The European Union has denied rumors that it is weighing sanctions against American commentator Tucker Carlson following his controversial interview with Vladimir Putin, which he conducted during a visit to Moscow.
Conservative pundits incorrectly suggested on Wednesday that the EU was contemplating a travel ban on Carlson, formerly of Fox News, in response to his conversation with the Russian leader. This interview marks Putin’s first with a Western journalist since the initiation of the comprehensive conflict in Ukraine.
These allegations, initially circulated by Newsweek, were based on statements from a current and former European Parliament member who suggested considering sanctions against Carlson for serving as Putin’s regime’s “mouthpiece” and “propagandist.”
These comments, made by individuals without the authority to propose or enforce sanctions, were mistakenly taken as official EU intentions to impose restrictions on Carlson. Elon Musk, the owner of X (formerly Twitter), further propelled these claims, labeling them as “disturbing” and potentially offensive to the American public, drawing over 25 million views to his post.
Peter Stano, the spokesperson for the European Commission on foreign affairs and security policy, clarified on Thursday that there were no discussions within the EU regarding sanctions against Carlson. However, Stano emphasized the EU’s capacity to sanction “propagandists” with a history of spreading disinformation that undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The misunderstanding originated from remarks by Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt and former Spanish MEP Luis Garicano of the liberal Renew Europe group, with Verhofstadt suggesting on social media that the EU “explore” a travel ban on Carlson for promoting disinformation for Putin.
In response to Musk’s comments about potential EU actions against Carlson offending Americans, Verhofstadt posted a picture of jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, highlighting the treatment of journalists in Russia as truly offensive.
X, under scrutiny for violating the EU’s Digital Services Act related to disinformation and illegal content, had not seen any fact-checking notes added to the original Newsweek story.
EU sanctions, designed by its diplomatic arm and based on threats to its security, interests, or values, involve confidential negotiations. Since the Ukraine invasion, the EU has implemented twelve sanctions rounds against Russia, targeting nearly 2,000 individuals and entities, including Putin and his inner circle.
Sanctions, including those against journalists and media outlets, require evidence and unanimous support from all 27 member states. Sanctions have led to bans on Kremlin-supported media in the EU, highlighting efforts against information manipulation by the Kremlin and others. Carlson’s interview with Putin, conducted earlier, was slated for broadcast later that Thursday.