Tucker Carlson’s Lesson in the Perils of Giving Airtime to an Autocrat

Tucker Carlson, a former Fox News host, left Moscow after an interview with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, which returned him to the spotlight after his abrupt cancellation by Fox News last spring. However, the interview with Putin has had a long and tortured afterlife, becoming a trending topic again Friday after Putin’s most vocal domestic opponent, Alexei Navalny, turned up dead in a Russian prison. Carlson’s comments on the death of Navalny represented a notable change in tone from earlier this week, when he appeared to offer a blase opinion regarding Russia’s treatment of Navalny.

Carlson was the first Western media figure to interview Putin in more than two years. However, he said that “leadership requires killing people,” which came under still more criticism after Navalny’s death. Carlson said in a statement Friday that his remarks about leadership “had zero” to do with Navalny.

Putin himself joined the chorus of those who said Carlson had gone too easily on Putin, saying he was disappointed that Carlson had not asked “so-called sharp questions” because he wanted the opportunity to “respond sharply” in his own answers. Justin Wells, one of Carlson’s top producers, responded Friday that viewers should “judge for themselves.”

Putin’s mockery of Carlson came as the former Fox host basked in the aftermath of his interview by offering a steady stream of praise for Russia and Putin, whose leadership he has extolled as superior to Biden’s. On Wednesday, Carlson posted a short video recorded at a Russian grocery store, saying its selection and prices offered an example of Russia’s superiority over the United States, which he described as rife with “filth and crime and inflation.”

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