Democratic Influencers, Media Figures Spread Fake Tucker Carlson Quote | Opinion

On Monday, former Republican and ex-congressman Joe Walsh fabricated a Tucker Carlson quote on Twitter. It immediately caught the attention of Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans who hope to see the Fox News host canceled.

Walsh attributed the following statement to Carlson: "What if these bodies of tortured, dead civilians were staged? What if they're fake? What if the Ukrainian military killed them and then blamed Russia? I'm not saying any of this is true, I'm just asking the questions. Why can't we ask these questions?"

The quote repeating Russia's propaganda and denial of war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine, instantly went viral. On Reddit, a screenshot of Walsh's post has nearly 60,000 upvotes with thousands of comments decrying what users believe are Carlson's traitorous views. But Twitter is where the fake quote found currency among powerful and influential figures close to the Democratic Party.

The list of those who spread the fake quote is a who's who of Democratic boosters, politicians, celebrities and even journalists. It includes former Trump impeachment prosecutor Daniel Goldman, MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid, Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali and Obama White House deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco.

Numerous media figures appeared to take the fake quote at face value. "It should trouble every American that the right wing and Trump are in absolute sync (and have been) with Putin," tweeted Luke Zaleski, legal affairs editor and fact-checker at global media company Condé Nast, which owns The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, Teen Vogue and other publications. "Their talking points and anti-democratic actions and agendas are antagonistic to the rule of law and ongoing--and have led to two impeachments and an attack on congress"

Richard Ojeda, spokesman for No Dem Left Behind—a PAC which helps elect Democratic candidates in rural areas—tweeted: "I understand freedom of speech but in WWII they shaved the heads of women who crawled in bed with the enemy. I think it's time to pull out the clippers. PISS ON TUCKER CARLSON!"

Reid, who has a history of spreading misleading information for partisan purposes, accused her broadcast host competitor of "getting his show scripts straight from the Kremlin or the GRU," Russia's foreign military intelligence agency. In March of last year, she similarly accused Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson of being an agent of Moscow.

Tucker Carlson
ESZTERGOM, HUNGARY - AUGUST 07: Tucker Carlson speaks during the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) Feszt on August 7, 2021 in Esztergom, Hungary. The multiday political event was organized by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), a privately managed foundation that recently received more than $1.7 billion in government money and assets. The leader of its main board, Balazs Orban, who is also a state secretary in the prime minister's office, said MCC's priority is promoting "patriotism" among the next generation of Hungary's leaders. Janos Kummer/Getty Images

Anti-Trump activist and writer Amy Siskind called on Fox News and its owner Rupert Murdoch to take Carlson's show off the air in response to Walsh's fake Carlson quote. This was not Siskind's first time falling for a hoax, either. In February 2021, Siskind posted a threatening email she allegedly received that she falsely attributed to this writer.

It wasn't only left-wing partisans who fell for the made-up quote. Anti-Trump Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger wrote, "I gotta say, if [Carlson] is not a Russian asset he should be, he is absolutely over-qualified for the job. Is he a Russian asset? I don't know, just asking questions." The Fox News host had previously mocked Kinzinger on air for sharing a photoshopped meme of the "Ghost of Kyiv" pilot the congressman appeared to believe was authentic.

We've seen Democrats and their allies spread misinformation and conspiracy theories in hopes of smearing their political opponents before—even after those claims have been debunked. Michael Wolff's 2018 anti-Trump bestseller, Fire and Fury, printed sensational quotes and anecdotes that were quickly rejected as fake by those they implicated. But they were nonetheless amplified on mainstream media because they "rang true." Late on Monday night, Walsh recycled this defense. He admitted he fabricated the quote and defended his action: "I was predicting what @TuckerCarlson would say 'tonight.'...It's EXACTLY the kind of thing Putin-lover Tucker would & has said."

What "rings true" is not the same as the truth. It wouldn't even have been hard for the journalists, politicians and activists who spread this fabricated quote meant to damage Carlson's reputation to fact-check the tweet: Walsh's fake quote was posted hours before Tucker Carlson Tonight aired on Monday night.

Those who scream and shout the loudest about stopping misinformation have no issue spreading it themselves when it benefits their cause. For all of Twitter's promises to fight misinformation, the fabricated quote remains online without a disclaimer, as of this writing.

Democratic and Republican war hawks agitating for an American military confrontation with Russia view Carlson's anti-war stance as a threat. Unable to get the popular prime time Fox News host canceled, they've turned to spreading falsehoods to frame him as an agent of the Kremlin. But Carlson's skepticism of both Ukrainian and Russian officials' claims since the war began is not the same as being pro-Kremlin. And while he's only one man, mischaracterizing his views—or making outlandish claims about his arguments—stifles debate about a foreign policy issue that could bring far broader consequences.

Andy Ngo is the author of Unmasked: Inside Antifa's Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.