News, but lately he has been making frequent appearances on Russian television. In the days leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kremlin-backed TV channels have been rebroadcasting Carlson’s thoughts—with Russian subtitles—about Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine.
It’s not hard to understand why the Kremlin wants Russians to hear the popular American talk-show host. Carlson’s statements in recent months have often sounded like praise for Putin and insults for Ukraine:
“[Putin] just wants to keep his western border secure.”
“NATO exists primarily to torment Vladimir Putin.”
“Why do Democrats want you to hate Putin?”
“[Ukraine is] run by a dictator who’s friends with everyone in Washington.”
“Ukraine isn’t a democracy. It’s a State Department client state.”
Ukraine isn't a democracy. It's a State Department client state. pic.twitter.com/Vww44gwX4k
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) February 24, 2022
Even after Russia invaded Ukraine this week, Carlson initially played down the conflict as a mere “border dispute.” Last night Carlson abruptly switched gears, saying the invasion “could become a world war” and blaming Putin for starting it. But Russian TV viewers probably won’t see that clip.
Carlson has a history of controversial statements supporting Putin and dissing Ukraine. Back in 2019, when Moscow and Kyiv were already sparring, Carlson asked a guest on his show: “Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?” Carlson also wondered why he shouldn’t root for Russia. “Which, by the way, I am,” he quipped.
Russian state-owned media outlets such as RT (formerly known as Russia Today) and Channel One have “gone out of their way to highlight his work,” said MSNBC host Alex Wagner earlier this week, before playing a string of Carlson clips. “Right now, one of the biggest cheerleaders for Russia is also the host of the number one show on Fox News.”
According to The Intercept, “At least four times this week, Russian news reports have featured translated clips of Tucker Carlson or his guest Tulsi Gabbard, a former Democratic US representative, attacking the Biden administration.”
It would be unfair and inaccurate to accuse Tucker Carlson of using Russian talking points; Russian state TV is using Tucker Carlson's talking points. https://t.co/ryhFWZUrTB pic.twitter.com/lSlMoxM28f
— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) February 25, 2022
CNN’s senior international correspondent in Kyiv, Matthew Chance, also reported recently on Russian state TV coverage of Carlson’s hot takes on Ukraine. “For years now, Russia has homed in on controversial praise from the US, including from the former president himself, and often used it to justify its stance at home,” Chance said.
“Please show us Tucker Carlson,” says a host for Russia’s Channel One before playing a clip of Carlson comparing Russia’s feelings about Ukraine to how the United States would feel if Canada and Mexico became satellites of China. “Excellent performance,” says one of the panelists afterward, expressing “solidarity” with Carlson.
At RT, editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan recently gushed about Carlson on air after watching one of his translated clips. She called him “wonderful” and suggested Putin should grant him an interview.
C-SPAN video of former secretary of state Mike Pompeo calling Putin “very shrewd, very capable” has also recently aired on Russian TV. “I have enormous respect for him,” Pompeo said of Putin.
Mike Pompeo asked to describe Putin: “Very shrewd, very capable. I have enormous respect for him .. he is very savvy.” pic.twitter.com/cmNZbytPaf
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) February 20, 2022
US journalists are often criticized for “both sides” coverage that conveys a false balance between opposing positions. Televised Russian propaganda does a different kind of disservice to its audiences. “Listening only to support for Russia while blocking out the criticism distorts what the US really thinks, leaving many Russians dangerously unaware of just how divided the US and Russia have become,” said Chance in his CNN report.
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