In the end there was no competition. Tucker Carlson, broadcaster for the pro-Trump MAGA movement, was blown out of the water by President Putin, dictator of all Russia. Carlson thought he was doing the Russian leader a favor by going to Moscow to give him a platform to explain why he invaded Ukraine and the multiple conspiracy theories associated with it, which Carlson and the MAGA cult uncritically approve of. But Putin didn’t do Carlson any favors.
From the beginning, Putin hijacked the interview with an endless speech about Russian history that began in the 9th century and took more than half an hour to reach the 20th century, let alone Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Which took almost another half hour. If this is how Putin treats his friends, you can understand why his enemies fear him. He even teased Carlson about him once trying to join the CIA.
Carlson, except for a couple of weak interjections, sat there with an increasingly pained expression as he realized that what was meant to be his big broadcasting coup (Putin’s first interview with Western media since the invasion) was disappearing down the Swanee.
Far from being a grand meeting of the minds between Kremlin leader and Kremlin lover, it seemed as if Carlson, whose grief was turning to panic as he realized he couldn’t stop Putin from pontificating, had been taken hostage by a gloomy and deranged russian uncle. forced to listen forever to his ramblings. He must have been tortured (something the Putin regime is particularly skilled at). Those of us who diligently observed this two-hour snooze-fest (so you don’t have to) were quickly losing the will to live.
ANDREW NEIL: Carlson sat there with a growing pained expression as he realized that what should have been his big broadcasting coup was disappearing around Swanee.
At a time when it is fashionable to disparage traditional broadcasting, this interview by Cecil B de Mille, published on X, the digital platform formerly known as Twitter, and on Carlson’s own website, made me nostalgic for the old , well -Researched, carefully selected and focused inquiries from the best established broadcasters. In the end it was Carlson who ended the match (in my experience, it is usually the politician who wants to end the match, especially if he is on the ropes). Putin offered to continue speaking. But an exhausted Carlson clearly couldn’t take it anymore. He gave up. It’s hard to blame him.
As a television interviewer who has questioned prominent politicians on both sides of the Atlantic for several decades, with a reputation for being knowledgeable and blunt (I prefer “fair but forensic”), I readily admit that this was not an easy job for Carlson. even if he had brought it on himself.
Putin’s endless history lesson was revisionist and resurrected Russian nationalist myths long dismissed by correct historians, which he used to argue that Ukraine had always really been part of Russia. But if Carlson had challenged him on any of this, we could still be stuck dissecting the 9th century and Putin would still be talking. However, no self-respecting interviewer would have let Putin slide with the claim that it was not Hitler but the Poles who started World War II. However, Carlson did not question it.
Again, one could argue that there was nothing to be gained by getting bogged down in the story. But Carlson was equally uncompromising when it came to Putin’s more bizarre claims and outright lies about contemporary events. He claimed that he withdrew Russian troops from northern kyiv at the start of the invasion in 2022 as part of a peace deal, which Ukraine later reneged on. This makes no sense. Russia withdrew with its tail between its legs due to the unexpectedly fierce Ukrainian resistance. But Carlson let it go.
‘We did not start this war,’ Putin stated without blinking ‘(the invasion in 2022) was an attempt to stop it.’ It’s a similar statement to what George Orwell called the ministry of propaganda in his 1984 novel about totalitarianism, the Ministry of Truth. Carlson did not say a single word against lying.
Putin said the purpose of the invasion was the “denazification” of Ukraine. This is an oft-repeated topic of conversation in the Kremlin. Once again, he was unopposed. Carlson could have pointed out that if there is anything that needs to be “denazified” it is Putin’s increasingly totalitarian regime. But that would have ruined the atmosphere.
Putin repeated several times another well-worn piece of Kremlin propaganda: that the invasion was in response to NATO’s eastward expansion. Each time Carlson nodded his head. He never noted that eastward expansion had stopped long before the invasion. Putin was even allowed to get away with the absurd claim that the invasion had been provoked by Ukraine getting rid of a pro-Kremlin puppet as leader in 2014. That might explain why he annexed Crimea soon after. But he did not invade Ukraine until 2022.
