Tucker Carlson plays a straight-shooter on television.
From his prime time perch on Fox News, Carlson portrays himself to his loyal audience of millions as a truth-teller, someone who tells it like it is and calls out BS from whoever peddles it.
But it is all an act, as evidenced by his weak excuse for an interview with former President Donald Trump that aired on Tuesday night, Trump’s first since being indicted on dozens of felony counts of business fraud.
Carlson sat silent as Trump rambled and ranted his way through the sit-down, making a number of eyebrow-raising comments on a host of topics that were never challenged by the right-wing talk host. Carlson made no effort to press the disgraced president on any of the issues that an actual news anchor would.
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Instead, Carlson sang Trump’s praises.
“For a man caricatured as an extremist, we think you’ll find what he has to say moderate, sensible, and wise,” Carlson told his audience. At another point in his program, Carlson mocked the “Neo-con media establishment” for suggesting Trump is a “dangerous lunatic.”
It was all quite a sight to see coming from a man who has been exposed to hold Trump in great disdain, as evidenced by private messages he sent which have come to light as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News.
Carlson actually “hate[s]” Trump. And he hates him “passionately.” He believes Trump is a “destroyer.” A “demonic force.” A president who was a “disaster.” A politician whose behavior after losing the 2020 election was “disgusting.”
Carlson just doesn’t have the courage to say any of it on television — or apparently to the man whom he privately made such comments about.
Carlson’s refusal to disclose to his viewers his true opinions of Trump reflect the grip the former president still exerts over the Republican Party. Even Carlson, the most popular MAGA Media figure whom most of the GOP fears, thinks it is necessary to kiss the ring of Trump.
It’s a broader phenomenon reflected across Fox News, as also revealed by private messages uncovered in Dominion’s lawsuit. Even GOP kingmaker Rupert Murdoch appeared to fear Trump’s wrath. And it speaks to what could happen in 2024 and beyond.
Right-wing media stars like Carlson might want to move past Trump. Carlson, himself, confided in a producer after the 2020 election, “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.”
But the reality is it will be quite difficult to ignore him now that he is once again in the race for the White House and facing criminal charges. On Tuesday night, as Carlson bowed before Trump at Mar-a-Lago, he demonstrated exactly that.