When Americans think things are bad, there’s always Tucker Carlson to make them seem worse. Never more so than when the Fox News host talks about Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“We have entered a new phase where the United States is at war directly with the world’s largest nuclear power,” Carlson grimly warned viewers Tuesday.
This alarming development, which seems to have escaped the attention of the rest of the US media, was allegedly caused by the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia to Western Europe. Sweden and Denmark say the pipelines were blown up with hundreds of kilos of explosives, releasing huge amounts of natural gas into the sea and into the atmosphere.
While European politicians have hinted that Russia is responsible as part of a new phase in the hybrid war over Ukraine, Carlson said the evidence points in a different direction.
“If you were Vladimir Putin, you would have to be a suicidal idiot to blow up your own power line,” he claimed.
If not Putin, then who?
“In early February, less than three weeks before the start of the war in Ukraine, Joe Biden proposed on camera to dismantle these pipelines,” Carlson said.
The Fox News spokesman argued that the president’s warning that the US would shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia invaded Ukraine was a direct threat of sabotage.
“He said there will be no Nord Stream 2. We’ll put an end to it. we will take it out We’re going to blow it up,” Carlson said.
Biden didn’t say “take it out” or “blow it up,” but that didn’t stop Carlson from concluding that the president had brought the US to the brink of nuclear war.
It’s not clear how this perspective on events resonates with Fox News viewers, many of whom are more than willing to blame Biden for a variety of issues but might cringe at Carlson’s involvement so closely allied with one of America’s sworn enemies.
But it is very well received in Moscow.
Carlson’s comments on the Ukraine war generally mirror Putin’s speeches and claims. Russian TV then plays the monologues as proof that Putin is right because the same is being said by “America’s most popular TV host”.
That in itself is a dubious claim. Although Tucker Carlson Tonight does well on cable, terrestrial channels have a much larger audience for their newscasts. But there’s no doubt that Carlson has outsized influence. It is less clear whether he really believes what he says.
A fast-paced war required some skilled footwork from Carlson.
In August he scoffed at claims that Russia was losing the war. “Here’s the weird thing. By reality-based standards, Vladimir Putin is not losing the war in Ukraine. He’s winning the war in Ukraine and Joe Biden looks at it and says we won’t stop until you offer unconditional surrender,” Carlson claimed.
Russian television liked it so much that it repeated the monologue. Unfortunately for Carlson’s credibility as a military analyst, Ukraine launched an attack that same day, resulting in Russian soldiers throwing down their weapons and running to the border.
After that, Carlson returned to the claim that Russia is not fighting Ukraine, but the West, specifically the US and Britain.
He called Boris Johnson, then British Prime Minister, an “unfortunate streak” who was pushing Ukraine into war at Washington’s behest.
Why am I interested in what is happening in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia? Why shouldn’t I cheer for Russia? What I am
“America and the UK are demanding all-out war with Russia, regime change war with Russia, and of course the Ukrainians, caught in the middle, had no choice but to concede,” he told viewers.
Carlson apologized to Putin well before the February invasion. In November, the Fox News host questioned US support for Kyiv in its struggle with Russian proxies in breakaway regions, saying he supported Moscow.
“Why do I care what’s going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?” he said. “I’m serious. Why do I care? Why shouldn’t I cheer for Russia? What I am.”
Amid a wave of ridicule, Carlson claimed he wasn’t serious after all.
“Of course I’m joking. I’m just cheering for America and mocking the obsession of many leftists,” he said.
But in the months that followed, it turned out to be no joke. Carlson regularly delivered a defense of Russia, or at least its leader.People stand outside the News Corp and Fox News building in New York, protesting Tucker Carlson’s coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Portal
Just before Russia invaded in February, Carlson presented a set of talking points that echoed a speech by Putin made hours earlier when he attacked NATO.
“Their only goal is to stop the development of Russia,” Putin had claimed. “You just don’t need a big and independent country like Russia around you.” Parroting Putin’s claim that Ukraine is not a real country, Carlson said her government is a “puppet” of the West, “essentially administered by the [US] Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.
Three months after the invasion, Carlson was still repeating Putin’s arguments, with the additional claim that the US was backing Ukraine as “payback for Donald Trump’s 2016 election” and wanted to force “regime change” in Moscow.
“We are not arming Ukraine so that we can help Ukrainians. They’re just unlucky pawns in all of this,” the Fox News host said. “We are arming Ukraine so we can punish Russia. Why? For stealing Hillary Clinton’s coronation.”
It’s clear that Carlson’s support for Putin is rooted, at least in part, in hostility towards Biden and the Democrats. But the Fox News host has also shown a penchant for dealing with authoritarian leaders, and not just Donald Trump.
Carlson has developed a special affection for Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, widely regarded in the European Union as Putin’s Trojan horse. The Fox News host made a drooling documentary on Orbán, praising him for his brutal treatment of migrants. Orbán rewarded Carlson with a lengthy interview, something the Hungarian leader has not done with his country’s independent media since he took office in 2010.
Carlson also visited Brazil to praise its right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro. He has defended Syrian dictator and Russian ally Bashar al-Assad and questioned whether he was guilty of the atrocities documented by UN human rights groups.
All of this has proved too much for other right-wingers, who, while eager to attack Biden, shy away from Carlson siding so completely with Putin that he is hostile to his own country.
Eric Bolling, moderator of the right-wing website Newsmax, on Monday called Carlson an “alleged American” and accused him of fomenting a nuclear conflict.
“It turns out that Russian state media is using clips from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to support Vladimir Putin’s war effort in Ukraine,” Bolling said. “This is Russian state media using alleged American Tucker Carlson as propaganda to argue that Russia is the victim.”
Months earlier, Republican political adviser Frank Luntz responded to Carlson’s claims of support for Russia by asking whose side the Fox News anchor was on.
“It’s comments like Tucker Carlson’s that make me question who my friends are and who my enemies are — I wonder if the world has gone mad,” he said tweeted.