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Yes, Tucker Lied About Zelensky
The Ukrainian president has never demanded we send our sons and daughters
Earlier this week, Tucker Carlson claimed on his nightly Fox News program that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly demanded that American sons and daughters be shipped off to join the war against Russia.
Here you have these people … scolding the American speaker of the House because he won’t suck up to a corrupt foreign leader who is demanding that you send your children to war in a country you can’t find on a map? Zelensky’s on television almost every day demanding that you send your children to war—really, where they could die!
Zelensky said no such thing.
Of course, an inconvenient detail like that was never going to keep Tucker from stoking outrage against Ukraine and those who support them.
Tucker, probably the most influential MAGA propagandist working today, certainly the premier agenda-setter for the right from the world of media, is a zealous advocate of an “America First” foreign policy of nationalist-driven isolationism. This puts Ukraine, and Zelensky in particular, recurringly in his crosshairs.
Since Tucker philosophically rejects the idea that Ukrainian sovereignty and curbing Russian expansionism are U.S. interests, he looks for ways to discredit Zelensky and his American allies in Washington as often as he can on air. But when he can’t find anything actually scandalous that Zelensky has said or done, he resorts to making things up.
This isn’t out of character for Tucker. Recently, as part of a defamation lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems filed against Fox News, texts revealing Tucker’s ongoing, journalistically-discrediting duplicity have been released to the public. Commendably, Tucker dislikes Trump, but shamefully, he represses that righteous opinion in favor of passionate Trump sycophancy every single evening for Fox.
A couple years back, in an interview with Dave Rubin, Tucker confessed to lying when it suits him. When asked why news anchors lie, Tucker replied:
I mean, I lie if I’m really cornered or something. I lie. I really try not to. I try never to lie on TV. … I don’t like lying, [but] I certainly do it, you know, out of weakness or whatever.
In response my tweet, which contained the clip of Tucker lying about Zelensky, antiwar journalist Michael Tracey said:
Not only did [Zelensky] say the thing shown below, he spent months on a frantic international lobbying tour demanding the U.S. impose a No Fly Zone in Ukraine, which by definition would’ve required sending “American sons and daughters” to fight in Ukraine
Tracey’s reference to “the thing shown below” is this screenshot from Financial Times journalist Christopher Miller, who was chronicling key moments from Zelensky’s press conference in Kyiv late last month:
Let’s take stock. After I tweeted a clip of Tucker shamelessly lying to his audience about Zelensky, Tracey came to Tucker’s defense.
Did he show that I clipped Tucker’s words out of context? That I mis-transcribed his words?
No, instead he cited Zelensky suggesting that if Ukraine loses and Russia continues its territorial incursions, to the point where Putin invades a “Baltic state,” the U.S. will at that point be forced to send its own to defend a NATO member state.
This is not even in the same neighborhood as Zelensky demanding American sons and daughters be sent off to fight Russia, which was Tucker’s claim.
Zelensky’s attempts to get the U.S. to declare a No Fly Zone in Ukraine aren’t tantamount to demanding Americans join the war. None of this grants Tucker the intellectual license to describe Zelensky as “demanding” anything from us. There’s a major difference between Zelensky predicting what his adversaries are going to do, as a way of warning Americans about what may happen, and straight-up issuing a demand.
Why is this distinction important? It’s the difference between someone making an understandable appeal and making an unreasonable, and even offensive, demand. Tucker has an interest in projecting Zelensky as making the latter, but in reality there’s been little wrong with how Zelensky is addressing the specter of American indifference. He’s not demanding anything. He’s not scolding anyone there, contrary to what Tucker declared. He’s warning us about what Putin’s potential actions would require the U.S. to do in response, and suggesting that it would be better for the U.S. to do everything it can to help avoid that manifestly worse situation.
The reason Tucker is doing this is obvious: a Zelensky who is merely warning us about geopolitical realities, about international commitments, is a non-threatening Zelensky, since it’s plain the real problem is Putin—but a Zelensky with fire in his eyes, looking down on us in moral judgment, commanding us to send our young … well, that’s an infuriating Zelensky. One I would want to condemn. I mean, who the hell does he think he is demanding that my sons and daughters go off to die for Ukraine?
That’s the reaction Tucker is aiming for. It serves his political interests, since both Trump and DeSantis are Ukraine-indifferent and would pivot us away from assisting them in their efforts to beat back Russia’s brutal invasion.
In context, Zelensky was essentially saying, It would be ideal if no Americans ever have to get involved in this way, but if Ukraine falls, they might have to given a reasonable hypothesis of (a) further Russian aggression in Europe combined with (a) the defensive obligations of NATO membership.
But that’s not at all an objectionable thing to say, which is why Tucker felt the need to distort it. After all, that’s what propagandists do.