Status: 26/09/2023, 14:24 p.m.
American TV presenter Tucker Carlson. © Brian Cahn/Imago
From Fox News on Russia's state TV. There are increasing signs that Tucker Carlson will continue his career in Putin's propaganda program.
RIGA, Latvia — The tempestuous American TV host Tucker Carlson has castigated the United States for giving too much aid to Ukraine. He described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as "sweaty and rat-like". He believed Russia's unsubstantiated justifications for its invasion.
The former Fox News host's rhetoric on the Ukraine war — he described it as a US-led "regime change war" against Russia — fits well with the main propaganda points of Russian state television. This also applies to his attacks on Zelensky's Regioerung, which he described as a "pure client state of the US State Department" - so good that one network has decided to broadcast Carlson's new show on X, formerly Twitter, to millions of Russians, but apparently without Carlson's permission.
Russian propaganda channel shows Tucker Carlson's interview
The Rossiya 24 channel had recently announced a new show titled "Tucker," and the first episode aired over the weekend. But instead of a compilation of Carlson's biggest hits against Ukraine — which puts raw meat in front of pro-war viewers — the show turned out to be an enigmatic, roughly 20-minute excerpt from his recent interview with controversial Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an official virtually unknown to Russian viewers.
Read The Washington Post for four weeks for free
Your quality ticket of the washingtonpost.com: Get exclusive research and 200+ stories for four weeks for free.
Rossiya 24 is Russia's leading news channel, and the hosts of its political talk shows drum up to their audience for hours that Kyiv, not Moscow, is to blame for the brutal Ukraine war, and that US military aid will do nothing but help the "neo-Nazi Zelensky" fight "to the last Ukrainian."
Tucker Carlson fits perfectly with Russia's propaganda
In that sense, Carlson would be a natural candidate for this show. His descriptions of Zelensky, who is Jewish, as a rat, for example, were denounced by Jewish groups as a recourse to an old anti-Semitic trope used by the Nazis, among others. He made these remarks at the premiere of his Internet show in June, in which he also stated that aliens were visiting Earth and questioned the official accounts of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
But Russian pundits have long used Carlson's tirades on Fox News to back up their positions. They are using the prominent American television star to increase the credibility of their claims and show that Russian President Vladimir Putin's conspiracy theories about Washington resonate far beyond Russia's borders.
Tucker Carlson stands unconditionally with Donald Trump
Long before the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russian TV executives enthusiastically re-enacted Carlson features to illustrate the political unrest in the US and refute claims of Russian interference in the US presidential election. (Even though the late Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin boasted of interfering in the race with the help of his internet troll farms).
"Don't survive long": Abrams tanks face rapid destruction by Russia
Satellite images show: Russia erects army building with new design on NATO border
Austria wants to tighten asylum law: Applicants should be forced to do community service
Supply bottlenecks in Russia in the Ukraine war: Arms companies burst contracts with Putin
German soldiers in Russian captivity? Allegedly, they were sitting in a Leopard tank
Fancy a voyage of discovery?
More recently, this narrative has morphed into breathless descriptions of the "unjust" persecution of former President Donald Trump, whom Putin recently described as a "politically persecuted," and the charges against him as evidence of "the rot in the American political system, which cannot claim to be able to lecture others about democracy."
Russian state media were also quick to defend Carlson after he was fired from Fox News in April, with headlines such as "Carlson fired for fearless Ukraine coverage." The Russian media also circulated reports of congressional Republicans opposing U.S. military aid to Ukraine — which could significantly increase Putin's chances of victory in the dragging on, grueling war.
Will Tucker Carlson soon switch completely to Russian state TV?
The idea of a Tucker Carlson show in the regular program in Russia seemed to herald the next step in the fusion of right-wing American MAGA propaganda and Kremlin propaganda.
Rossiya 24 began promoting what appears to be a Russian version of Carlson's broadcast about three weeks ago, with a trailer consisting of clips in which the presenter repeatedly pronounces the word "Russia" with different intonations, before a slogan appeared: "The noisy American presenter goes to another level, here" - decorated with the logos depicting Carlson's show and the emblem of Rossiya 24.
VGTRK, a holding company that owns Rossiya 24, did not respond to a request for comment. Carlson said in an interview with the Financial Times that he was unaware of the broadcast and called it nonsense using a swear word.
Tucker Carlson's dismissal is making waves in Russia
Carlson was fired from Fox News in April, just days after the network agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion Voting Systems had accused the network of broadcasting false claims that the 2020 presidential election was meant to have been rigged.
News of Carlson's dismissal was followed with great attention in Russia, where pro-Kremlin broadcasters claimed that he had been fired for "telling the truth" in an America without freedom of speech. A top presenter publicly offered him a job.
Carlson quickly launched a new broadcast on X, formerly Twitter, in which he addressed his usual conspiracy theory topics in the very first episode, calling Zelensky a rat and claiming, without evidence, that Ukraine was responsible for the destruction of a large dam that was located in a Russian-occupied territory of Ukraine.
There is still no conclusive evidence of who or what destroyed the Kakhovka dam, but Carlson told his viewers that it makes no sense that Russia did this.
Tucker Carlson also wanted to interview Vladimir Putin
Recently, Carlson asked for an interview with Vladimir Putin, a request made public and supported by the head of the state-funded channel RT, Margarita Simonyan, during an appearance with another propagandist, Vladimir Soloviev.
"Tucker is a great guy, and by the way, he's really asking for an interview with Vladimir Putin. So if someone heard about it and reported it to the president, that would be great," Simonyan said. "The most popular presenter in the history of the United States, and what happened?" said Simonyan. "He was kicked out of Fox News! And he didn't even say anything radical, he just didn't agree with the rest of the choir."
Tucker Carlson is also at loggerheads with the U.S. government
Last week, Carlson claimed, without evidence, that "the U.S. government" prevented him from interviewing Putin. "I tried to interview Vladimir Putin, and the U.S. government prevented me from doing so," he said in an interview published by the Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche on Thursday. "By the way, no one defended me. I don't think there was anyone in the media who said, 'Wait a minute. I may not like this guy, but he has the right to interview anyone he wants, and we have the right to hear what Putin says.'"
"You can't hear Putin's voice. And why? There was no vote on it. No one asked me. I am 54 years old. I paid my taxes and obeyed the law," Weltwoche quoted Carlson as saying.
On Monday, the Kremlin spokesman said that at the moment there is no point in giving interviews to Western journalists. "Every day we receive dozens of requests from international media, including American media, asking Putin for an interview," Dmitry Peskov said during his daily phone call with journalists. "We believe that the time will come when such an interview will be necessary. But at the moment, when the public is being stunned by Russia-hating propaganda, hardly anyone is able to soberly perceive Putin's analysis of the situation."
"But we are convinced that sooner or later such a moment will come," Peskov continued. "You know that when the president talks to foreign media, he is always very open, gives detailed answers and always explains the position of our country. Whether Carlson will be among those who are eligible for an interview, we will have to wait and see.
About the author
Mary Ilyushina, a reporter in the foreign section of the Washington Post, reports on Russia and the region. She began her career at independent Russian media outlets before joining CNN's Moscow bureau in 2017 as a field producer. She has been working for The Post since 2021. She speaks Russian, English, Ukrainian and Arabic.
We are currently testing machine translations. This article has been automatically translated from English into German.
This article was first published in English by "Washingtonpost.com" on September 25, 2023 - in the course of a cooperation, it is now also available in translation to the readers of IPPEN. MEDIA portals.