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Russian TV is very excited about Такер Карлсон’s Nord Stream theory

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, at the National Review Institute's Ideas Summit on March 29, 2019, in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

If you are curious, here is how you transliterate “Tucker Carlson” into Russian: Такер Карлсон.

I know this because on Wednesday those characters appeared on Russian TV over and over again, as broadcasters blessed by authorities in that country eagerly embraced Carlson’s effort to pin the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage on President Biden’s administration.

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If you are less dedicated to tracking rhetoric that might be embraced by Russian President Vladimir Putin, you may have missed Carlson’s riff on Tuesday. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake walked through it in detail, but the short version is that Carlson suggested that damage to two underwater gas pipelines in Europe was possibly a function of U.S. saboteurs.

There’s no evidence of this, of course. Carlson leveraged statements from administration officials opposing the activation of the pipeline to suggest they had committed to destroying it. But the point, as usual, was to frame the actions of Biden and his aides as inherently dangerous for the American people — in this case because there would be a cascading effect after Russia retaliated.

You can see the appeal for the Russian state. First, that the damage to the pipelines — an action for which Russia is certainly a more-than-viable suspect, if not the preeminent one — would get pinned on its archenemy. And, second, that Russia is presented not as it is (weak, hobbled by Ukraine’s counteroffensive) but instead as it sees itself (an actor equivalent to the United States that can impose pain where and when it wishes). Again, Carlson’s intent was almost certainly centered more on impugning Biden than elevating Putin but, you know. Enemy of your enemy.

And so the clip from Такер Карлсон entered heavy rotation, as captured by the Internet Archive.

There he was, just after noon Moscow time, shown on Channel One’s news program.

There he was again on the Russia1 program “60 Minutes” at 1:52 p.m.

At 2:56 p.m., back on Channel One.

And again at 3:37 p.m.

A few minutes later, at 3:42 p.m., it aired on Russia1’s “Who Is Against?”

At 5:44 p.m., it aired again on Russia1.

The clip aired on Channel One again at 7:34 p.m.

In the 9 p.m. hour, it was shown at least four times. On Russia1 at 9:05...

… on Russia24 at 9:14

… on Channel One at 9:19

… and on Channel One again 20 minutes later. This segment included former Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D), now a regular commentator on Carlson’s show, one of a coterie of regular voices skeptical about the American government (and often sympathetic to Russia).

The last clip recorded by the Internet Archive aired on Channel One at 11:15 p.m.

There were other segments from the show that got picked up, too, like Channel One’s elevation of Carlson’s suggestion that the sabotage might have been a sop to American gas companies. That clip included this restrained graphic.

It is, of course, not Carlson’s fault that Russian TV looped his segment into their broadcasts. He didn’t make these claims to get airtime in Moscow, it’s safe to assume; he has enough people tuning into his show here in the United States. But it is telling: The networks on which the clips aired are state-run, meaning that the rhetoric Carlson offered was seen as a boon to Putin’s propaganda.

Again, there’s no evidence that the scenario Carlson outlines is accurate. There are probably better-than-even odds that the sabotage will be eventually linked back to Russia itself. In a statement on Thursday, NATO asserted that a deliberate attack on member state infrastructure would be “met with a united and determined response” — an announcement of force that would be awkward if its most important member were found to be at fault.

The question, really, isn’t why Russia would embrace unfounded allegations against the Biden administration that cast Russia as the victim. That’s obvious. The question is more why Fox News embraces it.

Though that, too, is fairly obvious.

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