The Kremlin’s first public response to Tucker Carlson’s announcement that he’s landed an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin was to fact-check the former Fox News host.
On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Carlson had indeed interviewed Putin, but took issue with Carlson’s claim that “not a single Western journalist has bothered” to interview Russia’s president throughout the nation’s war with Ukraine, which has raged for more than two years.
“Mr. Carlson is not correct,” Peskov said in a statement on the interview — which has yet to be released — adding that Russia’s authoritarian ruler has received “numerous requests for interviews with the president, but mostly, as far as countries in the collective West are concerned, these are from major network media: traditional TV channels and large newspapers.”
Given that Carlson’s interview with Putin will be the first sit-down the president has had with a major Western media figure since the war’s outbreak in Feb. 2022, it’s fair to say those requests have been rejected. According to Peskov, these traditional media outlets “don’t even attempt to appear impartial in their coverage. Of course there’s no desire to communicate with this kind of media.”
To suggest Carlson himself has been impartial in his coverage of the war between Russia and Ukraine is laughable, however, and it’s not hard to discern why the Kremlin is allowing him but not traditional outlets to interview Putin The former Fox News host has a long history of espousing pro-Russian talking points regarding the war, even going so far as to claim in 2019 that he was actively “[rooting] for Russia” as tensions escalated between the two nations.
So heavy was Carlson’s tilt toward the Russian line of argument that in March of 2022, Mother Jones obtained a Kremlin memo that encouraged state-controlled media outlets 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.”
Critical coverage of Putin has often resulted in the unlawful detainment — or even the deaths —- of Russian and American journalists. As Carlson waltzes into Moscow for his interview with the infamous autocrat, American journalists, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Alsu Kurmasheva and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, remain imprisoned in the country. Russia’s war against Ukraine has only amplified the nation’s crackdown on reporters, and several independent outlets and international newsgroups have been forced to shut down their operations in the country for fear of retaliation.
Peskov claimed on Wednesday that Carlson’s position on the conflict with Ukraine is “not pro-Russian by any means, and it’s not pro-Ukrainian; rather, it’s pro-American. But at least it stands in clear contrast to the position of the traditional Anglo-Saxon media.”
Putin’s refusal to sit down with most Western media outlets likely has less to do with accusations of bias so much as an unwillingness to be subjected to legitimate scrutiny of his government. Russia has been accused of committing atrocities and war crimes in its offensive against Ukraine, including the unlawful executions of civilians. Putin’s government is also infamous for its frequent detainment of political rivals and critics, as well as the cloud of mysterious deaths and poisonings of those in his orbit.
Whether Carlson will question Putin on any of these matters remains to be seen. The former Fox News host’s history of granting softball interviews to controversial influencers, political figures, and authoritarian leaders, indicates this is unlikely. Given everything we know about Putin’s propaganda machine, it’s clear that in Carlson, the Russian government sees a safe opportunity to broadcast its carefully crafted messaging to American viewers.
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