TUCKER Carlson’s bombshell interview with Vladimir Putin is set to be released tonight – but who is the man breaking bread with the tyrant?
In a twisted tale, the so-called “King of cable TV” is now being accused of turning into the Kremlin’s PR man as his upcoming interview is slammed as little more than a censored puff piece.
Carlson, 54, who has long been adored by Russian state media, will be treating the world to what he claims to be an “unedited” two-hour interview with the Russian president at 11pm GMT.
It will broadcast this evening on his X/Twitter – a platform that Russians can barely access as it was banned soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, 2022.
It is the first time Putin has been interviewed by a Western journalist since before the war.
Moscow said it granted the interview because Carlson was never pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian, marking him as different from the rest of the “one-sided” Western media.
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Announcing the interview on Tuesday in a video entitled; “Why I’m interviewing Vladimir Putin”, Carlson said he was simply doing his “job” as a journalist.
He sold it as a means for the American public to see the “truth” of the Ukraine war after two years of what he blasted as “lies” fed by Western media.
“You’ve never heard his voice. That’s wrong,” he announced in the video recorded from Moscow.
But the prominent pundit is facing a media storm accusing him of acting as a propaganda tool for the dictator, who he has frequently defended.
Dr James Rodgers, the former BBC Moscow correspondent, told The Sun he fears Carlson will simply end up as “mouthpiece” for the Kremlin.
Despite Carlson’s claims of getting to the “truth” of what’s happening in the Ukraine war, Rodgers expects it will be a highly censored rendition of “Putin’s side – and that’s not really the truth at all”.
Carlson, he said, should be worried about “history will judge him”.
A similar story is being told on various Russian telegram channels who have called the interview with Carlson a major PR “coup” for Putin.
So how did Carlson get here?
The US TV host spent a hugely successful career rising through the ranks of CNN and NBC to finally land his own evening show on Fox News in 2016.
“Tucker Carlson Tonight is the sworn enemy of lying, pomposity, smugness and group think,” the show’s synopsis read. “We ask the questions that you would ask – and demand answers.”
After his departure from the network last year, speculation over his future was rife.
There were rumours of Tucker flagshipping other rival networks, setting up his own TV channel and even attempts by Russian state TV to woo him.
But his sudden tie-in with Elon Musk’s newly acquired Twitter, now X, took many by surprise.
He is now ten months into running his own show on the platform – but it’s a far cry from the audiences he once wielded on Fox.
His first video was a bizarre 10-minute monologue in which he praised Putin and simultaneously declared UFOs and extraterrestrial life “actually real”.
And so began Carlson slowly falling down a rabbit hole, where he peddled conspiracy theories and frequently criticised the US for helping to arm Ukraine.
Who is Tucker Carlson?
CONTROVERSIAL TV pundit Tucker Carlson is set to interview Vladimir Putin tonight. But who is the man sitting down to face the tyrant?
Carlson, 54, has been married to journalist Susan Andrews for three decades, with whom he shares four kids, Hopie, Buckley, Dorothy, and Lillie.
The conservative broadcaster and close Trump ally rose through the ranks of TV networks to a top anchor position on Fox News.
From his primetime position, he commanded extensive influence over American politics and was once even tipped to be a presidential candidate.
After his departure from Fox, he is said to have received plenty of offers from far and wide, including from Russian state TV, before he settled on X/Twitter.
Ten months on and he is running his own less successful, less watched and less talked about video show on the platform.
His first video on it was a rambling monologue in which he praised Putin and simultaneously declared UFOs and extraterrestrial life “actually real”.
In July, Carlson released a two-and-a-half hour interview with disgraced influencer Andrew Tate, who was charged with rape and human trafficking in June in Romania.
In August, he also sat down Hungary’s prime minister, Victor Orbán – a man frequently accused by Western policymakers of pandering to Putin.
The same month Carlson conducted a soft-ball interview with Donald Trump and used the time to push a wild conspiracy theory about an alleged plot to assassinate the former US president.
Since then, Carlson appeared to sink deeper into his criticism of Ukraine’s battle to defeat Russia – criticising the US sending military aid to Ukraine and seemingly defending Putin.
On his high-profile and seemingly lavish trip to Moscow, Carlson has reportedly visited the famed Bolshoi ballet and a string of fine restaurants – with his every move highly publicised in Russia.
Sources inside the Kremlin have called it a major propaganda coup for Putin, reports the The Moscow Times.
One source told the independent outlet that “everyone in the presidential administration has rolled up their sleeves and is working together.”
An unnamed government official added: “If the interview also comes out, our propaganda will blast Carlson’s words criticizing the Democrats, which means he will confirm our hawks’ line up to the tiniest detail.”
“The chief [Putin] will win the election without Tucker’s help,” the official said.
“But access to an American audience through Carlson during the heated struggle between Biden and Trump is again an opportunity to exert that proverbial influence on the U.S. election, given Carlson’s huge audience.”
Another source added: “It’s that kind of message, saying, ‘You didn’t expect that? We can do that too. Suck it, Joe!’”.
There are also unconfirmed rumours that the Kremlin had a heavy say over the editing of the interview and even blocked some questions.
Telegram channel, General SVR, that claims to have links inside the Kremlin said the interview turned “out to be terrible”.
Putin – or what the channel alleged was his body double – “was nervous, said a lot of unnecessary things and looked faded and weak.”
“It was decided to film the interview again, without improvisation on both sides and as close as possible to the approved text,” it said.
“Now the Russian leadership is courting Tucker Carlson in every possible way and trying to create for itself, as far as possible, a positive image of ‘noble villains’.”
President Putin has long been admired by certain strains in the US hard-right, including by Trump, who has a history of praising the Kremlin leader, including calling him a “genius” and more “credible” than US intelligence.
Slammed by the White House, slammed by journalists
With the news of the interview’s existence, the White House blasted Carlson for giving a platform to Putin.
“I don’t think we need another interview with Vladimir Putin to understand his brutality,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
His false claims that no Western journalists had tried to interview Putin sparked fury online, particularly amid Russia’s sweeping crackdown on media freedoms.
The claim was even rebuffed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov who told reporters on Tuesday: “We receive many requests for interviews with the president.”
BBC’s Russia editor, Steve Rosenberg, wrote on X/Twitter: “Interesting to hear@TuckerCarlson claim that ‘no western journalist has bothered to interview’ Putin since the invasion of Ukraine. We’ve lodged several requests with the Kremlin in the last 18 months. Always a ‘no’ for us.”
Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats slammed the interview as “unbelievable”.
She wrote: “I am like hundreds of Russian journalists who have had to go into exile to keep reporting about the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.
“The alternative was to go to jail. And now this SoB is teaching us about good journalism, shooting from the $1,000 Ritz suite in Moscow.”
At least 1,000 independent Russian journalists have fled the country to escape from Putin’s sweeping censorship laws that criminalise any critical coverage of the war.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been wrongly imprisoned for almost 11 months on trumped-up charges of espionage, while other foreign reporters have been expelled.