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Tucker Carlson’s History of pro-Kremlin, anti-Ukraine Propaganda

Tucker Carlson’s scramble to reset his commentary on Putin and outrun his past defense of the Russian regime's actions points back to a simple axiom: he will defend the indefensible up until the moment he faces consequences.

As Russian missiles rain down across Ukraine, Fox News finds itself scrambling to find its footing after weeks of downplaying the mounting crisis and shifting blame for escalating tensions away from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Among Fox’s cacophony of coverage throughout the last month, Tucker Carlson’s voice once again rang the loudest.

In 2019, Carlson exclaimed on air that he was, in fact, “root[ing] for Russia” in what was then a simmering conflict in Ukraine, before quickly backtracking when the comment drew immediate backlash. Carlson would eventually argue to his viewers that “we should probably take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine.”

As the possibility of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia escalated from a theoretical possibility to an impending crisis, Carlson insisted that Russia’s military buildup and the looming threat of war were fundamentally inconsequential to American national interests. Carlson levied a steady campaign against intervention on behalf of Ukraine, downplaying reports from the intelligence community and decrying conversations about possible interventions as hysteria by warmongers desperate to lead America into another quagmire like the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He further attempted to frame the Ukrainian government as an authoritarian regime undeserving of American sympathies. Carlson’s efforts to downplay Russia’s threat to Ukraine, and his repeated justification of the impending invasion, were significant enough for Russian state TV to air them as part of its domestic propaganda.

A horrific armed conflict now ravages Ukraine and threatens the stability of Europe, the Russian leadership has floated the threat of nuclear retaliation against Ukraine’s would-be allies. In a pivot that would give most people whiplash, Carlson’s analysis of the deadly crisis has laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of American leadership. In an absurd segment, Carlson attempted to blame VP Kamala Harris for his years of pro-Kremlin talking points – which dates back in at least one instance to before Harris was even sworn in as a Senator in January 2017.

Carlson also now insists that the Biden administration's failure to intervene in a timely manner, as well as progressive environmental politics, were ultimately responsible for Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Putin has received little more than a passing condemnation from Fox News’ most influential voice.

The Ukrainian people are fighting for their lives and their country, facing a military superpower. Their enemy has never shied away from committing war crimes or brutalizing civilian populations in order to achieve objectives. (Reports of crimes against civilians and the use of banned weapons have already emerged in Ukraine.) The battles for Ukraine have already been bloody, and will almost certainly result in more devastation and loss of life. Carlson’s scramble to reset his commentary on Putin and outrun his past defense of the Russian regime's actions points back to a simple axiom: Tucker Carlson will defend the indefensible up until the moment he faces consequences.

  • December 19, 2016: Carlson cast doubt on the CIA assessment that Russia interfered with the U.S. election and said he’s “open-minded” about Russia.

  • January 3, 2017: Carlson questioned attempts to sanction Russia for cyber attacks.

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  • January 13, 2017On then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Senate hearings, Carlson asked, “Why are they so anti-Russia?”

  • January 18, 2017: Carlson argued with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about Russia and the DNC hacking, asking how Russian interference in the election was any “different” from other nations spying on the U.S.

  • May 3, 2017: Carlson questioned whether Russia is a threat to democracy and claimed not to have seen “any evidence” of Russia’s wrongdoing, including regarding Ukraine.

  • July 26, 2017: In an interview with then-Vice President Mike Pence, Carlson asked whether sanctions against Russia in response to aggression in Ukraine would help America.

  • January 14, 2019: Carlson: “Why should I care about whether Russia invades Ukraine?”

  • January 15, 2019Carlson argued that the U.S. shouldn’t have to uphold Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and defend the Baltic member states of NATO.

  • September 24, 2019: Following the revelation of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump attempted to extort Ukraine into assisting with his re-election effort, Carlson said, “Nobody has bothered to explain why sending $400 million in military aid to Ukraine is in the interest of the United States.”

  • September 30, 2019: Carlson claimed that “mindlessly sending military aid to Ukraine in order to antagonize Russia” jeopardizes American national security.

  • September 30, 2019: Carlson questioned why the U.S. should send aid to Ukraine: “Why should you be in favor of that? Does it help America? Does it make you safer?” Later, he asked, “Why do we care so much” about “Russia messing around in Ukraine, or Estonia, Crimea or whatever?” finally ending with, “Why wouldn’t we be friends with Russia?”

  • September 30, 2019: Carlson: It's just funny that my country actually is being invaded by other countries from the south — look at the population movement into the United States without our permission. And nobody cares and caring is itself seen as immoral. But we have to be outraged, morally outraged that Russia is making belligerent noises at Ukraine. Do you think that's weird?

  • October 29, 2019: Carlson claimed that Trump was being punished for not supporting Ukraine’s independence, glibly commenting, “His phone call was unacceptable because it might prevent America from automatically unthinkingly spending billions of dollars over many years to prop up a country that most Americans could not find on a globe at gunpoint.”

  • November 13, 2019: Carlson devoted his monologue to mocking America’s relationship with Ukraine: “We need Ukraine like a drowning man needs a life ring, or more precisely like an alcoholic needs a drink.” Later, Carlson dismissed the need to defend Ukraine: “Ukraine is very far away from us. That could be Trump's campaign slogan. In fact, let's hope it is Trump's campaign slogan.”

  • November 15, 2019Tucker asked Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), “Why are we taking Ukraine’s side in a war against Russia?” Carlson added that Russia invading Crimea is “totally fine” with him as it “has no effect on America.”

  • November 15, 2019Tucker asked retired U.S. Army Col. Douglas MacGregor why we should care about the Ukraine-Russia conflict and accused the State Department of pushing the U.S. into a war with Russia.

  • November 25, 2019: Tucker Carlson said that he's rooting for Russia against Ukraine