Vladimir Putin

Putin Invokes JFK and MLK Assassinations in Weird U.S./Russia Comparison

"Haven't presidents been killed in the United States? Have you forgotten about-well, has Kennedy been killed in Russia or in the United States? Or Mr. King?"


Fox News/YouTube/Screenshot

Russian leader Vladimir Putin responded yesterday to a question about the deaths of Russian dissidents with one of the strangest bursts of whataboutism yet: He invoked the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

In a Fox News interview that aired hours after Putin's joint press conference with Donald Trump, host Chris Wallace asked the Russian president why "so many" of his critics "end up dead or close to it." Wallace specifically referenced the deaths of politician Boris Nemtsov, reporter Anna Politkovskaya, and former double agent Sergei Skripal.

Putin replied that "all of us," including Trump, have political rivals, prompting Wallace to indicate that other politicians' rivals "don't end up dead." An undeterred Putin offered this reply:

Haven't presidents been killed in the United States? Have you forgotten about—well, has Kennedy been killed in Russia or in the United States? Or Mr. King? What—and what happens to the clashes between police and, well, civil society, and some—several ethnic groups? Well, that's something that happens on the U.S. soil. All of us have our own set of domestic problems.

Though Russia's constitution supposedly allows for freedom of speech, Russian officials have "great discretion to crack down" on views they don't like, according to the human rights group Freedom House. And while Putin said Monday he is not "the kind of strongman" people portray him to be, many of his outspoken critics might say otherwise—at least the ones who are still alive.

Needless to say, the U.S. is hardly perfect. We do have our own "domestic problems," including the police killings that Putin alluded to. Still, Americans are allowed to speak out against their own government without fear of death or prison.

And the invocation of the assassinations is bizarre. You can read it as a conspiracy theory that past U.S. leaders had King and Kennedy assassinated, but raising that idea in this context would imply that Putin has been assassinating his critics—not an unreasonable thing to suspect him of doing, but also not something he's likely to confess on Fox News. Alternately, you can take it as a suggestion that Nemetsov and the rest were victims not of the state but of the same sort of general political turbulence that produces people like James Earl Ray and Lee Harvey Oswald. But in addition to being a dubious argument in general, that would be an especially curious way to contrast contemporary America and Russia, given that King and Kennedy were killed more than half a century ago. In any case, while the U.S. has seen its share of political violence over the last few decades, I think it's safe to say that Russia's had a lot more of it.

The Russian News Agency, meanwhile, is using Putin's Fox interview to highlight Moscow's alleged efforts to bring the culprits behind those political crimes to justice. That isn't a surprising response: The state-run news outlet has little choice but to defend the nation's leader. After all, the consequences for dissidence can be dire.

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  1. I suspects he wants to make the necessary pro forma denials while still conveying the message that opposing him can be deadly.

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  2. When are you going to learn, all these guys are just guys. None of them possess incredible intelligence or magic powers. Why anyone worships political leaders of any stripe is beyond me.

    1. True!

      Hero worship is idiotic. Throw a dart at the Peoria phone book and you are just as likely to pick an adequate president.

  3. Can we talk about how good of a journalist Chris Wallace is? Or does that ruin the “Everybody at Fox News is Pravda” narrative? The dude was also the only good debate moderator in the 2016 elections.

    1. He and Jake Tapper (most of the time) are basically the only principled journalists left. Sucks that they work at CNN and Fox News, which are so awful.

      1. Jake “it’s illegal to read wikileaks” Rapper?
        And Wallace’s selection of examples here is stupid. The first two have rather mundane explanations, the latter (Skirpal) is straight British spook bs

        1. So the British poisoned Skirpal to frame the Russians and your evidence of this extraordinary statement is….

          1. Did I say that? No.
            Skirpal was poisoned by a rare compound that hasn’t been produced in years, collapsing with his daughter a few miles from a British chemical weapons facility. Two other people (unconnected in any way to Russia) were recently poisoned, with months in between incidents.
            What does this prove? Nothing.
            There’s literally zero reason to believe anything coming from British intel.
            Now go play in traffic, little lizard

    2. The actual hard news shows on fox tend to be pretty good.

      1. I used to like Brit Hume’s show.

  4. Putin is an idiot. The US has only be credibly proven to have assassinated foreign leaders. What a maroon.

    It is rather amazing how Reason is basically Fox News during the Bush administration now, though. Good times.

    1. This has to be the most ridiculous news cycle since the last one. But in all honesty I’ve never seen anything like the last couple of years of Trump he certainly has a talent for making his opposition look even more retarded than he is(which I never thought would be possible).

      1. “Why Edward Snowden is a Russian Operative and Should Be Prosecuted”

        – Shikha

    2. The Block Yomommatard left all throughout the 2000s: “Why won’t that trigger-happy warmongering cowboy Bush engage in diplomacy? There’s too much war, talking to our enemies is OK!!”

      The Block Yomommatard left today: “Trump is kissing too much dictator ass. Dammit, we want war and we want it NOW!!!!!!”

