TUCKER Carlson has staked his legacy on one interview with Vladimir Putin but doesn’t know how dangerous he is, the BBC’s former Moscow correspondent has warned.
Dr James Rodgers told The Sun that “history will judge” the controversial TV pundit who is unlikely to extract any “truth” from the lying despot.
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 X/Twitter – a platform that Russians can barely access as it was banned soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It will mark the first time Putin has been interviewed by a Western journalist since before the war – but observers have slammed it as little more than a censored puff piece.
Carlson has 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.
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However, Rodgers, a lecturer at City University and author of Assignment Moscow, said Carlson is taking a “big risk”.
By interviewing the man who has masterminded two years of gruelling war and bloodshed in Ukraine, Carlson should be worried about “his legacy”, he argued.
“There is a long history of people who decide to cosy up to the Kremlin. But they have to think about how history is going to judge them.”
He continued: “Those that want to dissent from what they see as the conventional views of the Western media and go and talk to Russian leaders…end up being mouthpieces.”
Carlson, a key Trump ally, is facing a media storm accusing him of acting as a propaganda tool for the dictator, who he has frequently defended.
And 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”.
As someone who spent years reporting inside Russia, Rodgers does not believe Carlson realises what he is going up against.
He questioned the chance Carlson will stand against the “sophistication of the Kremlin media operation” and of the TV savvy despot himself.
The former correspondent said: “Broadcast TV is a medium in which he’s comfortable….Everyone thinks Putin is a very consummate media performer.
“He’s had an awful lot of practice after being at the top of Russian politics for a quarter of a century.”
But what might the interview have in store? “The Kremlin does not give interviews like this because they think this is some sort of well meaning contribution to international public debate.”
Instead, Rodgers argued it will be a chance for them to amplify their propaganda and reach new Western audiences “to justify their actions over the last two years”.
He said: “The promotional video that Tucker Carlson did does not suggest that this is going to be a tough interview.
“To be quite honest, the harshest words he seemed to have were for other Western journalists.”
He predicts the interview will largely be an opportunity for the Russian tyrant to pedal his usual lies.
He expects it to be “basically a variation of his theme that it’s all Nato’s fault and that the war is going on because Nato is an aggressor against Russia, and it’s got nothing to do with the fact that he launched a massive invasion of a neighbouring country.”
Pointing to the ongoing imprisonment of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich – who has spent 11 months behind bars on trumped-up charges of espionage – Rodgers said: “It’s a very, very difficult place.
“It is impossible to practice independent journalism there.
“So if you’re gonna start asking tough questions, you might find yourself in jail.”
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.
How did Carlson Tucker end up interviewing Putin?
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.
And so began Carlson slowly falling down a rabbit hole.
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.
And now – Carlson has scooped what could be the West’s most controversial interview – a sit-down with 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.