Within five hours, the 10-minute video received over 60 million views and over 155,000 retweets. Among others, the video was shared by Elon Musk, a number of U.S. congressmen, and Russia’s representative to the UN.
Despite the fact that the video begins precisely with the mention of the Kakhovka HPP, Carlson devoted only one minute to the event. This was enough for him to claim: “the Ukrainians probably blew it up.”
The presenter devoted most of his time to criticizing his political opponents: Republicans who do not support Donald Trump, as well as rival Democrats. He also criticized their position on the need to help Ukraine. Carlson actively manipulated facts and used Russia's fake narratives.
Manipulation 1: “Blowing up Kakhovka HPP is beneficial for Ukraine”
Tucker Carlson argues that Kyiv’s involvement in the Kakhovka HPP dam blast is beneficial for Ukraine and disadvantageous for Russia. His “arguments” are quite simple: the Kakhovka HPP was controlled by the Russians, built by the Russian government, and the destruction of the dam would damage water supplies to Crimea. Carlson did not forget to repeat a Russian propaganda thesis about the importance of the peninsula for the Russian Federation because it “was home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet for 250 years.” The presenter admits that blowing up the hydroelectric power plant “could be bad for Ukraine.” But, according to him, “it is much more harmful to Russia.”
What is wrong with these statements?
The explosion of the hydroelectric power plant has led to an environmental disaster in the territory of Ukraine. It affects the environment, economy, and citizens of Ukraine, both in temporarily occupied and government-controlled areas. The flooding of territories is a blow to the agricultural sector, whose products make up a significant part of Ukraine’s exports;
The flooding complicates Ukraine’s offensive in the south and allows the Russians to redeploy at least some of the forces they have been keeping on this part of the frontline;
It is not the first time that the Russians have resorted to the scorched earth tactic in an attempt to inflict as much damage as possible on Ukraine.
In addition, Tucker Carlson ignores any facts that point to Russias involvement in the explosion:
Last autumn, the occupiers mined the locks and supports of the hydroelectric power plant, and during the retreat from Kherson, they partially damaged the dam;
Ukraine sought to avoid a catastrophe and warned the world of its threat. Last October, President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the European Council to deploy an observation mission to the hydroelectric power plant.
The statement about the involvement of the “Russian government” in the construction of the Kakhovka HPP is a continuation of the Russian narrative that the Russians (the Soviet government) “built all the factories in Ukraine.” This narrative does not take into account that Soviet industrialization in Ukraine was not an act of charity on the part of Moscow as it was carried out at the expense of the Ukrainian economy and at the hands of Ukrainian workers.
Manipulation 2: “Senator Graham rejoices in the deaths of Russians”
To discredit American support for Ukraine, Tucker Carlson used a video that made headlines in Russian propaganda outlets late May — a meeting between Senator Lindsey Graham and Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. The video was edited to combine two of the senator’s phrases in different contexts: “Yes, the Russians are dying” and “This is the best thing we’ve ever spent money on,” giving the audience the impression that they are part of a single logical structure.
The hosts and guests of Russian propaganda shows, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova were demonstrably “indignant” over this video. The head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, initiated a criminal case against Senator Graham, and the Secretary of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev reminded the senator of the fate of Robert Kennedy and other assassinated American politicians.
The Office of the President of Ukraine promptly provided journalists with the full version of the video, which proves that Graham’s statements about the deaths of Russians and the spending of American money do not follow each other and are not therefore connected. The senator’s phrase “This is the best thing we’ve ever spent money on” was a response to Zelensky’s words of gratitude for the U.S. assistance to Ukraine.
The unedited version of this conversation was made public. But Tucker Carlson ignored it. He was “indignant” in the same way as Russian propagandists, accusing both the senator and the Ukrainian president of bloodlust.
It is not the first time that Tucker Carlson has spread fakes and Russian propaganda messages, circulating lies about “bio-weapons labs”, “Putin being pushed to war by the West,” etc. Russian propaganda, in turn, happily quotes Carlson. Using one of the cornerstones of Western civilization — freedom of speech — the Kremlin and Russian agents of influence are doing everything to destroy it, spreading outright lies and speculating on the suffering of millions of people.
Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security