During the 2012 election, Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential candidate and his party’s standard bearer, asserted that Russia was America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” Romney’s claim was mocked, but it proved to be prescient.
What a difference a decade makes.
In recent years, many Republicans and the right-wing media that amplifies them are fawning over Russia’s autocratic president, Vladimir Putin. In fact, they seem to prefer the former KGB agent to Joe Biden, the President of the United States.
Watching Fox News openly root for Putin is a really remarkable moment in what the American Right has become, captured for posterity. https://t.co/FD9BevwbeB— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) March 19, 2021
As NBC’s Brian Williams points out (watch above), Fox News routinely shows photos of a shirtless Putin engaged in “masculine” activities like horseback riding and martial arts. Conversely, the photos they broadcast of Biden (sometimes shown side-by-side with photos of Putin from the Kremlin’s propaganda machine) tend to be unflattering. In addition, the network’s prime time hosts routinely speculate that Biden suffers from cognitive decline. They call him “weak.” Appearing on Sean Hannity on Thursday night, GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz said “I don’t think the American would prevail” in a debate between Putin and Biden. Several Republicans – for some murky reason – are echoing the Kremlin’s call for such a debate.
(Putin refuses to engage with his chief political rival, Alexei Navalny, who he has poisoned and arrested, according to multiple credible reports.)
Fox News’ pro-Russia turn echoes a similar strain in the Republican Party. T-shirts bearing the phrase “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat,” were spotted at a Trump rally. And in 2018, eight GOP congressman spent the Fourth of July in Moscow, a date universally associated with American exceptionalism.
In 2019, Tucker Carlson, the Fox News provocateur, said he was rooting for Russia in their conflict with Ukraine. Official American policy has long supported the Ukrainian effort to resist Russian aggression.
Imagine if Rachel @MaddowBlog or any talking head on @MSNBC said:— Khary Penebaker (@kharyp) November 26, 2019
“Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia? I'm serious. Why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which by the way I am."
Conservatives would lose their minds pic.twitter.com/1FybA8Ep8s
Following an often cozy relationship between then-President Trump and Putin, who has undermined Russia’s electoral system and murdered dissidents, the Biden administration has struck a more aggressive tone. In an interview earlier this week, Biden agreed that Putin was a “killer” and vowed that he’d “pay a price” for a series of cyber attacks on US government agencies and private companies.
On Tuesday, the US intelligence community released a report that said Putin authorized “influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.” For years, Fox News has pursued a similar agenda.