Tucker Carlson hits back at claims he’s a Russia propagandist – despite previously saying he backed Putin

Carlson has been accused of promoting Russian conspiracy theories that are being used to justify its invasion of Ukraine

Resurfaced video from 2019 shows Tucker Carlson saying he's 'rooting' for Russia

Fox News host Tucker Carlson opened his show on Monday by trying to defend himself from accusations that he has been spreading Russian propaganda.

The top-rated Fox host has been taking flak on social media and cable news for saying he was "rooting" for Russia in 2019 and, more recently, complaining that Ukraine is "not even a democracy" ahead of the Russian invasion. Since then, he's boosted an invasion-justifying conspiracy theory on his show suggesting that Russia's purposes in Ukraine are to dismantle secret biological research facilities.

“What exactly were they doing in these secret Ukrainian bio labs?” he asked on a recent episode. “Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe, it’s hardly a hotbed of biomedical research. We’re assuming these weren’t pharmaceutical labs, probably not developing new leukaemia drugs.”

The Kremlin only began peddling the line about biolabs after its insistence that Russia was "de-nazifying Ukraine" and that Ukraine isn't actually a country failed to gain traction as justifications for war.

Carlson insists that, despite the words he spoke, he is not a booster for Russia.

“Who’s siding with Putin? I haven’t seen anybody do that,” he said on a recent show.

While he is often a target of derision from the left, perhaps the most damning evidence against him comes from his fans; Russian state media.

Mother Jones recently published a selection of reportedly leaked Kremlin memos which instructed government-aligned media outlets in the country that it was "essential to use as much as possible" clips of Carlson blaming Ukraine, the US, and NATO for the invasion.

Carlson defended himself on Monday by insisting that if he was "repeating Russian talking points," then so was Mr Zelensky.

The Fox News host pointed to that recent shift in Mr Zelensky's opinion regarding Ukraine's membership in Nato. He has cooled on the prospect – which may be a necessary position to take if he has any hopes of reaching a peace agreement with the Kremlin – and this, in Carlson's mind, is no different than what he himself has said.

"So what does that mean?" Carlson said. "It means that by acknowledging that Nato expansion is what Putin seems to care about most. And so when he [Zelensky] is by definition, at least in this country, repeating Russian talking points, would make the president of Ukraine a Putin collaborator. Anyone who says that is immediately denounced as a tool of Russian propaganda. ... Sound insane? Then you can still think clearly, but that's the state of play."

Prior to that statement, Carlson suggested the reason he was being targeted for criticism was because he refused to beat the war drums.

"Anyone who suggests there might be a way out of this disaster short of total war, anyone who says that is immediately denounced as a tool of Russian propaganda," Carlson said.

The accusations leveled at Carlson – which include those coming from other right-wing figures – are not that he's anti-war, or even that he blames the hostilities on NATO in some way.

Carlson is not the only pundit, regardless of political leanings, to argue that NATO's eastward expansion likely escalated tensions in the region. He is also not the only pundit to advise against war.

But he is, so far as is currently known, the only prime-time news pundit to outright announce he was "rooting" for Russia and to uncritically boost its invasion justification conspiracy theories on his show.

The Independent has reached out to Fox News for comment.

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