McConnell blasts Tucker Carlson for demonizing Ukraine aid

McConnell blasts Tucker Carlson for demonizing Ukraine aid

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) blasted conservative commentator Tucker Carlson on Tuesday for playing a leading role in demonizing the idea of sending military aid to Ukraine, saying the former Fox News host wound up “where he should have been all along” when he gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a megaphone during a fawning interview earlier this year.

“I think the demonization of Ukraine began by Tucker Carlson, who in my opinion ended up where he should have been all along, which was interviewing Vladimir Putin,” McConnell said, referring to Carlson’s two-hour interview with Putin in February, which drew widespread criticism for not challenging Putin’s dubious claims and declarations.

“He convinced a lot of rank-and-file Republicans that maybe this was a mistake,” he said.

Putin dominated most of the interview with Carlson, hardly giving him a chance to ask questions as he rambled about Russian history, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the threat of Soviet expansion.

The Russian president later disparaged the experience by saying he “didn’t get complete satisfaction” from the interview because he didn’t get any tough questions.

“To be honest, I thought that he would behave aggressively and ask so-called sharp questions. I was not just prepared for this, I wanted it, because it would give me the opportunity to respond in the same way,” Putin said afterward.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the interview “ludicrous” at the time.

“We must not fall for this tissue of lies above all for the notion that Putin is somehow fated to succeed in Ukraine,” Johnson said in a video posted in February by the Daily Mail.

Carlson defended the interview earlier this year.

“And by the way, I should just say at the outset, I’ve been accused of being pro-Putin, and I’m not,” he argued during an appearance on Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV+ program in February. “And if I was, that’s OK, too. I’m an adult man, an American citizen, I can like or dislike anyone I want. I can have any opinion I want.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praises support for Ukraine as the Senate is on track to pass $95 billion in war aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Carlson has been a leading critic of U.S. involvement in the war since before he left Fox and appeared to have a significant impact on Republican views of the war, something McConnell acknowledged Tuesday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told Carlson a year ago that the war was not a vital national interest.

“While the U.S. has many vital national interests … becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis said in a statement provided to “Tucker Carlson Tonight” more than a year ago.

DeSantis came under heavy criticism and later walked back the statement.

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Other senior Republicans have voiced concern about the infiltration of what they view as Russian “propaganda” in conservative media and among their party’s base.

“We see directly coming from Russia … communications that are anti-Ukraine and pro-Russia messages, some of which we even hear being uttered on the House floor,” House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) told CNN’s “State of the Union” earlier this month.

Even before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Carlson called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — who was democratically elected — a “dictator,” and asked why the United States wasn’t siding with Russia in the conflict.

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