There’s no question about it: the Kremlin has found a group of advocates in Fox News and the GOP, and Russian state media mouthpieces couldn’t be more grateful. Scarcely a day goes by without a supportive mention of Tucker Carlson on Russian airwaves, and his open opposition to U.S. support of Ukraine—as it faces down the imminent threat from Russia—are bearing fruit.
Carlson, who has been described as “practically the co-host” of state TV propagandists and “a voice of reason,” is often quoted to support official Kremlin narratives. Russian senator Alexey Pushkov claimed that the West—and not Russia—is “provoking war.” He asserted: “This isn’t just my opinion. Prominent Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson says that the mainstream media is getting us ready for war, demanding war.”
At the same time, Russian state TV worries about the scrutiny Carlson and others are facing for insisting that the United States should abandon the fledgling democracy and allow the Kremlin to continue its conquests of Russia’s neighbors unabated. On Sunday’s edition of the weekly program Vesti Nedeli, New York-based reporter Valentin Bogdanov asserted: “If you’re smart, you’re pro-Putin. Those who don’t believe in Washington’s magic are treated as witches... Tucker Carlson is on the watch list of the hawks.”
Vesti Nedeli went on to air clips from Carlson’s Friday show, where the talk show host complained that “during a closed-door briefing in Congress on Russia, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, a Democrat, asked an intelligence briefer to find out if this show is tied to Russia. We are not tied to Russia, of course.”
Describing himself as an “opposition journalist,” Carlson claimed that “Joe Biden’s NSA” secretly monitored his electronic communications last year. He was likely referring to an incidental collection linked to his communications with “Kremlin intermediaries” in an effort to secure an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Carlson criticized Republicans who “now believe Russia is our greatest enemy” and opined: “They could stop this tomorrow. If Mitch McConnell criticized the build-up to the war with Putin, it would end immediately... The lunacy would end. But they are not doing that. Instead, Republicans are every bit as hysterical about Russia as Adam Schiff ever was... Is that what Republican voters want?”
Carlson proceeded to compare a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine to what’s happening at the U.S.’s southern border. “Texas is a state that’s had well over 1 million foreign nationals pour into it illegally over the last year. Right over the border. That is a far bigger invasion than anything Vladimir Putin is planning in Ukraine,” he said on Friday. In response to Carlson’s complaints, Congressman Cooper's office reportedly told Tucker Carlson Tonight that Cooper “has every right to ask whatever questions he thinks are important to strengthening American security during confidential House Intelligence Committee hearings.”
But Russian state television doesn’t see it the same way. What’s at stake, Bogdanov alleged, is not simply the taming of Carlson, but preventative sanctions against Russia or its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany. He complained that by accusing former President Donald Trump of “working for Russia,” the Democrats “tied his hands and feet and squeezed him out of the White House.”
Kremlin propagandists have high hopes for Trump’s triumphant return—which they’re promising to support—along with what they describe as “the new wave of Republicans.” Classifying them as a “horde” or “pack,” Bogdanov pointed to Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), who opposed the deployment of American troops to Eastern Europe, and Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), who has echoed Tucker Carlson’s talking points on Russia, including when Marshall said: “I’m against sending U.S. troops to Ukraine. I’d send them to the southern border [of the U.S.] before sending them to Ukraine.”
Russian state television singled out their favorite of the bunch: Josh Hawley, who recently demanded that President Joe Biden suspend U.S. support for Ukraine’s potential NATO membership. Hawley also called on the U.S. to stop carrying “the heavy burden it once did in other regions of the world, including Europe.” It was such music to the Russian propagandists’ ears that across state media, Hawley’s position was extolled and anyone who criticized him was smeared.
During last week’s White House media briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said: “If you are digesting Russian misinformation and parroting Russian talking points, you are not aligned with longstanding bipartisan American values, which is to stand up for the sovereignty of countries like Ukraine… That applies to Sen. Hawley, but it also applies to others who may be parroting the talking points of Russian propagandist leaders.”
Appearing on a state TV show The Big Game on Thursday, the president of the Center for the National Interest, Dimitri Simes claimed that Jen Psaki practically accused “leading Senator” Hawley of acting as an agent of Russia. Simes surmised that a sharp split is taking place within the Republican party, with the two congressmen, Braun and Marshall, suddenly opposing any intervention by the United States with respect to Ukraine’s attempts to defend itself from Russia’s aggression.
Simes was so incensed that Psaki dared to criticize Hawley’s stance that he compared the White House press secretary to the notorious chief of the NKVD, Lavrenty Beria, who played a major role in the bloody purges of Joseph Stalin's opponents. Concerns about Hawley’s alleged persecution reverberated throughout state media channels. On Thursday, channel Rossiya-24 complained that Hawley was being “harshly denounced” by Psaki and English-speaking RT said that he was “admonished… for telling Biden to let Ukraine defend itself and focus on China.”
The same day, Olga Skabeeva, the host of 60 Minutes, also criticized Psaki for “coming after Hawley” and agreed with panelists on the show, who argued that Democrats are on their way out. She urged Ukrainians not to rely on Biden, and instead to work on establishing better relations with Trump, especially since the former U.S. president made it clear that he would be happy to let Ukraine handle Russia’s aggression without America’s help.
Skabeeva concluded: “Trump said he will become the 47th president [of the United States]… We have already started working on that. Having elected him the first time, I think we can manage to do it again.”