Tucker Carlson’s interview with Putin puts him back on center stage for now

Last spring, it seemed like Tucker Carlson might have reached the end of his fire The way through the media and American politics.

Fox News Channel canceled its top-rated program, depriving Mr. Carlson of his nightly prime-time platform. But she kept him under a contract worth more than $15 million a year, preventing him from getting a job with a competitor.

Under the old rules of the old media, Mr. Carlson would have remained off the air and out of sight until the end of the 2024 election, when his contract expires. But Mr. Carlson is not a typical TV star. What was once natural in its industry has become increasingly outdated, broken by the new rules – or lack thereof – of the fractured electronic media world.

In an exclusive interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin — released Thursday on the social network

The two-hour interview gave him a mouthpiece for the American public, at a time when many Republicans in Congress have worked to block the vital lifeline of US military aid to Ukraine.

It also achieved Mr. Carlson’s goal of regaining the spotlight. For the first time since he was thrown out of the Fox window, his name was once again on the lips of national and international dignitaries, the kind of notoriety on which Mr. Carlson had long thrived.

Hillary Clinton, in an interview this week with MSNBC’s Alex Wagner, called him a “useful idiot” and “Putin’s lapdog.”

Mr. Carlson has given Mr. Putin room to ramble on about old and biased grievances about Ukraine’s origins and independence movements. But Mr. Carlson occasionally pressed, much to Mr. Putin’s apparent annoyance, including talking about why Russia imprisoned Ivan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, challenging Mr. Putin’s assertion that Mr. Gershkovich was a spy.

It remains to be seen whether the interview will raise Mr. Carlson’s standing in the long term.

The interview with Putin will serve as an advertisement of sorts for his live streaming site, which he founded last December and which costs subscribers $9 a month. Tucker Carlson’s network is an attempt to replicate the business model of other conservative figures like Megyn Kelly and Ben Shapiro, who have built stand-alone digital platforms outside of traditional media. Mr. Carlson is working with Red Seat Ventures, a firm that counts Ms. Kelly, Barry Weiss and Nancy Grace among its clients, to handle ad sales on the new platform.

However, so far, Carlson’s own interviews on Channel

It appears that his diminished power was at least part of the reason why Fox did not do more to stop his new endeavor even though Fox said so Violated Terms of his contract. (Mr. Carlson’s lawyers argued that Fox originally violated his contract, and that his online program fell within his free speech rights.)

If Fox pursues a case against Carlson, it could give him an opportunity to claim that his former masters in “corporate media,” as he likes to call them, were trying to censor him. It’s just the kind of argument that appeals to Mr. Carlson’s fan base, which resembles a political movement in itself, giving Mr. Carlson clout afforded to few other TV stars.

It was this influence that made Mr. Carlson such a great boon to Mr. Trump — and Mr. Putin — during his time at Fox News.

Mr. Carlson has been the network’s most prominent promoter of pro-Russian arguments, including his assertion that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a dictator being used by the West to undermine Russia.

But his advertising style also took him to the limits of cable television.

His involvement in the defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox that settled for $787 million – and the pre-trial finding of defamation. text of Mr Carlson conveying incendiary views on violence and race – influenced his company bosses, Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch, in their decision to cut his show.

Mr. Musk quickly stepped in to make Mr. Carlson the first host of a long-form video show on X.

Mr. Musk completed his purchase of the “Freedom of expression is the bedrock of a functioning democracy,” Mr. Musk explained to Mr. Carlson, whom he praised for “restoring freedom of expression online.”

At Company Mr. Musk has shown no concern about content that might alienate advertisers. (X bid $300,000 for ads on four of Mr. Carlson’s videos, and up to $1.5 million for ads on 48 videos, according to internal documents Obtained by The New York Times.)

Mr. Carlson pushed, and ultimately broke, the limits of what the Murdochs could allow on their network. And it didn’t come close to those limits for Mr. Musk, who reinstated thousands of previously banned accounts that promoted misinformation related to health and elections, in line with… arise In racist and anti-Semitic messages on social media. On Thursday, Mr. Musk, the most followed user on the platform, shared the interview with Mr. Putin with his followers.

Mr. Carlson’s show has featured famous Americans, such as Alex Jones, who have flouted content moderation policies on several social media platforms — including Twitter, as X was known before Mr. Musk bought it and rescinded most of those policies. .

Other guests included independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy Jr., and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, each of whom received a supportive reception from Mr. Musk on X Day.

This shared outlook has sometimes extended to Ukraine and Russia. Mr. Musk has angered Ukrainians by suggesting they negotiate peace, which he equates to allowing Mr. Putin to keep Ukrainian territory he seized by bloody and illegal force.

Although Mr. Musk allowed Ukraine to use the Starlink satellite system for battlefield communications, he admitted preventing its use in a planned attack against Russia in the Black Sea last year. Mr. Putin did his part, He praised and praised Mr. Musk as a “talented entrepreneur.”

Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, had similarly warm words for Mr. Carlson this week, saying Mr. Putin granted him an interview — something Mr. Carlson had been seeking since his days at Fox — because Mr. Carlson “contradicts the president’s position.” Anglo-Saxon traditional media.

Mr. Peskov debunked Mr. Carlson’s false insinuations that he was the first Western media figure to interview Mr. Putin since his all-out invasion of Ukraine two years ago because journalists didn’t bother to ask. Several Western media outlets have made these requests, including The Times.

But Mr. Peskov agreed with Mr. Carlson that traditional media “cannot boast of even trying to appear neutral.”

Russia has defined neutrality as adherence to its official line, deviation from which could result in severe punishment in the form of imprisonment. This goes against traditional journalistic standards – Criteria by which Mr. Carlson should not be concerned with X.

It looks like the interview will definitely attract a large audience. The test will be whether it will generate more subscriptions and interest in his show in the future — and if not, how Mr. Carlson will try to outdo himself with his next show.

Kate Conger Contributed to reports.

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