US conservative host Tucker Carlson to interview Putin 'soon'

Russian President Vladimir Putin will give an interview to Tucker Carlson, the right-wing US talk show host says (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA)
Russian President Vladimir Putin will give an interview to Tucker Carlson, the right-wing US talk show host says (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA)

Tucker Carlson, a firebrand American talk show host close to former US president and 2024 candidate Donald Trump, said Tuesday he was in Moscow to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The announcement makes Carlson, whose anti-Kyiv talking points have been heralded in Russian state media, the first American media personality to land a formal interview with Putin since he launched a full-scale military offensive in Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Carlson, known for radical conservative opinions that have garnered a vast right-wing following, did not specify when the interview will be broadcast but mentioned that it will be free to watch on his personal website.

"We're here to interview the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. We'll be doing that soon," Carlson said in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter.

"There are risks to conducting an interview like this obviously. So we've thought about it carefully over many months."

After being ousted last April from a primetime hosting slot on the influential right-wing network Fox News, Carlson launched a show on the Elon Musk-owned social media platform.

Carlson said Musk had "promised not to suppress or block" his Putin interview when it is eventually posted on X.

The trip and growing rumors that Carlson -- known for promoting Trump and a range of conspiracy theories -- was set to meet with the Kremlin leader have already drawn strong rebukes from liberal American media commentators.

Russian state media has feverishly covered Carlson's visit to Moscow, publishing photographs of the controversial presenter at the airport as well as at the famous Bolshoi Theatre, where he attended the ballet "Spartacus."

In his video, Carlson justified his visit to the Russian capital in what he called a self-financed trip to conduct the interview.

"We're in journalism. Our duty is to inform people. Two years into a war (with Ukraine) that is reshaping the entire world, most Americans are not informed," Carlson said.

"They have no real idea what is happening in this region. Here in Russia or 600 miles away in Ukraine. But they should know. They're paying for much of it."

- Access to Putin -

Carlson blasted US media outlets for several interviews with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which he said were often "fawning pep sessions" designed to amplify the Ukrainian leader's demand that "the US enter more deeply" into the war and "pay for it."

Carlson's announcement comes as President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Congress will play into the Kremlin's hands if it fails to renew US funding for Ukraine's fight against Russia's attack.

The "clock is ticking" for Ukraine, Biden said, calling out Trump for discouraging lawmakers from passing a $118 billion bill which ties Ukraine aid to immigration curbs, and which Republicans have said they will block.

Carlson blamed Western media for not attempting to interview Putin, a claim immediately disputed by journalists.

US and other international media have covered the conflict in Ukraine intensively since Moscow's assault began two years ago, but have faced mounting restrictions while reporting inside Russia.

Carlson's access to Putin represents a huge contrast with the restraints on American journalists in Russia, where two US citizens -- Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and Radio Free Europe's Alsu Kurmasheva -- are in detention.

"Carlson's upcoming interview with Putin tracks with his long history of pro-Kremlin propaganda," said left-leaning watchdog Media Matters, adding that his anti-Ukraine stance has been repeatedly celebrated in Russian state media.

As a Fox News host, Carlson massed a record viewership. A key figure in Republican politics, he often interviewed Trump, and was widely criticized for spreading disinformation.

He aired a firestorm of conspiracy theories -- from the false idea of the "great replacement" of white Americans to vaccine disinformation and anti-transgender talking points -- and was quick to spread Trump's baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

He was ousted after a defamation lawsuit, in which Dominion Voting Systems accused Fox News of airing false claims after the election and which ultimately cost the broadcaster $787.5 million.

Carlson soon moved to X, where his videos have garnered millions of views.

Fox News has launched a legal battle to halt his shows, arguing they violate the terms of his contract.