Tucker Carlson’s lesson on the dangers of giving Vladimir Putin airtime

Tucker Carlson’s lesson on the dangers of giving Vladimir Putin airtime

Tucker Carlson left Moscow more than a week ago, enjoying an interview with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that returned him to the spotlight after his abrupt cancellation by Fox News last spring.

But the interview with the wartime autocrat, mocked in various corners of the political and media world for its soft touch, continues to have a long and tortured life: it became a trending topic again on Friday after Putin’s most vocal domestic opponent, Aleksei A. Navalny, was found dead in a Russian prison.

“This is Putin’s Russia, @TuckerCarlson,” said Liz Cheney, a former Republican congresswoman from Wyoming. wrote in X after news of Navalny’s death broke on Friday. “And you are Putin’s useful idiot.”

Naomi Biden, President Biden’s granddaughter, also weighed in, pointing to a video Carlson had recently posted in which he contrasted the supposed splendours of Russia under Putin’s leadership with the “filth and crime” of the United States. “Has anything aged so badly and so quickly before?” Mrs. Biden wrote in X.

In a statement to the New York Times on Friday, Carlson said: “It’s horrible what happened to Navalny. All this is barbaric and horrible. “No decent person would defend him.”

The comment represented a notable change in tone from earlier this week, when he appeared to offer a lackadaisical opinion on Russia’s treatment of Navalny, who was first jailed three years ago on corruption and “extremism” charges that the United States United States described them as unfounded. .

Asked at a conference in Dubai on Monday why he had not questioned Putin about Russia’s crackdown on free speech, Navalny’s imprisonment or alleged political assassinations, Carlson said those were “the things he every other American media speaks.” (Carlson was, in fact, the first Western media figure to interview Putin in more than two years.)

But, Carlson said then, “leadership requires killing people; I’m sorry, that’s why I wouldn’t want to be a leader,” comments that came under even more criticism after Navalny’s death.

Carlson said in a statement Friday that his comments about the leadership “had nothing” to do with Navalny. “I wasn’t referring to him, which is obvious in the context. “I am totally opposed to killing.”

Although Carlson pressed Putin during the interview about the Russian detention of Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich, he remained silent for long periods while Putin gave a history lecture that provided a one-sided and often false narrative about Ukraine.

Carlson’s fans and supporters at X described criticism of his interview as sour grapes from mainstream journalists who failed to interview Putin.

But on Wednesday, a new expert joined the chorus of those who said Carlson had gone too easy on Putin: Putin himself.

Speaking to a state television presenter, Putin said he was disappointed that Carlson had not asked the “so-called sharp questions” because he wanted the opportunity to “respond harshly” in his own answers.

“He turned out to be patient and listened to my long dialogues, especially those related to history, and gave me no reason to do what he was prepared to do,” Putin said. “So, frankly, I didn’t get complete satisfaction from this interview.”

Justin Wells, one of Carlson’s top producers, responded Friday that viewers should “judge for themselves.”

Putin’s jibe at Carlson came as the former Fox host enjoyed himself after his interview by offering a steady stream of praise for Russia and Putin, whose leadership he has extolled as superior to Biden’s.

On Wednesday, Carlson posted a short video recorded at a Russian grocery store, saying its selection and prices offered an example of Russia’s superiority over the United States, a country he described as plagued by “filth, crime and inflation.”

“Coming to a Russian grocery store, the heart of evil, and seeing what things cost and how people live, will radicalize you against our leaders,” he said in the video. “Anyway, that’s how I feel: radicalized.”

(Russia has more than double the rate of inflation how the United States and its citizens spend a Higher percentage of their family budgets in groceries.)

The video sparked a bipartisan rebuke: from Naomi Biden and, before her, Sen. Thom TillisNorth Carolina Republican.

As a debater who has long dabbled in pro-Russia narratives and now relies on subscriptions from those drawn to precisely that kind of content, Carlson operates in a sphere where the criticism he received this week could be a catalyst for even more more support.

“It’s just being measured by a completely different yardstick,” said Nicole R. Hemmer, an associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University who studies conservative media. “Tucker under attack is great for Tucker”.

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John C. Johnson

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