Friday , July 12 2024

Tucker Carlson’s Vladimir Putin stunt was like interviewing Hitler without asking about the concentration camps. It confirmed the Russian President is mad, bad and dangerous… and his interlocutor is a fool, writes ANDREW NEIL

In the end it was no contest. Tucker Carlson, bloviating broadcaster for the pro-Trump MAGA movement, was blown out of the water by President Putin, dictator of all the Russias. Carlson thought he was doing the Russian leader a favour by going to Moscow to give him a platform to explain why he invaded Ukraine and the multiple conspiracy theories associated with it, which Carlson and the MAGA cult uncritically lap up. But Putin did Carlson no favours.

Right from the get-go Putin hijacked the interview with an interminable discourse on Russian history which started in the 9th century and took over half an hour to get to the 20th century, much less Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, which took almost another half hour. If this is how Putin treats his friends you can understand why his enemies fear him. He even teased Carlson about once trying to join the CIA.

Carlson, bar a couple of feeble interjections, just sat there with an increasingly pained expression as he realised what was meant to be his great broadcasting coup — Putin’s first interview with Western media since the invasion — was disappearing down the Swanee.

Far from being a great meeting of minds between Kremlin leader and Kremlin lover, it looked as if Carlson, whose pain was turning to panic as he realised he couldn’t stop Putin pontificating, had been taken hostage by a lugubrious and deranged Russian uncle, forced to listen for ever to his ramblings. It must have been torture (something at which the Putin regime is particularly adept). Those of us diligently watching this two-hour snooze fest (so you don’t have to) were rapidly losing the will to live.

ANDREW NEIL: Carlson just sat there with an increasingly pained expression as he realised what was meant to be his great broadcasting coup was disappearing down the Swanee

ANDREW NEIL: Carlson just sat there with an increasingly pained expression as he realised what was meant to be his great broadcasting coup was disappearing down the Swanee

At a time when it is fashionable to disparage traditional broadcasting, this Cecil B de Mille of an interview, which went out on X, the digital platform formerly known as Twitter, and Carlson’s own website, made me nostalgic for the old-fashioned, well-researched, closely curated, focused inquisitions of established broadcasters at their best. In the end it was Carlson who brought the encounter to a close (in my experience it’s usually the politician who wants to end it, especially if they’re on the ropes). Putin offered to keep talking. But an exhausted Carlson could clearly take no more. He surrendered. It’s hard to blame him.

See also  Meta SUSPENDS Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's Instagram accounts for 'repeated violations' of its 'dangerous organizations and individuals policy' after he made repeated calls to wipe Israel off the map

As a broadcast interviewer who’s interrogated leading politicians on both sides of the Atlantic for several decades, with a reputation for being well-briefed and robust (I prefer ‘fair but forensic’), I readily concede this was not an easy gig for Carlson, even if he had brought it on himself.

Putin’s interminable history lesson was revisionist, resurrecting Russian nationalist myths long discarded by proper historians, which he deployed to argue Ukraine had always really been part of Russia. But if Carlson had challenged him on any of this we might still be stuck dissecting the 9th century and Putin would still be talking. No self-respecting interviewer, however, would surely have let Putin away with the claim that it wasn’t Hitler but the Poles who started World War Two. Yet Carlson left that unchallenged.

Again, you could argue that there was nothing to be gained by getting bogged down in history. But Carlson was equally unchallenging when it came to Putin’s more bizarre claims and outright lies about contemporary events. He claimed he withdrew Russian troops from north of Kyiv at the start of the invasion in 2022 as part of a peace deal, on which Ukraine then reneged. This is nonsense. Russia retreated with its tail between its legs because of unexpected fierce Ukrainian resistance. But Carlson let it go.

‘We did not start this war,’ Putin claimed without batting an eyelid ‘[the invasion in 2022] was an attempt to stop it’. It’s a claim akin to George Orwell calling the propaganda ministry in his 1984, a novel about totalitarianism, the Ministry of Truth. Carlson offered not a word against the lie.

Putin said the purpose of the invasion was the ‘denazification’ of Ukraine. This is an oft-repeated Kremlin talking point. Again, it went unchallenged. Carlson might have pointed out that if there’s anything that needs to be ‘denazified’ it’s Putin’s increasingly totalitarian regime. But that would have spoiled the mood.

Another well-worn piece of Kremlin propaganda — that the invasion was in response to NATO’s eastward expansion — was repeated several times by Putin. Each time Carlson nodded in agreement. He never once pointed out the eastward expansion had stopped long before the invasion. Putin was even allowed to get away with the absurd claim that the invasion had been provoked by Ukraine getting rid of a pro-Kremlin stooge as its leader in 2014. That might explain why he annexed Crimea soon after. But he didn’t invade Ukraine till 2022.

