With Russian troops steadily massing on the Ukraine border and a looming threat of an invasion that the White House described as “imminent,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson would have you look the other way.
During the episode of his Monday show, Carlson pondered: “Why is it disloyal to side with Russia but loyal to side with Ukraine?” Three years earlier, Carlson admitted that he is rooting for Russia in its conflict with Ukraine. He said, in part: “Why do I care… what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia? And I’m serious. Why do I care? Why shouldn’t I root for Russia, which I am?”
Facing criticism, Carlson walked back his comments and claimed he was “joking.” In 2022, he is unabashedly pushing the talking points favored by the Kremlin and no longer making excuses. Carlson is going so far to support the Russian propaganda narrative that prominent personalities on the Kremlin-funded state television are concerned about his future in the United States. Last Sunday, one of Russia’s most-watched television networks Channel One played the clip from Carlson’s show, where he argued that Russia’s anger at NATO’s alleged involvement in Ukraine was well-justified. Reporter Ivan Blagoy then noted the Fox News host “is predictably being accused of playing along with Moscow.”
Broadcasting the same translated clip of Carlson last week on Russia’s second most-watched TV network, Rossiya-1, host of 60 Minutes Evgeny Popov fawned over Carlson by describing him as one of the “voices of truth and reason” and complained that the host of the most-watched show in all of cable news with millions of viewers is being “silenced and marginalized.” In 2020, Popov demonstrated his affinity for Carlson by introducing him as “practically our co-host.”
Last Wednesday, Russia’s English-language state media outlet RT published an op-ed by Irish commentator Graham Dockery, who marveled: “Once considered a sewer pipe of neoconservative jingoism, Fox News is now anti-war—or at least its top-rated host is... The picture is clear: When it comes to Ukraine, pundits and commentators from the establishment left to the neocon right only disagree on how quickly and strongly the U.S. should wade in to stop a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. Only Carlson, considered far-right by American liberals, is in complete opposition to U.S. involvement.” RT’s writer complained “the sole anti-war voice on prime-time cable happens to belong to a man whom liberals believe is a “white supremacist,” thus undermining his considerable influence.
That same day, opposing U.S. intervention against Russia’s aggression, Carlson prodded his audiences by claiming: “You are currently funding a proxy battle in Ukraine against the nuclear-armed Russian military and that could very well erupt into a hot war that includes you, the United States.” The tactic of terrorizing American audiences with the possibility of nuclear war, in order to undermine U.S. support for Ukraine, has been repeatedly discussed by experts on Russian state television. Portraying Ukraine as an insignificant country of no importance to the United States—unworthy of such an alleged risk—Carlson derided it as “a small corrupt nation.”
On Thursday, Carlson reiterated the same slight and described Ukraine—the largest state entirely within Europe and the second largest on the continent after Russia—as “a pretty small country.” He added: “Vladimir Putin is our most dangerous enemy, they scream. We can’t let him hurt Ukraine. So it turns out Russiagate was actually more effective even than we’d realize. The Steele dossier has been debunked, but in Washington, the theme remains in force: Russia, Russia, Russia. Russia is bad. What is this about, exactly? Well, obviously it’s the usual collection of children falling for the usual collection of lies, but why this specific lie?” He later added: “You still have to wonder, invasion or not, why is any of this a profound concern of ours? Why would you even consider risking American lives or sending billions of dollars to stop it?”
Predictably, Carlson’s portrayal of Ukraine as a small, corrupt, insignificant nation that is of no consequence to the U.S. is in perfect alignment with the way Russia’s beleaguered neighbor is being smeared on Kremlin-funded state television, in order to humiliate the fledgling democracy and dissuade it from resisting Russian aggression. This Tuesday, 60 Minutes broadcast a string of translated clips from Carlson’s shows on Fox News. Host Popov added: “Indeed, I can imagine a cattle rancher in Montana. What does he care about Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty? The same goes for at least 320 million Americans. The rest might actually be able to find Ukraine on a map.” Popov dismissed the entire population of the United States as being uneducated or indifferent to the fate of Ukraine—or both.
Proving the Russian propagandist at least partially correct, on Monday New Jersey Congressman Tom Malinowski wrote on Twitter: “My office is now getting calls from folks who say they watch Tucker Carlson and are upset that we’re not siding with Russia in its threats to invade Ukraine, and who want me to support Russia’s ‘reasonable’ positions.”
Last summer, Carlson complained about allegedly being “targeted” by the National Security Agency (NSA) for surveillance, as a consequence of his dealings with “U.S.-based Kremlin intermediaries” in his attempt to secure an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The NSA dismissed Carlson’s accusations by saying that the host “has never been an intelligence target,” likely meaning that any collected communications would have been incidental and targeted not him, but his Kremlin contacts. RT seemed to be no less inflamed than Tucker himself, firing out at least 13 articles on that topic.
U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) described RT and its sister network Sputnik as “critical elements in Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem.” One of their aims is to promote the idea that the United States should withdraw from its global leadership position, which would enable Russia to pursue its expansionist goals unabated. Carlson’s talking points appear to be fully aligned with the Kremlin’s pursuits, which is why they are frequently praised by the Russian state media.
Earlier in January, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu asserted that “Russia can’t afford to lose the information war” against the West. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a major media personality broadcasting propaganda that benefits Moscow directly to millions of Americans.
Russian independent television channel Dozhd, also known as TV Rain, noted Carlson’s bizarre fealty to the Kremlin. On Tuesday, host Ekaterina Kotrikadze pointed out: “Tucker Carlson is one of the brightest personalities of the American conservative television channel Fox News. Sometimes it seems that he attends advanced training courses at the Russian Foreign Ministry.”