Ed Schultz, the former MSNBC anchor-turned-host on RT, a Kremlin-owned TV network, defended Vladimir Putin in an extraordinarily bizarre interview about the legitimacy of his outlet and American democracy.
Speaking this week in a National Review podcast, hosted by Jamie Weinstein and published Friday, the TV host refused to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin for his troubling human-rights record, instead declaring that Putin is “viewed as a progressive Democrat” by the Russian people.
When confronted with his own past comments acknowledging Putin had a “nasty human rights record,” Schultz focused on the “tremendous friction” between the U.S. and Russia, and claimed that his previous remarks about Putin “might have been overboard.”
“Does he have a nasty human rights record?” Weinstein pressed further.
“I think the United States has a nasty human-rights record,” Schultz replied. “I do think that every super power on the globe has a very poor record on human rights.”
While his former home MSNBC has hit ratings gold—due, in part, to its extensive coverage of the ongoing probe into Russian ties to the Trump campaign—the famously bombastic progressive Schultz has gone in the opposite direction since departing the network in 2015.
As The New Republic noted in 2017, since joining Russia’s state-owned television network, Schultz has repeatedly praised Trump’s political acumen while downplaying accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
And during Friday’s interview, Schultz brushed off Russia's annexation of Crimea, insisting that Russia did not fire any shots during the invasion, and residents in Crimea wanted to rejoin Russia regardless. He dodged a question about Russia's treatment of political dissidents, saying he didn't know anything about the topic.
The blustery anchor also refused to say whether Russia was a true democracy, instead insisting that there were “tremendous similarities” between American and Russian political systems.
“The American people don’t understand that what Russia is going through, not right now, is a big political experiment,” Schultz explained. “That Vladimir Putin is trying to make sure that this system of sovereign democracy works in Russia.”
The RT anchor got heated when Weinstein asked him about his own defense of Russia and Putin in light of him being a media operative of the Kremlin.
In response, Schultz emphasized twice that he was “unmuzzled,” and rejected the notion Putin had chosen him to legitimize the state-owned network in the eyes of skeptical viewers.
“Are you for real? That is a conspiracy theory,” he said, when asked again about why he was hired by RT.
“Let me get this straight: You’re suggesting that RT America hired Ed Schultz after his run with the mainstream media and a network radio show that played across the country to kind of get a foot in the door to fool people?”