Putin claimed that Russia 'did not start' the war with Ukraine in his interview with Carlson, who did not challenge his take

Putin claimed that Russia ‘did not start’ the war with Ukraine in his interview with Carlson, who did not challenge his take

Even more remarkable than the lies Putin was allowed to tell unchallenged, were the questions Carlson didn’t ask. Nothing about Russia’s barbaric war crimes in Ukraine, the forced removal of Ukrainian children to Russia, the constant aerial attacks on civilian areas, killing thousands, the internal reign of terror over which Putin now presides in Russia, the long jail sentences for peaceful protestors, the locking up and killing of opponents, the return of the gulag and forced labour.

On all of this, not a word. It was if Carlson had interviewed Hitler in 1944 and not bothered to ask about the concentration camps.

But then Carlson had his own agenda — to feed Putin with the red meat so beloved by his MAGA crowd back home for the Russian autocrat to chew on and regurgitate for their delectation. Putin was encouraged to claim that the CIA had tried to overthrow the Russian government and was behind the blowing up of the Nord stream gas pipeline.

No evidence was presented for either assertion but Carlson accepted them at face value — pressing Putin only on why he wasn’t making more of these claims — because they play into the Carlson/MAGA conspiracy theory that America is secretly run by a deep state, in which the CIA is a key player and which only Donald Trump can unravel.

Carlson couldn’t get enough of Putin on this apparently ubiquitous US deep state: ‘Twice you’ve described US presidents making decisions and then being undercut by their agency heads. So it sounds like you’re describing a system that’s not run by the people who are elected, in your telling.’ By this stage even Putin was embarrassed by the soft balls being lobbed at him.

At no time did Putin need to labour his propaganda position that at least parts of Ukraine are his. Carlson did that for him: Eastern Ukraine is ‘actually your land’ he tells Putin, helpfully.

See also  Manchester United takeover LIVE: Latest news and updates as Sir Jim Ratcliffe's deal for stake in the club set to be confirmed today

Perhaps the most bonkers question was when Carlson asked: ‘So do you see the supernatural at work as you look out across what’s happening in the world now? So do you see God at work?’ But there’s method to this madness.

The otherwise curious appeal of this Russian autocrat among America’s hard right is because they see him, however ludicrously, as the world’s last, unstinting defender of Christian values against all they hate or fear — migrants (especially Muslim migrants), gays, transgender folk, secret forces out to thwart them, ‘global elites’.

There were two possible scoops (if true) in this turgid stew: that Bill Clinton once told him it was possible Russia could join NATO, only to be knocked back by his ‘advisers’ (that deep state again); and that Boris Johnson, when British prime minister, had thwarted a peace deal, with President Biden’s connivance, by urging Ukraine to carry on fighting.

It’s clear Carlson wouldn’t recognise a scoop if it whacked him on the head because, rather than teasing out more about these intriguing tales from Putin, he merely moved on, curiously incurious. We’ll see what Clinton and Johnson have to say about them.

But Carlson did have the grace and good sense to lobby Putin about releasing Evan Gershkovich, the young Wall Street Journal reporter jailed by Putin on trumped up charges of spying. Putin would not budge but there was no harm in trying and he did not entirely slam the door in Carlson’s face.

Risible and boring as this interview was, it will have its intended damaging effect on America, where MAGA Republicans are already holding up more military aid for Ukraine in Congress. Social media is already awash with peons of praise for Putin from the Carlson/MAGA cult. Thus has Ukraine’s President Zelensky been further undermined. Job done, Tucker.

The interview was also illuminating in ways it did not intend. It confirmed that President Putin is scarily isolated, mad, bad and dangerous, living increasingly in an ethno-nationalist Russian world of his own. As for his interrogator, once the doyenne of the Fox News prime-time line-up until, he was unceremoniously sacked last April, since when, bereft of even Fox’s loose editorial standards, he has retreated to the outer limits of conspiracy theory madness. Now, steamrollered by an aging autocrat, Tucker Carlson has been confirmed as a fool.

Check Also

Australia’s most powerful banker Reserve Bank Governor Michele Bullock has been trying to scare you – but Westpac’s chief economist Luci Ellis claims it’s all bluff

By Stephen Johnson, Economics Reporter For Daily Mail Australia Published: 05:34 BST, 12 July 2024 …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *