Last Updated: February 07, 2024, 06:30 IST
Tucker Carlson speaks as conservative leaders and personalities attend Turning Point USA’s AmericaFest 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. December 18, 2023. (Reuters File Photo)
Tucker Carlson, controversial American TV host, heads to Moscow for an exclusive interview with Russian President Putin amid heightened tensions
Firebrand American talk show host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday said he was in Moscow to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin. The announcement makes Carlson the first American media personality to land a formal interview with Putin since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict nearly two years ago.
“We’re here to interview the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. We’ll be doing that soon,” Carlson said in a video posted on X. “There are risks to conducting an interview like this obviously. So we’ve thought about it carefully over many months.” After being ousted last April from a primetime hosting slot on the influential right-wing network Fox News, Carlson launched a show on the Elon Musk-owned social media platform.
‘Musk promised not to suppress’
Carlson said Musk had “promised not to suppress or block” his Putin interview when it is eventually posted on X. The trip and growing rumours that Carlson, known for being Trump-leaning, was set to meet with the Kremlin leader have already drawn strong rebukes from liberal American media commentators. Russian state media has feverishly covered Carlson’s visit to Moscow, publishing photographs of the controversial presenter at the airport as well as at the famous Bolshoi Theatre, where he attended the ballet “Spartacus.”
In his video, Carlson justified his visit to the Russian capital in what he called a self-financed trip to conduct the interview. “We’re in journalism. Our duty is to inform people. Two years into a war (with Ukraine) that is reshaping the entire world, most Americans are not informed,” Carlson said. “They have no real idea what is happening in this region. Here in Russia or 600 miles away in Ukraine. But they should know. They’re paying for much of it.”
Carlson blasted US media outlets for several interviews with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which he said were often “fawning pep sessions” designed to amplify the Ukrainian leader’s demand that “the US enter more deeply” into the war and “pay for it.” Carlson’s announcement comes as President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Congress will play into the Kremlin’s hands if it fails to renew US funding for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s attack. The “clock is ticking” for Ukraine, Biden said, calling out Trump for discouraging lawmakers from passing a $118 billion bill which ties Ukraine aid to immigration curbs.
Carlson blamed Western media for not attempting to interview Putin, a claim immediately disputed by journalists. US and other international media have covered the conflict in Ukraine intensively since Moscow’s assault began two years ago, but have faced mounting restrictions while reporting inside Russia. Some media watchdogs argue that Carlson’s access to Putin represents a huge contrast with the restraints on American journalists in Russia, where two US citizens — Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and Radio Free Europe’s Alsu Kurmasheva — are in detention.
As a Fox News host, Carlson massed a record viewership. A key figure in Republican politics, he often interviewed Trump. He was ousted after a defamation lawsuit, in which Dominion Voting Systems accused Fox News of airing false claims after the election and which ultimately cost the broadcaster $787.5 million. Carlson soon moved to X, against Fox’s wish.
(With agency inputs)