      1. Really? I haven’t heard lefties calling for war. Where are you hearing that?

        1. Hillary? Obama didn’t just call for war, he started several

          Think a little, it’s not hard.

          1. The childish name calling left today:”

            I think it’s pretty clear he’s referring to this moment in time, not the Obama years.

            1. Old name calling doesn’t count? Then let’s wait til tomorrow and brush it all off.

  5. Needless to say, the U.S. is hardly perfect.

    And now (T)Reason magazine is parroting the Trump line.

  6. But in addition to being a dubious argument in general, that would be an especially curious way to contrast contemporary America and Russia, given that King and Kennedy were killed more than half a century ago.

    It’s always helpful to bring up the Crusades when discussing Modern Islam.

  7. Just gonna throw this here.

    Exhausted by media obsession over Donald Trump’s divisive presidency, Russian collusion, threat to liberty and destruction of democracy, I recently went to the one place on earth where I could easily avoid hearing anything at all about Donald Trump.

    I went to the United States.

    Anyone who has not visited the US since Trump’s hilarious 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton might be surprised by the utter absence there of Trump in daily life. Everyday Americans are mostly just getting on with things, as normal, non-obsessive people tend to do. The apparent civil war we keep hearing about just isn’t happening.

  8. Reason transformed into the Weekly Standard real fast.

    When you #resist so hard that you literally have no principles to stand on anymore

    1. I suppose that’s true if you’re a complete idiot who thinks criticizing foreign dictatorships makes you a warmongering neocon.

  9. while the U.S. has seen its share of political violence over the last few decades, I think it’s safe to say that Russia’s had a lot more of it

    That, and US presidents aren’t in the habit sanctioning the assassination of the political opposition.

    1. Nationalism is libertarian again this week?

      1. I’m honestly not sure what the point of this comment is. Can you explain?

  10. Reason is terrible on foreign policy. What can you expect of a bunch of Gary Johnson libs? Great on pot, bad on world view. Did Johnson find Allepo yet?
    Russia has fewer journalists in prison than most of our so called allies. Navalny is a hero to the Neo liberals, but he is still walking around. His arrests are about moving his demonstrations in Moscow around at the last minute because no one showed up.
    Nemsov was irrelevant when he was killed, and a couple of Chechens went to prison. Fall guys? Who knows.
    C’mon, do you really still believe Russia poisoned the Stirpals? Really?
    Reason contributors and satellites like Kennedy on FBN just want to see a kinder, gentler Empire. They are aligned with Western Imperialism, and can’t see that the multipolar world of Russia, China, India etc are the new big thing. They cannot see the new paradigm is about democracy between nations, ie sovereignty, is a better model than demanding democracy within nations, under US hegemony.

    1. Yeah, Reason seems able to handle diplomacy with Cuba and their treatment of the press as well.

    2. Yes, I believe Russia poisoned and murdered those people. I also believe you’re either a mentally ill, incredibly dumb or a traitor.

      1. Your beliefs are of no significance

  11. We did have the multi-assassination attempt against Republican congressmen in 2017.

    1. Better whataboutism though it needs a “Bernie Sanders inspired attempted murder”.

      1. You people really eat your own.

  12. LOL.

    Putin’s Attack on the U.S. Is Our Pearl Harbor
    Make no mistake: Hacking the 2016 election was an act of war. It’s time we responded accordingly.

    n December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise conventional attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet moored at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese operation was part of a larger strategy: cripple the United States ? in capability, naval manpower and mentality ? so that we would be prevented from interfering as Japan continued military operations throughout Southeast Asia. Almost 3,500 Americans were killed or wounded; eight U.S. battleships were damaged and four were sunk; and more than 300 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. To this day, the wreckage of the USS Arizona is a monument to loss of life and totality of destruction. The attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded the next day.

    So yeah, Trump is a diplomatic buffoon, we should be declaring thermo-nuclear WAR on the Russkies!

  13. More fake news from the Lame Stream Media. FOX has always been the worst with the TDS. They’re all just hating on Trump, jealous because he’s so smart and rich and successful and charming and handsome. And modest, too.

    1. Huh, I don’t watch the news any more… what’s with Anderson cooper reading a statement from McCain and the “spontaneously” using the exact same wording for his own “opinion”.

  14. Let’s see, I’m struggling to remember how long the list is of former close Clinton associates who either committed Arkancide or met their demise in a highly suspicious manner. Was it 40? 50?

  15. Yes, JFK was killed. By a man who betrayed his country to Russia, married a Russian, and visited a Russian consulate just weeks before he killed JFK.

    1. But he was induced to do it by the “right wing climate of hate” in Dallas according to the Left (back when they loved Russia)

      1. Even they had to give up on that as soon as Oswald’s background was discovered, which is why they then started talking up conspiracy theories by anti-Castro organizations that, for no discernible reason, decided to kill anti-Castro hardliner Jack Kennedy.

  16. We don’t have the government cracking down on our freedom of speech, we leave that to the random weenies on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

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