If you recently thought tuning in to Tucker Carlson Tonight feels more like watching Russia Today than an American news network, then you may not be so far off.
News Entertainment host Tucker Carlson has been ramping up his pro-Putin rhetoric in the weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Carlson’s role as a pro-Putin, pro-Russian propagandist seems to be working, not just in Russia, but with his Fox show viewers in the US who have joined in on his anti-American, anti-Biden rhetoric and sentiment.
With his new role as Russia’s media darling, it comes as no surprise to find out that the Kremlin decided to make using Tucker Carlson priority number one. A document sent from the Kremlin to Russian media and commentators — obtained by Mother Jones from an anonymous source — goes into detail exactly how they plan on using Tucker to their advantage.
It was sent by the Russian Department of Informations and Telecommunications, instructing the media to use more Tucker. Here’s an excerpt:
“It is essential to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who sharply criticizes the actions of the United States [and] NATO, their negative role in unleashing the conflict in Ukraine, [and] the defiantly provocative behavior from the leadership of the Western countries and NATO towards the Russian Federation and towards President Putin personally.”
Coincidentally (or not), the Kremlin directive was sent the same week the US outpost of Russia Today, RT America, announced it was closing its offices and studios in Los Angeles, Miami, DC, NY, and shutting down production indefinitely.
A convenient replacement, Carlson has taken a page out of RT America’s playbook, pivoting to criticizing the US, and Biden Administration, spreading Russian conspiracy theories, alleging the US of sanctioning Ukrainian use of biowarfare and knowledge of planned genocide of Eastern Slavs, and pushing the talking point that sanctions are not hurting Russia, but instead harming the American people.
But the propaganda blitz started long before Putin’s war.
Back in 2019, Carlson was vocal about his support of impeached President Donald Trump for withholding aid from Ukraine, saying we should “side with Russia”. Julia Davis of The Daily Beast tweeted a segment of the propaganda pusher on Russian television.
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) December 9, 2021
Still, the seminal moment in this report came one day before the invasion, when Carlson gave his now-infamous “Why do I hate Putin so much” speech. In a factually barren rant where he accuses the Democratic Party of unjustly pushing hatred of Putin onto the American people by posing disingenuous, rhetorical questions to his audience, the Fox host is ingratiating the butcher of Moscow to five million Americans. Here’s a transcript:
“Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a world wide pandemic? Vladimir Putin didn’t do any of that.”
The answer to his questions is “No.” What Putin did do — attack Ukraine — less than a day later.
The Swanson foods heir’s brief but gaslighting monologue went viral in Russia. Its state-run propaganda network RT (formerly Russia Today), featured Carlson in an article on their website. RT showed it on their television network with Russian subtitles on February 23rd. The day of the invasion.
This was a sign of things to come and would lead to the Fox pundit being featured more and more as the war intensified.
On February 27th — almost a week into Putin’s assault — Carlson hosted Colonel Douglas Macgregor (ret.) on his show. A supporter of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the former US Army officer openly criticized the US and Biden for ‘demonizing’ Putin. He also insinuated it to be in Ukraine’s best interest to surrender when he said:
“What is happening now is the battle in Eastern Ukraine is really almost over. All the Ukrainian Troops there have been largely surrounded and cut off…and if they don’t surrender in the next 24 hours, I suspect the Russians will ultimately annihilate them. The game is over.”
Thankfully for both Ukraine and democracy, Macgregor was dead wrong. The Russian army’s failure and the Ukrainian army’s successes stopped what many thought would be a cakewalk for the aggressor.
Needing a distraction from the actual facts that the war is going horrendously not according to plan for Putin, his state-run Russian media machine wasted no time using Tucker’s constant condemnation of Biden’s handling of the war in Ukraine, his criticism of the effect of Russian sanctions on the American people, and Macgregor’s interview to further gaslight the Russian people and spread pro-Putin propaganda. Russian TV outlet VGTRK said:
“Fox News urged not to believe the words of the Biden Administration about protecting democracy, who is not in Ukraine.”
Sputnik News ran the headline “Tucker Carlson Slams Biden for Focusing on Putin, Ukraine Instead of US Domestic Problems.”
And his viewers are eating it up hook, line, and sinker. That he barely escaped a highly publicized defamation suit in 2020, brought by former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, wasn’t enough to turn his viewers against him. It was the lawsuit where Tucker’s defense was that “no reasonable viewer” would either believe him or take him seriously.
Basically, he admitted that he spends night after night shamelessly lying to his audience.
The judge agreed. District Court Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil wrote in her opinion dismissing the lawsuit:
“The court concludes that the statements are rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary intended to frame a political debate, and as such, are not actionable as defamation.”
But in true right-wing form, Carlson’s viewers have chosen to suspend disbelief — and he knows it.
Carlson’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is similar to the rhetoric spouted by RT America journalists in 2014. Former RT America host Liz Wahl said that she was instructed by her news director to use the term “peacekeepers” when referring to Russian soldiers in Crimea.
Frustrated with the lies and gaslighting, Wahl publicly quit the station on-air. After leaving she said:
“RT is not about the truth. It’s about promoting a Putinist agenda, and I can tell you first hand it’s about bashing America.”
Wahl seems to have misspelled Fox.
Mother Jones reported that Tucker Carlson is the only western journalist (using the term loosely here) to be mentioned by the Kremlin in the media directive.
Whether or not Tucker Carlson — and Fox — are aware that his show is being used to propagate Russian lies and gaslight the Russian people, no one knows for sure. But at the very least, they should have. And if they don’t, they’re the only ones.
Click here to read the memo on Mother Jones.
Screenshot credit: Julia Davis
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