During the course of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country’s state-controlled propaganda networks have relied heavily on translated television clips depicting pro-Russia statements by American media personalities such as Tucker Carlson. Another of their sources for such statements is former Hawaii congresswoman and erstwhile presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard.
As explained by Zach Everson writing for Forbes, Gabbard’s past pro-Russian remarks are well-documented. Lately they include propagating Russian propaganda regarding so-called secret “biolabs” in Ukraine, which Forbes writer Derek Saul aptly summarizes as “an unfounded Russian-backed conspiracy theory the U.S. has warned could serve as justification for Russia to use biological and chemical weapons against Ukraine.” This fantasy is now an article of faith among many inhabiting the right-wing “bubble-verse” and has been facilitated and amplified by Fox News, through Carlson (although Sen. Mitt Romney recently called it a “treasonous lie”).
Everson also notes that the largest individual donor to Gabbard’s 2021 PAC was an American activist (and founder of an organization called the Center for Citizen Initiatives) named Sharon Tennison, whom Everson characterizes as a “Putin apologist.” As Everson writes:
While advocating for peace, Tennison has repeatedly championed Russia’s dictator. For example, in 2018, she wrote, “Putin isn’t the problem, friends. The problem is the projection of our own ‘shadow’ on Putin and Russia.” In September 2020, Tennison observed, “Putin seems to ignore detractors and continues efforts to create venues to bring peoples and countries together despite vilifications.” And the day after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Tennison posted, “I am deeply concerned about a NATO country being on Russia’s borders in Ukraine … As for Putin’s current dilemma, I’m sorry he felt he had to intervene in Ukraine!” Ukraine is not and has never been a NATO member.
When former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton characterized Gabbard (along with Jill Stein) as a “Russian asset,” Gabbard filed suit, claiming she was entitled to $50 million in damages. The suit was later dropped. According to Everson, Tennison contributed to Gabbard’s legal fund.
Vladimir Soloviev is regarded as one of the Russian state-controlled media’s most prominent propagandists. He hosts a television show called Soloviev Live in which he often plays pro-Russian clips and interviews of ostensibly pro-Russian American political figures and consultants, in order to inculcate the Russian population with the notion that Americans are conflicted about Putin’s invasion.
As reported by Josephine Harvey for HuffPost, this week Soloviev was hawking clips of Tucker Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard, both of whom were operating seemingly in tandem on Carlson’s show, airing Monday:
[Soloviev] introduced Gabbard, a Democratic primary candidate for the 2020 presidential race, as “our girlfriend Tulsi,” according to a translation by Russian media analyst Julia Davis, a columnist for the Daily Beast.
A clip was then aired of Gabbard’s appearance on Monday’s episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in which she suggested President Joe Biden was secretly plotting to remove Putin from power.
After the clip aired, a panelist reportedly asked, “Is she some sort of Russian agent?”
According to Davis’ translation, Soloviev said she was.
Media analyst and reporter Julia Davis, who provided the translation for the clip above, has been doing yeoman’s work these past few weeks for The Daily Beast, observing Russian state television to assess the internal propaganda surrounding Putin’s invasion. But you don’t really need a translation to hear Soloviev respond “Da” at the very end of the clip (1:15 mark), in response to the panelist’s question.
Perhaps Soloviev was joking, perhaps not. (That the panelist—a cog in the propaganda machine himself—would ask such a question, even in jest, is fairly telling.) Whether or not Gabbard is knowingly doing the Kremlin’s work for them is certainly debatable, but the clear use being made of her statements by Russia’s propaganda apparatus is not.