Former Fox News Channel star Megyn Kelly launched her latest NBC News show with a bang on Sunday by securing a one-on-one interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
In her introduction on “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” the host described the “testy exchanges” that occurred at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where Kelly moderated a panel that included Putin and other world leaders.
Predictably, Kelly asked the president about the hacking accusations and Russia suspected interference in the presidential election, pointing out that “hundreds of factors point to Russia,” including IP addresses and fingerprints.
“What fingerprints or hoof-prints or horn-prints, what are you talking about?” Putin responded as the conversation quickly became heated. “IP addresses? They can be invented, you know? There are a lot of specialists who can even make it so it comes from your home IP address as if your three-year old daughter carried out the attack.”
The combative tone continued in the subsequent sit-down interview. “This week you floated the idea of patriotic hackers doing it. Why the change and why now?” Kelly asked, in a transcript obtained by TheWrap from NBC News.
“I hadn’t said anything. It’s just that French journalists asked me about those hackers. I told them the same thing I can tell you. Hackers can be anywhere. They can be in Russia, in Asia … even in America, Latin America,” Putin replied. “They can even be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very skillfully and professionally, shifted the blame, as we say, on to Russia. Could you accept that?
“In the midst of a political battle, by some calculations, it was convenient for them to release this information, so they released it, calling out Russia. Can you imagine something like that? I can,” he continued.
The Russian leader went on to refer to JFK’s assassination and the conspiracy theory that it was carried out by U.S. intelligence.
“So, if this theory is correct and that can’t be ruled out, then what could be easier, in this day and age, than using all the technical means at the disposal of the intelligence services, and using those means to organize some attacks,” Putin said. “And then pointing the finger at Russia.”
He went on to say that America interferes with elections in many other countries. “Put your finger anywhere on a map of the world, and everywhere you will hear complaints that American officials are interfering in internal electoral processes,” he said.
“With respect, that sounds like a justification,” Kelly quipped back, but her interview subject claimed it was a statement of fact.
“Presidents come and go, and even the parties in power change, but the main political direction does not change. That’s why, in the grand scheme of things, we don’t care who’s the head of the United States,” Putin continued.
“We know more or less what is going to happen. And so in this regard, even if we wanted to, it wouldn’t make sense for us to interfere,” he added.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 4, 2017
He also denied that there were meetings between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
“There were no meetings. When I saw this, my jaw dropped,” Putin stated, adding that for him to know what all of his ambassadors are doing around the world is “complete nonsense!”
He said he knows nothing about a proposal from Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, either.
“You created a sensation out of nothing. And out of this sensation, you turned it into a weapon of war against the current president,” he told the news anchor. “Well, this is, you know, you’re just, you people are so creative over there. Good job. Your lives must be boring.”
When asked about his contact with former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Putin replied:“You and I, you and I personally, have a much closer relationship than I had with Mr. Flynn.
“You and I met yesterday evening. You and I have been working together all day today. And now we’re meeting again.
“When I came to the event for our company, Russia Today, and sat down at the table, next to me there was a gentleman sitting on one side,” he continued. “I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterwards I was told, ‘You know there was an American gentleman. He was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services’ … that’s it. I didn’t even really talk to him … That’s the extent of my acquaintance with Mr. Flynn.”
The interview ended as it began — on a testy note, with Kelly asking Putin what he thinks of Americans thinking “he runs a country full of corruption, a country in which journalists who are too critical could wind up murdered, a country in which dissidents could wind up in jail or worse.”
“Why do you feel you have the right to ask us these kinds of questions? And do it all the time. To moralize and to give us lessons on how to live?” he replied. “We’re ready to listen to comments, when it is done constructively, with the goal of establishing a relationship, creating a common environment. But we will absolutely not accept when these sorts of things are used as an instrument of political conflict. I want everyone to know that. That’s our message.”
Watch a clip from the interview above.
Kelly’s “Sunday Night” airs Sundays at 7/6c on NBC.
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