What did Tucker Carlson say about Putin? Why was he supportive of the Russian leader?
Fox News' Tucker Carlson has received backlash over comments supporting Putin in the lead up to the Russian invasion. Has he changed his tune?
When Mitt Romney debated then-President Barack Obama in 2012, he was scoffed at after listing Russia as a major enemy of the United States. Many bashed Romney, making jokes that the Cold War had ended and that the US should be more focused on "modern" threats.
Just ten years ago, the leading figure in the Republican party had harsh words for Russian President Vladimir Putin; sentiments that today seem to be missing from a growing majority of the GOP.
In more recent years, viewers of Fox New host Tucker Carlson's program have heard an increasingly Kremlin-friendly host discuss the conflicts in Ukraine. Back in 2019, Carlson interviewed former Hillary Clinton adviser Richard Goodstein to discuss the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump which was prompted by leaked record of a call between Donald Trump and President Zelenskyy, now a household name, where he threatened to withhold military aid from the Ukrainian leader if he did not dig up information on Joseph Biden's son, Hunter.
After being told by Goodstein that thousands of Ukrainians had been killed in Ukraine by Russian backed separatists in the Donbas region, Carlson retorted: “Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?!” Going on to say, “And I’m serious. Why do I care? Why shouldn’t I root for Russia? Which I am.”
Since 2019, and particularly since Putin began moving his troops to the Ukrainian border in late 2021, Carlson's support of the Russian authoritarian only grew.
Tucker Carlson: "I am totally confused!
While the Republican sympathies towards Russia can be traced back to the Trump era, during a bizarre interview with Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH) in December 2021, Carlson's support for the Russian regime became clear. During the interview Carlson rejected decades of US foreign policy strategy; although not for the reasons many in the political center or left would agree with.
“Why we would take Ukraine’s side and not Russia’s side?” Carlson asked, noting Russia's large energy reserves and their ability act as a counter weight to China.
Con. Turner replied by reminding the host that Ukraine is a sovereign nation and that "Russia is an authoritarian regime that is seeking to impose its will upon a validly elected democracy."
Carlson responded with a weak defense of global democracy saying, “I mean, I’m for democracies in other countries, I guess, but I’m really for America and I think that our interest is in counterbalancing the actual threat, which is China." But what many international relations experts warn is that allowing Russia to invade Ukraine without international opposition could show countries like China that invading other nations is permissible.
In the end, the interview affirmed Carlson world view as right-wing political realist and isolationist.
Getting closer to the invasion
As Russia began to escalate their presence near the border with Ukraine, Carson became more vocal of his support of Putin.
In speaking to his viewers in late February about the conflict and the media "pile on" of Putin, Carlson asked a series of racist and puzzling rhetorical questions including: "Does Putin eat dogs?" and "Has Putin ever called me a racist?" and interestingly, "Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?" He ended he bizarre tirade with a final question, "So then why does permanent Washington hate him so much?"
While the answer to the second two questions is obviously, no, Putin has ordered that journalists who disagree with him be punished, jailed, and even killed. That helps to answer, at least in part, the last question of why Washington "hates" Putin.
It is not to say that the United States has the best track record of protecting the freedoms of the press. However, Carlson, day in and day, out can safely criticize President Biden because of his expressive rights and liberties, enshrined in the US constitution. Activists, journalists and media personalities in Russia have not been so lucky with the Center to Protect Journalists has recording twenty-six murders of Russian journalists since Putin rose to power in 2000.
Since the invasion
Like many, it is becoming clear that Carlson's may have thought that Putin had no real plans to invade Ukraine. He has begun a careful campaign of back tracking in an attempt to rewrite history, placing the blame at the feet of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
This may work with some of his viewers, but since we know that his support of Putin can be traced back to 2019 --before Biden took office-- we know that he himself is responsible for his failed analysis.