Tucker Carlson has interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow after spending years on Fox News and subsequently on X denigrating the Ukrainian cause and pushing Kremlin talking points regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Kemlin confirmed on Wedesday that the interview took place on Tuesday, and it is believed to be set for broadcast on Thursday. Carlson has been heavily used in Russian state propaganda as a way to push Russia’s distorted view of the conflict, which was started under the baseless pretence that Ukraine was being led by neo-Nazis, a galling claim as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust.
When asked directly why Putin granted an interview to Carlson, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the American's position contrasted with much of the Western media.
"His position is different from the others... it is pro-American, but at least it contrasts with the position of the traditional Anglo-Saxon media," Peskov said.
“There are risks to conducting an interview like this, obviously,” Carlson said in a video posted on X on Tuesday afternoon. “So we thought about it carefully over many months. Here's why we're doing it. First, because it's our job. We're in journalism. Our duty is to inform people, two years into a war that's reshaping the entire world. Most Americans are not informed. They have no real idea what's happening in this region, here in Russia or 600 miles away in Ukraine, but they should know. They're paying for much of it in ways they might not fully yet perceive.”
Last summer, following his removal from Fox News, Carlson started his new show on Elon Musk’s X with a pro-Russia rant in which he said Mr Zelensky is “sweaty and rat-like”, adding that he’s “a persecutor of Christians”.
Carlson’s support for Russia has been so ferocious that after he left Fox, he was offered a job on Russian state TV.
“Hey @TuckerCarlson, you can always question more with @RT_com,” state broadcaster RT wrote on X on 24 April last year.
“The war in Ukraine is a human disaster. It's left hundreds of thousands of people dead,” Carlson said in the video published on Tuesday, adding that the war “has depopulated the largest country in Europe”.
“But the long-term effects are even more profound. This war has utterly reshaped the global military and trade alliances, and the sanctions that followed have as well, and in total, they have upended the world economy,” he said.
“The post-World War Two economic order, the system that guaranteed prosperity in the West for more than 80 years, is coming apart very fast. And along with it, the dominance of the US dollar,” he claimed.
As recently as September, emerging markets analyst at Abrdn Michael Langham, wrote that “the dollar is still the dominant currency in foreign exchange and international funding. Its share of over-the-counter FX transactions has remained remarkably stable”.
Carlson, who has publicly said the US should back Russia rather than Ukraine, continued in his video: “These are not small changes, they are history-altering developments, they will define the lives of our grandchildren. Most of the world understands this perfectly well they can see it, ask anyone in Asia or the Middle East, what the future looks like. And yet the populations of the English-speaking countries seem mostly unaware. They think that nothing has really changed. And they think that because no one has told them the truth. Their media outlets are corrupt. They lie to the readers and viewers. And they do that mostly by omission.”
“For example, since the day the war in Ukraine began, American media outlets have spoken to scores of people from Ukraine, and they have done scores of interviews with Ukrainian President Zelensky. We ourselves have put in a request for an interview with Zelensky. We hope he accepts,” Carlson said. “But the interviews he's already done in the United States are not traditional interviews. They are fawning pep sessions specifically designed to amplify Zelensky’s demand that the US enter more deeply into a war in Eastern Europe and pay for it. That is not journalism. It is government propaganda, propaganda of the ugliest kind, the kind that kills people.”
Why I'm interviewing Vladimir Putin. pic.twitter.com/hqvXUZqvHX
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) February 6, 2024
In the press freedom index organised by Reporters Without Borders, Russia is ranked 164th out of 180 countries and the organisation states that “Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, almost all independent media have been banned, blocked and/or declared ‘foreign agents’ or ‘undesirable organisations’. All others are subject to military censorship”.
The US is more than a hundred spots ahead of Russia, ranked 45th in the world in the same index.
“After a sharp rise in 2020, freedom of the press violations have fallen significantly in the United States, but major structural barriers to press freedom persist in this country once considered a model for freedom of expression,” Reporters Without Borders state.
Ukraine is ranked 79th in the index, with the organisation saying that “The war launched by Russia on 24 February 2022 threatens the survival of the Ukrainian media. In this ‘information war’, Ukraine stands at the front line of resistance against the expansion of the Kremlin’s propaganda system”.
Critics of Mr Putin have pointed to the murder and imprisonment of Russian journalists who have criticised his government, most famously Anna Politkovskaya, who had highlighted atrocities by Russian troops during the Second Chechen War and who was shot dead outside her Moscow apartment on 7 October – Putin’s birthday – 2006.
Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has been detained in Russia since October last year on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent. The WSJ says on its website: “Evan, his family, the Journal and the U.S. government vehemently deny these allegations. We continue to demand Evan's immediate release.”
Carlson concluded his video by praising Mr Musk for promising “not to suppress or block this interview once we post it on his platform X”.
“Western governments, by contrast, will certainly do their best to censor this video, and other less principled platforms because that's what they do. They are afraid of information they can’t control, but you have no reason to be afraid of it,” he said. “We are not encouraging you to agree with what Putin may say in this interview. But we are urging you to watch it. You should know as much as you can. And then like a free citizen and not a slave, you can decide for yourself.”
Carlson was fired from Fox News, where he hosted the most watched cable news show in the US, in the fallout from the Dominion defamation case last year. Fox was ordered to pay $787.5m to the voting machine manufacturer for spreading lies about it connected with Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the result of the 2020 election. Fox did not publicly give a reason for firing Carlson.