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RT host Schultz defends Putin, Russia in podcast interview

Ed Schultz. Forum file photo

WASHINGTON — Former Fargo radio host Ed Schultz, an anchor for the Russian government-funded Russia Today television network, is still finding ways to make headlines.

In a sometimes heated April 13 interview on the National Review's "The Jamie Weinstein Show," Schultz declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen as a "progressive Democrat" by his countrymen, that the U.S. has "a nasty human rights record," and that the positioning of U.S. weapons to deter potential Russian aggression would be like Russia stationing missiles in Mexico.

In his former job with MSNBC, Schultz ripped Vladimir Putin in 2014 for a "nasty" human rights record and attacked Republicans, saying they had embraced the former KGB lieutenant colonel. "Putie is their new hero," he said.

But when Weinstein asked if Putin had a nasty human rights record, Schultz countered it by saying, "I think the United States has a nasty human rights record."

Schultz said his previous comments about Putin "might have been overboard." Russians want to have America's success as a democracy, Schultz said.

"Did you know that in Russia, Vladimir Putin is viewed as a progressive Democrat?" Schultz said.

He also defended the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, saying Putin was defending Russians in Crimea who were "brutalized and butchered."

"How many shots were fired? How many people died? Does that sound like an invasion to you?" Schultz asked.

By September 2016, more than 9,600 people had died in the conflict, the United Nations reported. The U.N. recently pegged the number of people displaced by the conflict at 1.6 million.

Since the start of that conflict, the U.S. and NATO have aided the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and other nations bordering Russia, such as Poland, Ukraine and Romania.

Schultz contends some weapons systems shared with those countries are more offensive than defensive in nature.

"If the U.S. had Russian weapons (facing it) on Mexican soil, do you think the American people would be kind of questioning that? We'd have the Cuban missile crisis all over again," Schultz said.

Schultz said he isn't muzzled by RT, calling his anchor post "the best job I've ever had in my 42 years of broadcasting. It's the best company I've ever worked for. It's the most freedom I've ever had."

Schultz said he experienced more oversight and direction on content while at MSNBC.

"I am telling you that I am unmuzzled," Schultz said.

The Forum contacted Schultz by email Monday, May 7; however, he said he was in Amsterdam and unavailable for an interview.

Schultz started as a conservative talk show host locally, then later said he had changed his views and had become a Democrat.

He was a progressive voice on MSNBC until 2015 before parting ways with that company and starting his job at RT in early 2016.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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