Tucker Carlson leads rightwing charge to blame everyone but Putin | Fox News

As Russian troops encircled Ukraine, politicians and media pundits in the US were largely united in their condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s imminent attack.

Tucker Carlson, however, took a different approach. Hours before Putin ordered his forces into Ukraine, Fox News’ biggest star was still praising the Russian president.

Putin’s bellicose threats towards Ukraine and assembling of up to 190,000 troops on the country’s border, was, Carlson said, a mere “border dispute”. Carlson, who played into Kremlin talking points by declaring that Ukraine was “not a democracy”, launched an apparent attempt to humanize Putin.

“Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia?” Carlson said as he then recited a right-wing tip sheet of pet causes.

“Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity?”

Just over 24 hours later, Putin effectively declared war on Ukraine.

Carlson was roundly condemned, but he wasn’t alone. Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s sometime-advisor turned podcast host, has praised Putin for being “anti-woke”, for not flying pride flags, and for his hostility to trans people.

Charlie Kirk, a right-wing media personality and the founder of Turning Points USA, suggested Putin felt emboldened by “energy policies that Joe Biden put forward”.

“Could it be that Greta Thunberg and Leonardo DiCaprio actually might be to blame for what Vladimir Putin is doing?” Kirk asked on his eponymous internet show.

“That’s a take you will not hear anywhere else,” he added.

By the end of the week Carlson’s colorful defense of Putin was being played on Russia 1 and the Kremlin-backed RT television network.

“As Russia prepared to invade Ukraine, the biggest star on Fox News was busy doing what he does best: being thoroughly and appallingly wrong,” Margaret Sullivan, a media columnist for the Washington Post, wrote.

By Thursday night, after Putin’s forces had begun bombing Ukraine, and after widespread US and global outrage at the carnage, Carlson had changed his tune.

“I don’t think anybody approves of what Putin did yesterday. I certainly don’t,” he said on his show.

Carlson added: “Vladimir Putin started this war.” He continued: “He is to blame tonight for what we’re seeing tonight in the Ukraine.”

But those expecting a mea culpa from Carlson, who has recently also become enamored with the authoritarian regime of Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, were disappointed.

The overt praise for Putin may have receded, but Carlson and his Fox News co-hosts and pundits have continued to blame others for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Well, I think we all know if Donald Trump was president, this would not have happened,” Lara Trump, Fox News contributor and daughter-in-law of the former president, told Fox and Friends on Thursday.

“We exuded strength on the world stage when Donald Trump was there. Now you see Joe Biden in office. And gosh, how many times have we all talked about how weak America has looked since the day that Joe Biden was inaugurated?”

Fox News Twitter feed on Friday essentially served as a tribute to the same viewpoint, lavishly quoting almost identical statements from Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Marsha Blackburn.

“Rather than blame the actual aggressor for attacking his weaker neighbor, right-wing media pinned the blame on Biden for supposedly projecting weakness and vulnerability to Putin,” Media Matters, a non-profit which monitors conservative media, wrote.

“In the right-wing media echo chamber […] the fault for this invasion lies with a mind-boggling variety of scapegoats, including President Joe Biden, Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, American environmentalists, the LGBTQ community, and even the team here at Media Matters for America – anybody, that is, other than Putin.”

The narrative has received some pushback from journalists at Fox News itself, particularly Jennifer Griffin, the network’s national security correspondent, who has spent weeks painstakingly correcting her opinion-host colleagues as Russia surrounded Ukraine.

On Thursday morning, the anchors on the morning show Fox and Friends were opining about how sanctions against Russia “have not worked”. Steve Doocy asked Griffin if “the people at the Pentagon” were frustrated given American troops were not involved.

“No I wouldn’t say that Steve. In fact they know that they had limited options going into this because Russia of course is a nuclear power, and Nato and the US are not go to war with Russia over Ukraine, their goal is to contain this and keep this from spilling over into an Article 5 nation,” Griffin said.

“You talk about how the sanctions haven’t worked, I don’t know that we can say that yet. Overnight, the stock market in Russia fell by half, 50%.

“This is just the beginning of what is being described as a ‘shock and awe,’ if you will, of rolling sanctions that have not even begun to be felt yet by Putin, by his oligarchs, by the cronies there.”

The talk and tone among the hosts of Fox News and others in the right-wing media ecosystem is unlikely to change any time soon. But in some corners there are journalists willing to drag those hosts back to reality.






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