Tucker Carlson is an American conservative political commentator and writer who made headlines for interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 6, 2024. The interview, which was released online on February 8, was the first one granted by Putin to a Western media figure since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. Carlson, who was fired by Fox News in 2023 for his outspoken views, has been a vocal critic of U.S. support for Ukraine and a defender of Putin’s actions.
Early Life and Education
Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson was born on May 16, 1969, in San Francisco, California. He is the eldest of two sons of Richard Warner Carlson, a former media executive and U.S. ambassador, and Lisa McNear Lombardi Carlson, an artist. His mother left the family when he was six years old and moved to France, where she died in 2011. He and his brother, Buckley, were raised by their father and stepmother, Patricia Swanson, an heiress of the Swanson food company.
Carlson attended St. George’s School, a private boarding school in Rhode Island, where he met his future wife, Susan Andrews, the daughter of the school’s headmaster. He graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1991, with a degree in history. He initially wanted to join the Central Intelligence Agency, but was rejected.
Career in Journalism and Television
Carlson began his career as a journalist, writing for various magazines and newspapers, such as The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, Esquire, and The New York Times Magazine. He also published two books: Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News (2003) and Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution (2018).
Carlson became a television personality in 2000, when he joined CNN as a co-host of the political debate show Crossfire. He gained fame for his bow-tie and his conservative opinions, often clashing with his liberal counterparts. He left CNN in 2005, after a heated exchange with comedian Jon Stewart, who accused him of hurting journalism.
He then moved to MSNBC, where he hosted his own show, Tucker, from 2005 to 2008. He also appeared as a commentator on PBS’s The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He left MSNBC after his show was canceled due to low ratings and frequent controversies.
In 2009, he joined Fox News as a contributor and a guest host for various shows. He also co-founded The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion website, in 2010. He became the host of Tucker Carlson Tonight in 2016, replacing Megyn Kelly. His show became one of the most-watched cable news programs in the U.S., attracting millions of viewers and loyal fans. He also became one of the most influential voices in the conservative movement, often echoing the views of former President Donald Trump, who was a regular viewer of his show.
Carlson was known for his provocative and controversial statements on a range of political and social issues, such as immigration, race, gender, climate change, and foreign policy. He frequently criticized the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, the tech industry, and the “elite” establishment. He also expressed sympathy for white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, and authoritarian leaders of other countries, such as Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban.
Carlson’s style and opinions drew praise from his supporters, who saw him as a fearless truth-teller and a champion of the common people, but also criticism from his detractors, who accused him of spreading misinformation, hate speech, and propaganda. He faced several lawsuits, boycotts, and calls for his resignation from various groups and individuals, who claimed he defamed, harassed, or endangered them. He also faced internal conflicts at Fox News, where some of his colleagues and executives disagreed with or disavowed his remarks.
Carlson was fired by Fox News in 2023, after he refused to apologize for calling the U.S. military “weak” and “feminized” in response to a Pentagon campaign to recruit more women and minorities. He claimed he was a victim of censorship and political correctness, and vowed to continue his show on his own website, www.tuckercarlson.com, which he launched with the help of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who owned the social media platform X (formerly Twitter).
Interview with Putin
Carlson’s interview with Putin was a rare and exclusive opportunity for both parties. For Carlson, it was a chance to showcase his journalistic skills and to challenge the dominant narrative of the U.S. government and media, which he accused of lying about the Ukraine war and demonizing Putin. For Putin, it was a chance to present his side of the story and to reach out to a large and sympathetic audience in the U.S., which he hoped to influence and divide.
The interview, which lasted more than two hours, covered a variety of topics, from Ukraine to the Russian economy, but broke little new ground. Putin repeated many of his familiar talking points and was rarely challenged by Carlson, who often flattered or agreed with him. Putin denied that Russia had any aggressive intentions or violated any international laws, and blamed the U.S. and its allies for provoking and escalating the conflict. He also accused the U.S. of interfering in Russia’s internal affairs, violating human rights, and spreading fake news. He defended his actions as necessary to protect Russia’s security and sovereignty, and to support the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, who he claimed were oppressed and discriminated by the Ukrainian government.
Carlson portrayed the interview as a service to the American public, who he said deserved to hear the truth and to understand the other side of the story. He also criticized the U.S. government and media for their hostility and hypocrisy towards Russia, and for their lack of interest and knowledge about the Ukraine war. He argued that the U.S. had no vital interest or moral obligation to intervene in Ukraine, and that doing so would only risk a nuclear war with Russia, which he said was a rational and powerful actor that should be respected and engaged with.
The interview received mixed reactions from the U.S. and the international community. Some praised Carlson for his courage and professionalism, and for exposing the lies and propaganda of the U.S. establishment. Others condemned Carlson for his bias and naivety, and for giving a platform and legitimacy to Putin, who they said was a ruthless dictator and a threat to world peace and democracy. Many also questioned the credibility and authenticity of the interview, and speculated that it was staged or manipulated by the Kremlin.