So what has Putin propagandist Tucker Carlson been up to besides prerecording an interview with Donald Trump that ran on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, as counterprogramming to Wednesday night’s Fox News Republican presidential debate.
In his X interview with Trump, Carlson did not ask any question about Ukraine. But Trump made a bizarre segue from talking about how President Joe Biden can’t even lift a chair or walk through the sand at the beach to talking about the war in Ukraine.
“I think he [Biden] looks horrible at the beach. Plus the beach doesn’t represent what a president is supposed to be doing. He’s supposed to be working. The president is supposed to be getting us out of that horrible, horrible war that we’re very much involved in with Russia and Ukraine. You could do that very easily. I don’t believe he could do it because he’s just incompetent.
“But that’s a war that should end immediately not because of one side or the other but because hundreds of thousands of people are being killed. Can you imagine that you’re in an apartment house and rockets are going into that building and blowing it up. … It’s got to be stopped and it can be stopped very easily. If I were president, it would never have started.”
Over the weekend, the former Fox News host was conducting more interviews for his X show in Hungary with President Viktor Orbán and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Carlson seems to be enamored with authoritarian strongmen, particularly Orbán, whom he also interviewed in 2021 when he broadcast his Fox News show from Hungary.
Vucic and Orbán, both right-wing nationalists, have refused to impose sanctions against Moscow and remain friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Trump, of course, has also been full of praise for Putin.
So here are Tucker’s coming attractions on X:
Carlson’s remarks in his tweet about his meeting with Vucic at the Serbian Embassy in Budapest are particularly disconcerting. “Serbia has the distinction of being one of the countries in the region that’s been bombed by NATO in 1999,” Carlson said. “So I think he’s got an interesting perspective on what’s happening in Ukraine, the NATO war against Russia, that is worth hearing.”
In 1999, NATO launched airstrikes against Serbian military positions in the breakaway province of Kosovo, whose population is predominantly ethnic Albanian. NATO’s air campaign was aimed at halting a humanitarian catastrophe resulting from the ethnic cleansing and massacre of Kosovar Albanians.
After the interview, Carlson said that one of the points made by Vucic is “that the war in Ukraine, the war against Russia led by NATO, has crushed the European economy.” Carlson’s repeated references to the “NATO war against Russia” has been a major part of the disinformation campaign pushed by Putin’s propagandists to justify the war in Ukraine.
Carlson then goes on to mention the September 2022 sabotage of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which members of Ukraine’s special operations forces are suspected of carrying out. But Carlson again echoes Russian propaganda by blaming the pipeline attack on “the Biden administration, either directly or through proxies,” claiming that its destruction is “killing the German economy … the largest economy in Europe by far.” And he said it amounted to “one NATO country effectively attacking another NATO country.”
Germany’s economy has been stuck somewhere between stagnation and recession this year, but a recent Guardian story made no mention of any link to the loss of the Nord Stream pipeline natural gas supplies. German Finance Minister Christian Lindner told the BBC earlier this year that Germany had completely diversified its energy structure since Russia’s February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and is no longer reliant on Russian energy.
But Carlson then outdid himself with this remark:
“This war is hurting everybody, possibly with the exception in the long term of Russia, and empowering everybody outside of Europe—the Gulf states, China, Turkey. So you are really seeing the world reset in response to this war.
It’s a little more complicated than Hitler versus Churchill, Good versus Bad, Democracy. It’s really about a massive shift of power away from the United States and the West to the East.”
Carlson’s remarks were music to the ears of Putin’s propagandists. The official Russian news outlet RT ran a story that quoted extensively from Carlson’s preview of his interview with Vucic.
But former Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, now a commentator for CNN, did not mince words in describing Carlson: “Tucker is a traitor to the US.”
What’s concerning is Carlson’s efforts to push his pro-Putin memes into the Republican presidential primary campaign. At the annual Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Carlson got a chance to demonstrate just why he’s the Kremlin’s favorite U.S. pundit. The influential Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats chose Carlson to interview the six GOP presidential candidates who showed up for the event. Trump did not attend.
The New York Times wrote that Vander Plaats found out “what happens when you turn over your Republican presidential showcase to Tucker Carlson”:
Jesus is out. Vladimir V. Putin is in.
Mr. Carlson was given the task of interviewing six Republican presidential hopefuls at the Family Leadership conference in Des Moines on Friday. Consequently, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine became the dominant issue of debate, on a day when Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa used the event to sign a near-total abortion ban into law.
In the hands of Mr. Carlson, the former Fox News host who was recently fired, Ukraine became the bad actor in the conflict, not Russia.
The most contentious exchange over Ukraine came during Carlson’s interview with Mike Pence. The former vice president criticized the Biden administration for being too slow to provide advanced weaponry, such as Abrams tanks and F-16 warplanes to Ukraine. Carlson said:
“You are distressed that the Ukrainians don’t have enough American tanks? Every city in the United States has become much worse over the past three years. …”
“Drive around—there’s not one city that’s gotten better in the United States and it’s visible. …Our economy has degraded, the suicide rate has jumped, public filth and disorder and crime have exponentially increased and yet your concern is that the Ukrainians—a country most people can’t find on the map, who’ve received tens of billions of U.S. tax dollars—don’t have enough tanks? I think it’s a fair question to ask, where’s the concern for the United States in that?”
The New York Times story added: “Mr. Carlson called Ukraine an American ‘client state,’ accused Ukraine’s Jewish leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, of persecuting Christians and strongly indicated Mr. Pence had been conned, despite evidence to the contrary.”