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EU lawmakers urge sanctions, travel ban against Tucker Carlson over Putin interview

EU spokesperson claims 'no discussions' to ban Tucker

US conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson speaks at the Turning Point Action USA conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, on July 15, 2023.
US conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson speaks at the Turning Point Action USA conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, on July 15, 2023. | GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images

Some current and former members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are calling for conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson to be slapped with sanctions for having interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week.

Peter Stano, who serves as EU Commission spokesperson for foreign affairs, pushed back Thursday against reports that the EU was considering sanctions against the former Fox News host, according to Politico.

"Currently there are no discussions in the relevant EU bodies linked to [Carlson]," Stano told reporters, but added that the bloc can sanction "propagandists" with a "track record" of "[undermining] the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to promote the illegal and brutal aggression by Putin.”

The story emerged after Guy Verhofstadt and other current or former MEPs told Newsweek that Carlson should face a travel ban to EU countries for being the first Western journalist to interview Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister who has represented the country in the parliament since 2009, was himself banned from entering Russia in 2015, according to media reports.

In 2018, Verhofstadt condemned what he described as a "circle of evil around our continent" emanating from then-President Donald Trump, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Verhofstadt brought up Trump again in his recent comments to Newsweek, alleging to the outlet that Carlson is a "mouthpiece" for both Trump and Putin.

"As Putin is a war criminal and the EU sanctions all who assist him in that effort, it seems logical that the External Action Service examine his case as well," he said.

The External Action Service (EAS) is the diplomatic arm of the EU, and serves as its combined foreign and defense ministry. If the EAS finds sufficient reason to issue sanctions against an individual, it presents the case to European national leaders on the European Council for approval.

Urmas Paet, an MEP from Estonia, also expressed support for banning Carlson from the EU, claiming to Newsweek that "Carlson wants to give a platform to someone accused of crimes of genocide."

"If Putin has something to say he needs to say it in front of the ICC," Paet said. "At the same time Carlson is not being a real journalist since he has clearly expressed his sympathy for the Russian regime and Putin and has constantly disparaged Ukraine, the victim of Russian aggression."

"So, for such propaganda for a criminal regime, you can end up on the list of sanctions. This concerns primarily a travel ban to E.U. countries," Paet added.

Like Verhofstadt, Paet has also been publicly critical of Trump, claiming in 2018 that he was "breaking apart cooperation in the democratic world," according to Agency France-Presse.

Former Spanish MEP Luis Garicano claimed Carlson is "no longer a newsman, but a propagandist for the most heinous regime on European soil and the one which is most dangerous to our peace and security."

Polish MEP Witold Waszczykowski, by contrast, urged Verhofstadt and the others to focus less on an American journalist and more on politicians in the EU who continue to engage with Putin.

"Here in the EU, we have top politicians [such] as [French President Emmanuel] Macron and [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz who keep talking with Putin,"  Waszczykowski told Newsweek. "I would like rather Mr. Verhofstadt to take care of those European politicians who keep searching for how to appease Russia instead of helping Ukraine to win the war."

Carlson confirmed Tuesday in an announcement on X that he had traveled to Moscow for an interview with Putin, which is slated to premiere on the platform Thursday at 6 p.m. EST.

"Most Americans have no idea why Putin invaded Ukraine or what his goals are now," Carlson said in his announcement.

"We are not here because we love Vladimir Putin," he also said. "We are not encouraging you to agree with what Putin may say in this interview, but we are urging you to watch it. You should know as much as you can."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Newsweek that they had granted an interview to Carlson because his "position is different from the others.”

"It is in no way pro-Russian, it is not pro-Ukrainian, it is pro-American, but at least it contrasts with the position of the traditional Anglo-Saxon media," Peskov said.

In 2021, Carlson said on his Fox News show that a whistleblower in Washington, D.C., had informed him that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been spying on his texts regarding a planned trip to Russia, which he claimed the NSA had planned to leak to media outlets in an attempt to have his show taken off the air.

The NSA publicly denied Carlson's allegation, though Carlson maintained on the Full Send Podcast in March 2023 that the NSA had admitted to Congress that they had been spying on his encrypted messages on Signal.

"Congress asked NSA, and NSA was like, 'Yes, we did this, but for good reason!' What would be a good reason to read [my texts]? ... Everyone's in on it — Republicans and Democrats are all in on it," he said.

"And by 'it,' I mean the assumption that there's no privacy whatsoever, that they have a right to know everything you're saying. And that's just not a right, as far as I'm concerned. If you have no privacy, you have no freedom."

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to jon.brown@christianpost.com

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