Carlson was unchallengeable when it came to Putin’s most bizarre claims and his outright lies about contemporary events.
Putin claimed that Russia “did not start” the war with Ukraine in his interview with Carlson, who did not challenge his opinion.
Even more notable than the lies Putin was allowed to tell unchallenged were Carlson’s questions. No ask. Nothing about Russia’s barbaric war crimes in Ukraine, the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia, the constant airstrikes against civilian areas, killing thousands of people, the internal reign of terror that Putin now presides over in Russia, the long sentences of prison for peaceful protesters, the imprisonment and murder of opponents, the return of the gulag and forced labor.
About all this, not a word. It was as if Carlson had interviewed Hitler in 1944 and hadn’t bothered to ask him about the concentration camps.
But then Carlson had his own agenda: feed Putin the red meat so beloved of his MAGA crowd back home for the Russian autocrat to chew and regurgitate for his delight. She encouraged Putin to claim that the CIA had attempted to overthrow the Russian government and was behind the blowing up of the Nord Stream gas pipeline.
No evidence was presented for any of the claims, but Carlson accepted them at face value, pressing Putin only on why he didn’t make more of these claims, because they play into the Carlson/MAGA conspiracy theory that the United States It is secretly governed by a deep state. in which the CIA is a key player and that only Donald Trump can unravel.
Carlson couldn’t get enough of Putin about this seemingly ubiquitous American deep state: ‘Twice you’ve described American presidents making decisions and then being undermined by their agency heads. So from what you say it sounds like you are describing a system that is not run by the elected people. At the time, even Putin was embarrassed by the softballs being thrown at him.
At no point did Putin need to insist on his propaganda position that at least parts of Ukraine are his. Carlson did that for him: Eastern Ukraine is “actually your land,” he tells Putin, helpfully.
Perhaps the most outlandish question was when Carlson asked, ‘So, do you see the supernatural in action when you look at what’s happening in the world now?’ Do you then see God at work? But this madness has a method.
The otherwise curious appeal of this Russian autocrat among the American far right is because they see him, however ridiculous, as the world’s last, tireless defender of Christian values against everything they hate or fear: immigrants (especially Muslim immigrants), homosexuals, transgenders, secret forces that want to thwart them, the “global elites.”
There were two possible scoops (if they were true) in this turgid stew: that Bill Clinton once told it was possible that Russia could join NATO, only to be rejected by his “advisors” (that deep state again); and that Boris Johnson, when he was British Prime Minister, had thwarted a peace deal, with the connivance of President Biden, by urging Ukraine to keep fighting.
It’s clear that Carlson wouldn’t know a scoop if it hit him on the head because, instead of unraveling more about these intriguing Putin stories, he just moved on, curiously uncurious. We’ll see what Clinton and Johnson have to say about them.
But Carlson had the grace and good sense to pressure Putin to release Evan Gershkovich, the young Wall Street Journal reporter imprisoned by Putin on trumped-up espionage charges. Putin didn’t give in, but there was no harm in trying and he didn’t close the door in Carlson’s face.
As laughable and boring as this interview is, it will have the desired damaging effect in the United States, where MAGA Republicans are already holding up more military aid for Ukraine in Congress. Social media is already flooded with Putin-praising pawns from the Carlson/MAGA cult. In this way, the President of Ukraine, Zelensky, has been further weakened. Job done, Tucker.
The interview was also illuminating in ways it was not intended. He confirmed that President Putin is terribly isolated, crazy, bad and dangerous, and that he increasingly lives in his own ethno-nationalist Russian world. As for his interrogator, once the dean of Fox News’ primetime programming to date, he was unceremoniously fired last April, and since then, shorn of even Fox’s lax editorial standards, he has retired to the outer limits of conspiracy theory madness. Now, ravaged by an aging autocrat, Tucker Carlson has been confirmed to be a fool.