Tucker Carlson shills for Putin while his colleagues are killed in Ukraine
It’s a tragic irony that Fox News, purveyor of so much disinformation and pundit propaganda about Russia’s war on Ukraine, is the media outlet now grieving the deaths of courageous correspondents who lost their lives transmitting the truth from that devastated nation.
Those casualties should stand as a reproach to the network’s top-rated star, and biggest Russia apologist, Tucker Carlson.
While Carlson has been bloviating from the comfort of his studio, repeatedly propagandizing for Russian President Vladimir Putin while disparaging Ukraine and its allies, longtime Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, 55, and 24-year-old Oleksandra Kuvshynova, a local journalist and consultant to the Fox News crew in Ukraine, were braving arms fire there. They died last week when their vehicle was hit near Kyiv. Another Fox News journalist, Benjamin Hall, was injured in the attack. (A day earlier, the independent documentarian Brent Renaud was shot and killed outside Kyiv.)
As Fox News’ Pentagon correspondent Jennifer Griffin said in an emotional tribute to her colleagues, “If ever there was a time that the world needed journalists, reporters, risking their lives to tell these stories, it’s now. Without a free press, the autocrats win.”
Not that such an outcome would necessarily bother Carlson.
“Why shouldn’t I root for Russia, which I am?” Carlson had said in 2019, as Putin was threatening Ukraine, building up his troops on the two countries’ border. Back then, Carlson was mocking the House’s impeachment of Donald Trump for withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine, extorting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to come up with dirt on Joe Biden.
Carlson later said he was joking, but he’d begun his rant by saying, “And I’m serious.” He’s said much the same thing recently, as Russia began its invasion of Ukraine late last month. On his Feb. 22 show, he lamented what he described as Democrats’ “mandate” that Americans have “a patriotic duty to hate Vladimir Putin” and “anything less than hatred for Putin is treason.”
Carlson defended the murderous Russian dictator, dismissed Putin’s threat to Ukraine as merely “a border dispute,” falsely claimed Biden favored Ukraine because its leaders gave his family “millions of dollars” and said Ukraine isn’t a democracy but rather “a client-state of the U.S. State Department.” (For the record, the pro-democracy Freedom House gives Ukraine a “democracy score” of 39 on a scale of 1 to 100; Russia got 6.55 — graded on the curve, I guess.)
Lest you doubt Putin approves of Carlson’s diatribes, that clip made it onto Russian TV, with Russian subtitles.
And not just that one. David Corn of Mother Jones disclosed a Kremlin memo to Russian media outlets and commentators, dated March 3, saying: “It is essential to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson.” Why? Well, as the 12-page directive explained, Carlson “sharply criticizes” the United States and NATO, including for their “provocative behavior … towards President Putin, personally.”
Carlson is Moscow’s gift that keeps on giving. He recently denounced U.S. sanctions against Putin’s Russian oligarchs as unfair property seizures and echoed Russian disinformation that the United States has bioweapons labs in Ukraine.
It’s a wonder that Fox News can attract and retain reputable journalists like Zakrzewski, Kuvshynova and Hall when they have to share its airtime with the likes of Carlson. In fact, Fox has lost some talented people, including Chris Wallace. And Griffin, to her great credit, has increasingly fact-checked the network’s fact-free pundits on air.
Carlson should be canned for his shameful performances of late — and they are performances. But of course he won’t be; a long history of outrages attests to that. We’re left instead to mourn the real journalists, the ones who sought to inform Americans, not con them.
— Jackie Calmes is an opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times in Washington, D.C.