Russian Media Told to Promote Tucker Carlson ‘as Much as Possible,’ Report Says
Updated Mar. 13, 2022 12:59PM ET / Published Mar. 13, 2022 12:58PM E
The Kremlin has a favorite cable news host—and wanted him all over Russian media. According to talking points sent out to contributors on March 3 and obtained by Mother Jones, the Kremlin wanted viewers to hear as much as possible from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson because he “sharply criticizes the actions of the United States [and] NATO, their negative role in unleashing the conflict in Ukraine, [and] the defiantly provocative behavior from the leadership of the Western countries and NATO towards the Russian Federation and towards President Putin, personally.” It comes after Carlson consistently questioned why the U.S. should consider Russian President Vladimir Putin an enemy before he invaded another sovereign nation. “Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity? Does he eat dogs?” Carlson earnestly asked last month, a message that was promoted on Russian media.
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Leaked Kremlin Memo to Russian Media: It Is “Essential” to Feature Tucker Carlson
The Russian government has pressed outlets to highlight the Fox host’s Putin-helping broadcasts.
- David CornWashington, DC, Bureau ChiefBio | Follow
On March 3, as Russian military forces bombed Ukrainian cities as part of Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of his neighbor, the Kremlin sent out talking points to state-friendly media outlets with a request: Use more Tucker Carlson.
“It is essential to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who sharply criticizes the actions of the United States [and] NATO, their negative role in unleashing the conflict in Ukraine, [and] the defiantly provocative behavior from the leadership of the Western countries and NATO towards the Russian Federation and towards President Putin, personally,” advises the 12-page document written in Russian. It sums up Carlson’s position: “Russia is only protecting its interests and security.” The memo includes a quote from Carlson: “And how would the US behave if such a situation developed in neighboring Mexico or Canada?”
The document—titled “For Media and Commentators (recommendations for coverage of events as of 03.03)”—was produced, according to its metadata, at a Russian government agency called the Department of Information and Telecommunications Support, which is part of the Russian security apparatus. It was provided to Mother Jones by a contributor to a national Russian media outlet who asked not to be identified. The source said memos like this one have been regularly sent by Putin’s administration to media organizations during the war. Independent media outlets in Russia have been forced to shut down since the start of the conflict.
A section headlined “Victory in Information War” tells Russian journalists to push these specific points: The Ukrainian military is beginning to collapse; the Kyiv government is guilty of “war crimes”; and Moscow is the target of a “massive Western anti-Russian propaganda” operation. It states that Russian media should raise questions about Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s state of mind and suggest he is not truly in charge of Ukraine. And it encourages these outlets to “broadcast messages” highlighting the law recently passed by the Russia Duma that makes it a crime to impede the war effort or disseminate what the government deems “false” information about the war, punishable for up to 15 years in prison. This portion instructs Russian journalists to emphasize that these penalties apply to anyone who promotes news about Ukrainian military victories or Russian attacks on civilian targets.
This is the section of the memo that calls on Russian media to make as much use as possible of Tucker Carlson’s broadcasts. No other Western journalist is referenced in the memo.
Mother Jones is not posting the full document to protect the source of the material. Here are photos of the memo. The first shows the opening page; the next displays the paragraph citing Carlson.
Prior to the Russian invasion, Carlson was perhaps the most prominent American voice challenging opposition to Putin. In one now-infamous commentary, he said, “Why do Democrats want you to hate Putin? Has Putin shipped every middle class job in your town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked your business? Is he teaching your kids to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Does he eat dogs?”
Carlson repeatedly noted there was no reason for the United States to assist Ukraine in its battle with Russia and insisted it was “not treason, it is not un-American” to support Putin. He contended that Ukraine was not “a democracy” but a “client state” of the US government.
After Putin attacked Ukraine, Carlson ceased his anti-anti-Putin rhetoric and shifted to a new line: that the United States and the West purposefully goaded Putin into launching the war. Carlson said it was “obvious” that “getting Ukraine to join NATO was the key to inciting war with Russia.” He asked, “Why in the world would the United States intentionally seek war with Russia? How could we possibly benefit from that war?” He said he did not know.
More recently, Carlson mouthed Russian disinformation, and he did so as a new set of Kremlin talking points once again pushed Russian journalists to cite the Fox host.
On Wednesday, Carlson claimed that the “Russian disinformation they’ve been telling us for days is a lie and a conspiracy theory and crazy and immoral to believe is, in fact, totally and completely true.” He was referring to the Russian allegation that the United States had set up biowarfare labs in Ukraine. But this charge was far from proven. At a congressional hearing, Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland had testified that Ukraine possessed biological research facilities and that the US government was worried about “research materials” falling into the hands of Russian forces. This was a far cry from substantiating the Russian charge that Washington was working on bioweapons in Ukraine. But Putin’s regime jumped on the Nuland testimony and cited it as proof of nefarious American activity. Carlson echoed this Russian propaganda.
