Thursday, February 22

Tucker Carlson’s visit to Russia sparks speculation about Putin interview

Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host who now hosts a program on the social network President Vladimir V. Putin.

If so, Carlson would be the first American media figure to get a formal interview with the Russian leader since he invaded Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, indicated that Putin was denying the demands of new Western outlets because their countries had been “stunned” by the anti-Russian propaganda. But Carlson has been a defender of Putin while attacking his Western critics, placing him at the vanguard of the pro-Putin wing of the American conservative movement.

In a phone call with journalists on Monday, Peskov said: “Many foreign journalists come to the Russian Federation every day. Many continue to work here and we welcome this.” He added: “Regarding possible interviews with the president, including with foreign media, we have nothing to report at the moment.”

Russian media on Monday showed a black Mercedes van said to be ferrying Mr. Carlson around Moscow into and then out of the state administrative building that houses Mr. Peskov’s office.

On television and online, Russian state media treated Mr. Carlson like a visiting celebrity, offering a stream of photos and videos of his various stops: arriving at the airport, dining at a restaurant, attending the “Spartacus” ballet at the Bolshoi . Theater.

In a widely circulated video, also on Asked about a possible interview with Putin, Carlson shrugged and said, “We’ll see.”

Less than a year ago, Carlson was a major star in cable news as host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, where he was best known for trafficking in white nationalist themes and conspiracy theories.

Fox abruptly canceled its program last spring after a series of controversies both on and off the air. Mr. Carlson has had a much lower profile since his new post on X, where he started his show last year.

As photographs and videos of Mr Carlson in Moscow began to circulate on social media over the weekend, his fans rejoiced in the hope that an interview was upon us – and his critics criticized what they described as appeasement by an autocrat undertaking an illegal war while brutally repressing dissent at home.

The news of his arrival in Russia received a decidedly warm reaction in Moscow. In a report on the local reaction to his visit, a woman tells an interviewer from the Russian state channel Sputnik: “he IS the bravest and most courageous American journalist today.” One man adds: “He is known for telling the truth, which is why he is often criticized in the United States.”

Mr. Carlson is a familiar face around the country. While still at Fox, Carlson’s comments were frequently broadcast on Russian state television, including those that painted Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, as a “dictator” waging a war of “regime change” against Russia at the behest of the Americans and the British. masters. Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. He did so with the explicit aim of ousting Zelensky’s government.

After Carlson’s cancellation from Fox, Russian media attributed it to his “fearless” reporting on Ukraine.

Carlson claimed without evidence that the US government had thwarted his previous attempt to interview Putin.

Mr. Carlson promoted his agenda on X as a bastion of free speech.

Putin intensified restrictions on free speech in Russia during the war in Ukraine. The country’s media were ordered to refer to the operation as a “special military operation.” Journalists risk prison for calling it an invasion.

Putin’s government has held Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal journalist, in prison for almost a year. The government has accused him of espionage, a charge vehemently denied by Gershkovich, his newspaper and the US government, which has said he is being held unfairly.