On March 9, Fox national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin pushed back on false claims about Ukrainian labs, only to receive a thinly veiled skewering for her efforts from her colleague Tucker Carlson.
As Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine continues to dominate the airwaves, a new conspiracy theory emerged in right-wing media circles and was quickly picked up by commentators on Fox News. Following State Department confirmation of the existence of biological research facilities in Ukraine, and concern over Russia seizing control of them, far-right actors have parroted the Kremlin’s assertions that the facilities are U.S.-controlled chemical weapons factories that could be used to orchestrate a false-flag attack.
On Hannity on March 9, Griffin explained that the U.S. has worked with Ukraine to eliminate and convert labs that operated as chemical weapons developers under the Soviet Union in order to aid them in the proper disposal of hazardous material, and to convert the facilities into civilian laboratories as part of a “biothreat reduction” program. She said Russia is engaged in a disinformation campaign to misrepresent these labs.
The following night Carlson fully embraced the false narrative, telling viewers that “what had seemed like a nutty conspiracy theory turned out to be true.” Carlson told viewers that it was “not plausible” that the only materials the State Department was concerned about were livestock diseases and heavily insinuated that the labs were working with “bioweapons” for nefarious purposes.
Carlson also levied an attack on journalists who had pushed back on the conspiracy theory, accusing them of parroting Pentagon talking points and “lying” while not bothering “to do any reporting whatsoever.”
This is not the first time Carlson’s attacks on journalists reporting on the Pentagon have conflicted with Griffin’s own reporting at Fox. After a viral segment in which she criticized claims made by retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, Carlson invited him onto his show, calling him “honest” while railing against “so-called reporters you see on television” who are “acting secretly as a flack for Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon.”
Despite being a staple across the network's coverage of the conflict in Ukraine, including making at least 10 appearances on Hannity in 2022, Griffin has been notably absent from Tucker Carlson Tonight, having not appeared on the show since 2018 according to Media Matters’ internal database. It’s no surprise: The Murdochs and Fox have given Carlson the keys to their kingdom. Deadly conspiracy theories, unmasked white supremacy, fact-free coverage, and on-air attacks against other employees are permissible so long as the ratings stay strong.