Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his brutal invasion of Ukraine, Fox News host and vile opportunist Tucker Carlson has used his prime-time platform to amplify pro-Russia propaganda, spread dangerous conspiracy theories to his American viewers, and discourage sympathy and support for the Ukrainian people. And the Fox host’s pro-Kremlin content has also been amplified to audiences across Facebook: Media Matters found that videos featuring 5 segments from Carlson’s show have been viewed more than 2.1 million times and that these posts, along with others from right-leaning pages that amplify the same segments, have been shared over 51,000 times since late February.
Fox News and Russian state media have a well-documented record of praising and recycling each other’s talking points. Media Matters has reported that Carlson, specifically, has frequently pushed pro-Kremlin, anti-Ukraine propaganda, has praised Putin on numerous occasions, and has in turn been praised by the Kremlin for his commentary on the war.
Right-wing media outlets like Fox News and personalities like Carlson use Facebook to amplify their talking points to larger audiences — a pattern we have documented extensively. In turn, Facebook rewards their sensational and provocative content with high engagement, even when it contains misleading information.
The Facebook page for Tucker Carlson Tonight mostly posts clips from the Fox show to its more than 3.7 million followers.
Five of Carlson’s Facebook videos promoting his pro-Russia propaganda have collectively earned 2.1 million views and nearly 200,000 interactions (shares, comments, and reactions), including nearly 47,000 shares. Right-leaning Facebook pages and pro-Trump Facebook groups have further amplified the segments. Posts from right-leaning pages that promoted Carlson’s rhetoric earned another 36,000 interactions, including 4,500 shares. Media Matters also gathered examples of Carlson’s pro-Russia talking points being shared in private right-leaning Facebook groups that have thousands of members.
Here is a look at Facebook's amplification of some of Carlson’s pro-Russia segments — including a passionate defense of Putin, a fierce diatribe against supporters of Ukraine, and baseless conspiracy theories aimed at fueling distrust in the U.S. government and eroding sympathy for the Ukrainian people:
Carlson gave a passionate personal defense of Putin asking, “Why does permanent Washington hate him so much?”
This February 22 segment -- in which Carlson invited Fox viewers to consider, “Has Putin ever called me a racist?” -- was viewed at least 672,000 times on the Tucker Carlson Tonight Facebook page, earning at least 55,100 interactions.
The segment itself was shared across Facebook more than 12,000 times. Right-wing outlets such as Independent Journal Review, BizPac Review, RedState, and The Freedom Times published their own stories featuring the segment, which were then shared across Facebook over 1,400 times, earning at least 6,700 total interactions.
The segment was also shared across right-leaning private Facebook groups which have tens of thousands of members.
Carlson raged against the US' support of Ukraine, claiming, “Ukraine, to be technical, is not a democracy”
This February 23 segment -- in which the Fox host declared that “Ukraine is a pure client state of the United States State Department” -- was viewed at least 547,000 times on the Tucker Carlson Tonight Facebook page, earning at least 44,100 interactions.
Users in various right-leaning private Facebook groups also shared this segment, praising Carlson.
Carlson amplified the false conspiracy theory that the US is funding bioweapons labs in Ukraine
This March 10 segment — which echoed a QAnon-linked conspiracy theory — was viewed at least 317,000 times on the Tucker Carlson Tonight Facebook page, earning at least 32,900 interactions. Notably, this is the only one of the five segments which Facebook flagged as potential misinformation, noting that the post is “missing context.”
The segment was shared across Facebook more than 11,000 times. Conservative propagandist Dan Bongino — who has been banned from YouTube and Google’s ad service for pushing misinformation, but still enjoys a massive audience of nearly 5 million followers on his Facebook page — also featured Carlson’s segment as part of his show. Bongino’s video featuring Carlson’s segment was viewed on Facebook more than 174,000 times and shared nearly 2,000 times.
Users in various right-leaning private Facebook groups also shared the segment and Bongino’s video, praising Carlson for fact-checking the “Biden-Harris Regime’s claims” about the biolabs and for asking the questions about the pro-Russian conspiracy theory that “the press” ignored.
Carlson lied that the Biden administration is working to “intentionally exacerbate” the war in Ukraine in order to implement the Green New Deal
This April 1 segment accusing the Biden administration of trying to “intentionally exacerbate the suffering of millions of Ukrainian civilians in order to take over America's energy grid” was viewed at least 372,000 times on the Tucker Carlson Tonight Facebook page, earning at least 34,800 interactions.
Users in various right-leaning private Facebook groups also shared this segment, expressing anger and calling for Democrat “criminals” to receive “severe punishment” for faking “another power grabbing emergency.”
Carlson claimed the Biden administration is using “disinformation to manipulate American public opinion” into supporting war with Russia
This April 7 segment, uploaded under the title “Lies for War,” was viewed at least 206,000 times on the Tucker Carlson Tonight Facebook page, earning at least 21,100 interactions.
The segment itself was shared across Facebook more than 4,800 times. The Fox News Facebook page also shared an article featuring the segment, which earned at least 59 shares and at least 1,500 interactions.
Users in various right-leaning private Facebook groups also shared this segment, including one user who added that people in Eastern Europe “are not us” and “don’t think like us.” The user also echoed Carlson to claim that “Ukraine is not a democracy” and “never was.”
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of 1,773 Facebook pages that frequently posted about U.S. politics from January 1, 2020, to August 25, 2020.
For an explanation of how we compiled the pages and identified them as right-leaning, left-leaning, or ideologically nonaligned, see the methodology here.
The resulting list consisted of 771 right-leaning pages, 497 ideologically nonaligned pages, and 505 left-leaning pages.
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters searched for posts by pages on this list posted between 11:59 p.m. ET the night before each segment was posted to Facebook and 11:59 p.m. ET two days after each segment was posted to Facebook, using the names of the segments and “Tucker” as search terms. We then reviewed the results of those searches, eliminated duplicates and false positives, and analyzed the remainder to calculate their total number of views and interactions, including reactions, comments, and shares.