Tucker Carlson Vladimir Putin interview: Why former Fox News host's interview with Russian president is essential viewing
Donald Trump’s biggest fan and an unapologetic far-right winger, Mr Carlson was host of nightly political talk show Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News for seven years – until his abrupt dismissal last year when he was axed by the network without any public reason given.
His name being listed in a defamation lawsuit for broadcasting false statements about voting machines used in the US election may have had something to do with it, or perhaps it was a final straw in a litany of allegations of sexist or racist comments he made live on air. We may never know.
Since, he has hosted a show on X. Mr Carlson has often spoken out in support of Mr Putin and has labelled Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky a “liar”.
When Mr Carlson sat down opposite Mr Putin in Moscow on Tuesday to pre-record the first interview with a Western journalist since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he looked incredibly comfortable, considering this was a man who has a reputation for dealing quite firmly with anyone who doesn’t agree with him.
Their conversation, held in a grand room in the Kremlin with a white, gilt-adorned fireplace, was matey and jokey.
“Are we having a talk show here, or a serious conversation?” asked Mr Putin, jovially, in response to a question about why the Russian leader would believe the US was planning a “surprise attack” on Russia.
The response was peals of laughter from Mr Carlson and even a crack of a smile from the usually immovable Mr Putin.
In an introduction broadcast before the two-hour interview, shown on Thursday night, US eastern time, Mr Carlson urged viewers to view the interview as “a sincere expression of what he [Putin] thinks”.
He said he found Mr Putin’s half-hour lesson on the history of Ukraine and Russia “annoying” and had initially believed it to be a “filibustering technique”, but had been brought round to the point of view that it was “sincere”, in a move aimed at getting even the most sceptical viewer on side.
The interview has polarised observers. Many have branded it a piece of Russian propaganda – and a canny bit of lobbying aimed at any American conservative voters still on the fence over aid for Ukraine. And it is both those things. However, it is also more.
It is a good bit of PR on both sides. Mr Putin appeared relaxed and, most importantly, in good health, denying the legitimacy of persistent rumours that he is ill and possibly even dying.
For Mr Carlson himself, Mr Putin is a huge coup. Other western journalists based in Moscow, including those who work for the BBC, have made previous requests to interview Mr Putin, but have been, not unexpectedly, rejected.
But while required to be taken with a large pinch of salt, the undoubtedly flawed interview does give an insight into Mr Putin and his thinking the world otherwise would not have had.
It’s worth a watch.
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