Tucker Carlson describes 'intense' Putin but says he didn't go to Russia to promote him

Former Fox News host says he approached interview from 'position of ignorance'

Tucker Carlson at the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Tuesday. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson told The National that he interviewed Vladimir Putin because he wanted to find out what motivated the Russian President.

Carlson, speaking on the opening day of the World Governments Summit in Dubai, courted controversy last week when he interviewed Mr Putin in Moscow.

The commentator denied claims he went to Moscow to promote Mr Putin's image, stating he went because he wanted to allow people to receive information about what's happening in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“I didn't go to Russia to promote Vladimir Putin,” Carlson told an audience at the Dubai summit. “If that were my purpose I would say so because I'm not embarrassed.

“I went because most Americans don't know really know what's happening and they don't know anything about this guy they are supposedly at war with … unofficially.”

He was referring to the continued support from the US for Ukraine, following Russia's invasion almost two years ago.

Sitting down with The National later on Tuesday, he described Mr Putin as “intense”.

Carlson said he was at a huge disadvantage as he doesn't speak Russian and he isn't an expert on internal Russian affairs and “didn’t even broach it with him”.

“So I was really coming at it from … a position of ignorance, honestly,” he said.

“I felt my job was to listen and to get his voice and perspectives on tape for as long as I could, so that more knowledgeable people could assess … could know more.”

He rejected criticisms from some journalists about doing the interview and said he didn't consider them journalists.

“If you are a quote ‘journalist’ who is instructing other journalists not to talk to somebody because your government and its [intelligence] agencies don’t like him, listen to yourself. Is that journalism?” he said.

“Of course not. You are acting as a propagandist on behalf of a government. That’s not my job. We have enough of those. I just want to know more.

“I’m hardly endorsing Putin. I don’t speak Russian. You can't understand a country if you don't speak its language, can you?”

He said in the English-speaking world “we live in a news vacuum, which is by design”.

“And we just don’t know what’s happening in huge parts of the world, particularly there. I spend my life talking to people who I know from a country I’ve lived in my whole life in a language I speak natively so it is a very different experience,” he said.

The interview in Moscow came as the US far right was taking a more sceptical stance with Ukraine and leaning more towards Mr Putin.

Carlson's interview with Mr Putin was the first with a western journalist since at least 2019.

The two-hour conversation took place last week and was published on the commentator's website, as well as the social media platform X.

“I feel my job is to bring information to people so they can decide [for themselves],” Carlson said.

“I wanted the longest interview I could get with Vladimir Putin, so people back home could assess for themselves what's happening.”

Fox News fired Carlson in April after a defamation case by Dominion Voting Systems over claims that it lied about the validity of the US presidential election results in 2020. Fox was ordered to pay $787.5 million in damages.

Carlson also suggested that the Russian leader was eager for a compromise over the conflict in Ukraine but that did not suit the agenda of the current administration in the US.

“I think that Vladimir Putin is eager for a compromise,” Carlson said. “The Biden administration wants tension, wants war and wants to exert pressure on him so that they can weaken his economy.”

Back in Dubai, Carlson said there was a “huge collection of genuinely interesting people” at the summit. He said he was attending to figure out what was happening in the world where it seems it is “resetting in a lot of ways that are not obvious if you live in the US”.

“This is a good place to do that,” he said.

Updated: February 13, 2024, 3:35 PM