Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Tucker Carlson’s upcoming interview with Putin tracks with his long history of pro-Kremlin propaganda

Defending Vladimir Putin's leadership and the invasion of Ukraine was a central narrative of Tucker Carlson Tonight

This afternoon, former Fox host Tucker Carlson posted a video on X confirming rumors that he is in Moscow this week to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin. For years, Carlson has made his support for Putin and other authoritarian leaders a mainstay of his commentary. The host’s anti-Ukraine talking points have even been celebrated by and circulated in Russian state media.

  • Carlson announced that he is in Moscow to interview Putin, continuing his pattern of cozying up to far-right politicians

    • On Tuesday, Carlson posted a video on X (formerly Twitter) captioned “Why I'm interviewing Vladimir Putin.” He said: “We're in Moscow tonight, we're here to interview the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. We'll be doing that soon.” Carlson would be the first Western journalist to interview the Russian president since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. As of this writing, the Kremlin has not independently confirmed that the interview is taking place. [Twitter/X, 2/6/24; The Guardian, 2/05/24; The Hill, 2/05/24]
    • For his Fox News and Fox Nation shows, Carlson interviewed a number of authoritarian leaders, often praising their anti-democratic ideals. In addition to his defenses of Putin, Carlson has embraced Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, Polish President Andrzej Duda, and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. [Media Matters, 8/03/22]
    • Since his abrupt departure from Fox News last year, Carlson has continued to appear alongside far-right figures from other countries. In September, Tucker interviewed far-right Argentinian Prime Minister Javier Milei for his X show, Tucker on X, and he appeared alongside far-right Spanish politician Santiago Abascal at a protest in November. [The Associated Press, 9/15/23; Twitter/X, 11/13/23]
  • The Kremlin has repeatedly celebrated Carlson, with a leaked memo calling his commentary “essential”

    • After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, a leaked Kremlin memo stated that it was “essential to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson.” Segments where Carlson was praising Putin and defending the invasion frequently made the rounds on Russian state-owned or state-aligned news outlets and spread across social media. [Mother Jones, 3/13/22; Media Matters, 3/13/22, 4/26/22, 10/10/22]
    • Just hours after Carlson was booted from Fox, Russian state-controlled network RT offered him a job. On X, RT said that Carlson “can always question more with” the network. Vladimir Solovyov, a prominent pro-Putin host for Russian state TV, stated that Carlson has “our admiration and support” and suggested that Carlson should run for president. He also said, “We'll happily offer you a job if you wish to carry on as a presenter and host!” [NBC News, 4/15/23
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attacked Fox News over the decision to fire Carlson, stating, “The First Amendment of the United States Constitution apparently means nothing in practice.” Lavrov previously praised Fox News' coverage of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. [Business Insider, 4/27/23; Media Matters, 3/18/22]
  • Carlson praised and defended Putin’s leadership while at Fox

    • Carlson argued that pressuring Putin to leave office would be “counterproductive to our interests.” He also fearmongered about a nuclear threat posed by a hypothetical post-Putin Russia, asking, “Are there potentially ways that thousands of unsecured Russian nukes might pose a long-term threat to the United States?” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/02/22]
    • Before defending Putin’s character, Carlson claimed that “hating Putin has become the central purpose of America's foreign policy.” Carlson then went on to list theoretical positions that he asserts Putin disagrees with, saying, “Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity? Does he eat dogs? These are fair questions, and the answer to all of them is ‘no.’“ [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/22/22]
    • In 2019, Carlson bemoaned American mainstream media for making Putin into a “boogeyman.” According to Carlson, “For Chuck Todd and the rest of the dummies, Vladimir Putin isn't a real person with actual ideas and priorities and a country and beliefs. No, he stopped being that long ago. He's a metaphor, a living metaphor, he's the boogeyman.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 12/02/19]
    • In 2011, Carlson wrote a tweet in which he called Putin a “tiger fighter, bad ass, our greatest hope when Aliens finally attack.” [Twitter/X, 3/03/11]
  • Carlson has repeatedly defended or downplayed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, occasionally blaming it on Biden or NATO, and he has pushed debunked conspiracy theories about biolabs