A March 10 “recommendations for coverage” memo from the same Russian agency highlights this bioweapons allegation as a top talking point for Russian media, noting the message should be that the “activities of military biological laboratories with American participation on the territory of Ukraine carried global threats to Russia and Europe.” The document goes further, encouraging its recipients to allege that the “the United States is working on a ‘biogenocide of the Eastern Slavs.’”
The memo lays out the details of this bizarre conspiracy theory: The United States was conducting “experiments with genetic material collected on the territory of Ukraine,” with the “main objective” being “to create unique strains of various kinds of viruses for targeted destruction of the population in Russia.” The United States even had a plan to transmit pathogens “by wild birds migrating between Ukraine, Russia and other neighboring countries.” This scheme included “studying the possibility of carrying African swine fever and anthrax.” The memo claims “biolaboratories set up and funded in Ukraine have been experimenting with bat coronavirus samples.” It cites Nuland’s testimony and says the United States was involved with “military biological laboratories” in Ukraine that “potentially posed a global threat to all of Europe.”
Carlson had amplified a slice of this Russian propaganda. /
Fox News and Carlson did not respond to requests for comment.
Additional reporting was provided by David Lee Preston and Hannah Levintova.
How Putin Made a Fool of Tucker Carlson
A clip of the Fox News host agreeing with Putin was played on Russian State TV where pundits and propagandists were thrilled by how easy it was to manipulate Carlson.
Updated Jun. 22, 2021 3:39AM ET / Published Jun. 21, 2021 11:52AM ET
President Vladimir Putin has pulled off a targeted propaganda operation against the U.S. that’s so simple it never should have worked—and he did it in plain sight as part of the build-up to last week’s summit with President Joe Biden.
This weekend, Russia’s favorite propaganda shows celebrated a job well done. State TV propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov asserted on his show on Sunday, “Biden should keep in mind that not only America is back, but Russia is back too.”
The ploy began when Putin sat down for an interview with NBC’s Keir Simmons. He directed the conversation away from his suspected involvement in the murders and attempted murders of his critics. Instead, asking, “Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?”
The Russian president was referring to Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol police officer as she tried to climb through the broken window of a door leading directly onto the House floor during the Jan. 6 riots
The bait had been thrown.
This line of attack was no surprise to people who follow Russian propaganda. It had been preplanned and foreshadowed by pro-Kremlin experts appearing on Russian state TV talk shows prior to the summit. “[Biden] is planning to tell us about Navalny and we will tell him about the woman shot on January 6 at the Capitol,” explained Olga Skabeeva, the host of state TV show 60 Minutes, on June 1.
Ten days later, Putin did exactly that in his NBC interview.
On June 16, with the world’s attention fixed on the Geneva summit, the Russian president reiterated the same flawed premise during his press conference: “About my opponents being jailed or imprisoned. People went into the U.S. Congress with political demands. Four hundred people now facing criminal charges… On what grounds? Not quite clear… One of the participants, a woman, was shot dead on the spot. She was not threatening anything.”
Putin’s plot paid off in spades when Tucker Carlson played the clip of his comments to NBC on his show and expressed agreement. Carlson said, “Now, under normal circumstances, we would never play tape of a foreign adversary criticizing our government. But honestly, those are fair questions.”
Without a hint of irony, Carlson added, “Vladimir Putin knows authoritarian systems very well, and he sees clearly what is happening in this country.” The Fox News host seemed to assume that an authoritarian adversary was providing this advice without an ulterior motive—and eagerly shared it with his American audience.
His decision was cheered by pro-Kremlin propagandists in Moscow.
During his nightly show, The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, host Vladimir Soloviev proudly surmised, “Putin knew whom he was talking to and his message was heard. This is Fox News and its very popular program—one of its highest-rated programs. Republicans listened and couldn’t help but agree… Putin was heard and what he said hit the bullseye.”
Russian political scientist Sergey Mikheyev enthusiastically replied, “This is a good illustration of the thesis as to whether we should be influencing public opinion in America. Yes, of course we should—of course! The question is how to do it and which resources to use. Without a doubt, we should be using any existing divisions. Sometimes I hear, ‘What’s in it for us?’ and I will cynically tell you: whatever harms them benefits us. That is terrible but true.”
Putin is already polling higher than President Biden among Trump voters, according to the recent poll by Economist/YouGov, which also found that Republicans viewed Russia as less of a threat than Democrats do.