Putin laughed and answered the question, and didn’t exactly say, “No,” while giving some blame to Hollywood.
The context: Simmons, the network’s senior international correspondent, asked Putin, “The late John McCain in Congress called you a killer. When President Trump was asked, was told that you are a killer. He didn’t deny it. When President Biden was asked whether he believes you are a killer. He said, I do. Mr President, are you a killer?”
“Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext, and reasons and of different caliber and fierceness and none of it surprises me … So, as far as harsh rhetoric, I think that this is an expression of overall U.S. culture. Of course, in Hollywood … there are some deep things in Hollywood. Macho behavior. Which can be treated as cinematic art, but that is part of U.S. political culture where it’s considered normal. By the way, not here, it is not considered normal here.”
Simmons pressed further and mentioned some of Putin’s opponents who have been killed in recent years.
Putin responded, “Look, you know, I don’t want to come across as being rude, but this looks like some kind of indigestion except that it’s verbal indigestion. You’ve mentioned many individuals who indeed suffered and perished at different points in time for various reasons, at the hands of different individuals.”
Putin also was asked about Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden.
He said, “Well, even now, I believe that former U.S. president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. president. He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. But he didn’t come from the U.S. establishment, he had not been part of big time politics before, and some like it, some don’t like it but that is a fact. President Biden, of course, is radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man. He has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics … Just think of the number of years he spent in the Senate … That’s a different kind of person, and it is my great hope that yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse based movements on behalf of the sitting U.S. president.”
The clips of the interview aired on NBC Nightly News on Friday. The interview itself will air on Monday on NBC News’ Today, NBC Nightly News and MSNBC, two days before Putin’s scheduled meeting with Biden in Geneva.