In a new interview with NBC anchor Megyn Kelly, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that Jews might be to blame for the hacking of the 2016 presidential election.
Kelly questioned Putin about the people recently indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for their interference with the election, specifically the 13 Russians who Mueller and his investigators say helped spark political dissent in the U.S. and contributed to Donald Trump’s election. Unsurprisingly, Putin wasn’t having it.
“Why have you decided the Russian authorities, myself included, gave anybody permission to do this?” the Russian president asked Kelly, referring to America’s own interference with foreign elections. Putin seemed unperturbed by Kelly’s suggestion that he was unaware of the hacking.
“There are 146 million Russians. So what?” Putin said. “I don’t care. I couldn’t care less. … They do not represent the interests of the Russian state.”
Beyond representing the interests of the Russian state, Putin also questioned to what degree the indicted people were “citizens.”
“Maybe they’re not even Russians,” he said. “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.”
Although Putin has not explicitly positioned himself as an anti-Semite, he has aligned himself with the Russian Orthodox Church, which drew headlines for its anti-Semitic conspiracy theories late last year. And despite several U.S. federal agencies pinning the 2016 election hacking on the Russian government, Trump has repeatedly defended Putin’s proclamations of innocence and lavished the Russian president with praise.