Russia's president Vladimir Putin pulled off a propaganda victory against the U.S. with the unwitting assistance of Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Pro-Kremlin pundits telegraphed the move on Russian media ahead of Putin's sit-down interview with NBC News reporter Keir Simmons in advance of his first summit with U.S. President Joe Biden, drawing false parallels between his suspected involvement in the murders of his critics and the Capitol police killing of a Jan. 6 insurrectionist, reported The Daily Beast's Julia Davis.
"[Biden] is planning to tell us about [Alexei] Navalny and we will tell him about the woman shot on Jan. 6 at the Capitol," said Olga Skabeeva, host of Russian TV show 60 Minutes, on June 1.
Putin raised the same question 10 days later with Simmons, and then during a Geneva news conference on June 16 compared Navalny's poisoning with the police killing of Donald Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt as she tried to climb through a broken window into House chambers during the U.S. Capitol riot.
"About my opponents being jailed or imprisoned. People went into the U.S. Congress with political demands," Putin told reporters, "400 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."
Carlson played Putin's remarks on his Fox News program and expressed he agreed.
"Now, under normal circumstances, we would never play tape of a foreign adversary criticizing our government, but, honestly, those are fair questions," Carlson told viewers. "Vladimir Putin knows authoritarian systems very well, and he sees clearly what is happening in this country."
Russian media hailed Carlson's broadcast as a propaganda victory, and Putin enjoys higher approval than Biden among Trump voters, according to a recent poll.
"Putin knew whom he was talking to and his message was heard," boasted pro-Kremlin host Vladimir Soloviev on his own show. "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."
Soloviev is already thinking out loud about drawing QAnon adherents to Moscow for a Russia-funded visit, and other pro-Kremlin propagandists cheered Carlson's delivery of their message to Fox News viewers."This is a good illustration of the thesis as to whether we should be influencing public opinion in America," said Russian political scientist Sergey Mikheyev. "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."