Russia may be “a cold and vodka-soaked and only marginally relevant place”, according to Tucker Carlson, but the Fox News host seems determined to make controversial statements about it central to his primetime show.
On Monday night, a week after making waves by saying he was “rooting” for Russia in its conflict with Ukraine – and then claiming to have been joking – the host blasted critics of the Trump administration employed by cable news.
“Putin,” he said, “for all his faults, does not hate America as much as many of these people do.”
Bemoaning with Spiro Agnew-esque verve the “sneering accusations of our mindless public intellectuals and hair hats in the television anchor’s seat”, the public intellectual and TV anchor began by taking aim at NBC Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, for his questioning of Louisiana Republican senator John Kennedy on Sunday.
Todd and Kennedy engaged in a fiery exchange over the senator’s insistence that the theory Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, rather than Russia, merits further investigation.
Todd responded: “You realize the only other person selling this argument outside the United States is this man, Vladimir Putin!”
He’s a living metaphor, he’s the boogeyman! Step out of line and you’re a traitor in league with Vladimir Putin!
The US intelligence community agrees it was Moscow not Kyiv which interfered in 2016, in the aim of helping Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Nonetheless, as Trump faces impeachment for his conduct regarding Ukraine, his supporters in Congress are pushing the Ukraine conspiracy theory.
Carlson called Todd a “mouth-breather” who “went full Joe McCarthy” on Kennedy and claimed special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated Russian interference in 2016, links between Trump and Moscow and possible obstruction of justice by the president, found nothing amiss.
“It’s not really a story,” he insisted, “it never happened, there was no collusion, Russia didn’t hack our democracy. The whole thing was a ludicrous talking point invented by the Hillary Clinton campaign on or about 9 November 2016”, the day after the election.
Mueller did not prove criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow. He also emphasised that “collusion” is not a term in US criminal law.
But he did chart extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and associates of the president including campaign chair Paul Manafort, national security adviser Michael Flynn, lawyer Michael Cohen and close aide Roger Stone have been convicted on charges arising from the inquiry. The special counsel also indicted 26 Russian nationals and three Russian companies and detailed extensive attempts by the president to obstruct the course of justice.
Carlson continued, playing a montage of MSNBC pundits and hosts bemoaning attitudes to Russia within the Trump administration and the Republican party.
“If you excluded debunked conspiracy theories,” Carlson said, “could any of these people actually tell you why Vladimir Putin is so bad? Why is he so bad? ‘He’s bad!’ Chuck Todd says. OK, speak slowly so I can understand.”
Carlson continued: “For Chuck Todd and the rest of the dummies, Vladimir Putin isn’t a real person with actual ideas and priorities and a country and beliefs. No, he stopped being that long ago. He’s a metaphor, a living metaphor, he’s the boogeyman! Step out of line and you’re a traitor in league with Vladimir Putin!
“The irony, of course, is that Putin, for all his faults, does not hate America as much as many of these people do. They really dislike our country. And they call other people traitors because they’re ‘mouthing the talking points of Putin’! These are people who don’t know anything about Russia, who don’t speak Russian!”
In conclusion, Carlson said the US “ought to be in a relationship with Russia aligned against China, to the extent that we can”.