    • Carlson called the Ukrainian government a “growing dictatorship” and claimed “Zelenskyy has been solidifying complete control over Ukraine for a long time, since long before the Russian invasion and the war.” The host then said the U.S. should “[admit] this is authoritarianism, it's not democracy.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/21/22]
    • Carlson claimed that the U.S. could be hurting Ukrainian civilians by providing their country with weapons to defend itself against Russia. Carlson speculated that arms sales would “prolong the fighting in Ukraine at the expense of the vulnerable civilian population in Ukraine.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/25/22]
    • Carlson repeatedly hosted retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, who has claimed elsewhere in right-wing media that Putin invaded Ukraine “in defense of his country.” In one appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Macgregor blamed the invasion on NATO, stating, “Russia begged us not to try and drag Ukraine into NATO. We ignored Russia. And Russia made it very clear that they were going to defend their national interest.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/15/22; Media Matters, 3/15/22]
    • Tucker Carlson repeatedly spread the bizarre lie that the Biden administration “effectively encouraged” Putin to invade Ukraine. In another edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson claimed that the Biden administration “encouraged [Putin] to do it in the first place,” and that Putin was being made a “scapegoat.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/08/22, 7/06/22]
    • Carlson accused the United States of “mounting a disinformation campaign” against Russia over claims that the U.S. was operating biolabs in Ukraine. Carlson added that the Biden administration “might lie about it by claiming the Russians were lying about it.” The claims about biolabs have been debunked and are rooted in a longstanding Russian disinformation effort. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/09/22; Foreign Policy, 3/2/22]
    • On Tucker Carlson Tonight, retired Lt. Col. Daniel Davis stated that the United States has to move on from the “fiction” that Ukraine will join NATO, acknowledging that Ukraine’s membership is “Putin’s #1 red line.” Later, he argued that Zelenskyy “needs to declare neutrality. He needs to say, ‘We’re not even going to seek NATO membership.’” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/24/22]
    • Carlson repeatedly evoked the pro-Kremlin talking point that the war in Ukraine was a “proxy war” instigated by the United States. Carlson hosted conservative journalist Michael Tracey, who claimed that the U.S. was engaged in a “proxy war” against Russia. In a separate edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson presented Ukraine as a “a pure client state of the United States State Department,” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/22/22, 2/23/22]
    • Carlson called the U.S. ban on Russian oil imports following the invasion of Ukraine “the single most damaging thing any American president has ever done to this country and to the world.” Carlson additionally claimed in banning Russian oil, the Biden administration was “attacking and destabilizing the United States, not Putin.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/11/22]
    • Carlson defended Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2019 — even before Russia’s invasion. Amid skirmishes between Russian-backed militias and Ukrainian state forces in 2019, Carlson stated, “Why do I care? And why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which I am.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 11/25/19]
  • Carlson also downplayed claims that Russia was meddling in U.S. politics

    • Carlson defended Russian spy Maria Butina at the time of her arrest, claiming she was arrested on a “BS charge.” Carlson had also stated that based on his understanding, Butina “was trying to bring the U.S. and Russia closer together and now she's in jail. What is her crime?” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/18/18; Media Matters, 3/10/22]
    • Carlson claimed that Russia’s election interference during the 2016 U.S. presidential election did not “really hurt the country.” He also stated, “What's hurting the country is what China is doing, what our own tech companies are doing, what the opioid crisis is doing. … Russia did not hurt the country by comparison.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/25/19]
    • After admitting that he thinks that Russia does “try to interfere in our affairs,” Carlson downplayed its election meddling by pointing a finger at migrants from South America. Carlson would go on to invoke the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, claiming that some nations meddle in our election “more successfully than Russia, like Mexico, which is routinely interfering in our elections by packing our electorate.” [Fox News, The Five, 7/16/18; PBS, 5/16/22]
    • During a December 2016 interview with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Carlson claimed that claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 election were made “without any evidence.” [Media Matters, 12/13/16]