The motive behind Vladimir Putin granting an interview to Tucker Carlson has become evident. Throughout the lengthy two-hour conversation, the former Fox News host, now an online commentator, refrained from challenging the Russian authoritarian on various critical issues.
This lack of scrutiny disappointed those who were expecting a hard-hitting interview, as Carlson appeared at times lost and allowed Putin to manipulate the public and present his version of history, regardless of its deceptive nature. Rather than addressing accusations of war crimes and the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Carlson provided Putin with a platform to propagate his propaganda to a global audience.
CNN’s chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, noted that it was apparent from the beginning that Carlson did not have control over the interview, stating, “What you see from watching the first 45 minutes of this is that this is President Putin’s platform.”
In some instances, Carlson even reinforced Putin’s narratives. For example, when Putin advanced an absurd conspiracy theory about the U.S. government being controlled by unelected powers at the Central Intelligence Agency, Carlson failed to challenge the assertion and instead summarized it in a manner that supported Putin’s mendacious narrative.
This interview served as a significant propaganda victory for Putin, allowing him to twist the encounter to suit his own agenda. The coverage by Putin’s state-run media immediately after the interview further emphasized this victory. TASS featured the interview prominently on its homepage, amplifying Putin’s claim that Ukraine is an “artificial state,” while RT aired substantial portions of the interview on its network.
While Carlson was once critical of the Russian government, his recent sympathies towards the Putin-led state have been evident, influencing the Republican Party as well. This shift in stance is likely why Putin agreed to be interviewed by Carlson, while denying access to actual journalists who would have pressed him on critical issues for years.
There was one moment in which Carlson gently pressed Putin. Towards the end of the interview, he asked Putin if he would consider releasing Evan Gershkovich, a detained reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Putin declined to release Gershkovich immediately, prompting Carlson to remark, “He’s a kid, and maybe he was breaking your law in some way, but he’s not a super spy, and everybody knows that.”
Despite Carlson advocating for Gershkovich’s release, his comment did not sit well with The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper emphasized that Gershkovich is a law-abiding journalist who has been unjustly detained for geopolitical leverage and called for his immediate release.