After it was announced, the Kremlin remained tight-lipped about a potential interview between Russian President Vladimir Putin and controversial right-wing American journalist Tucker Carlson. Speculation arose after the former Fox News host was spotted in Moscow attending a ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre, leading to questions about his motives for visiting.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, declined to confirm whether Putin would give an interview to Carlsson, saying: "It is difficult to expect us to provide information on the movements of foreign journalists." Peskov stressed that the Kremlin does not advertise in connection with the president's interviews with foreign media.
"Many foreign journalists come to Russia every day, many continue to work here, and we welcome that," Peskov said. "We have nothing to announce regarding the president's interviews with foreign media". Speculation gained momentum when a picture of Carlsson at the Bolshoi Theater appeared on the Mash Telegram channel, sparking rumors of a potential interview with Putin.
Carlsson, 54, reportedly arrived in Moscow last Thursday and has since been photographed at one of the city's luxury hotels. When asked about his visit to Moscow by reporters from Russia's state-run Izvestia, Carlsson said vaguely that he wanted to "talk to people, look around and see how things are going...
and they're going very well." Asked directly if he was in Moscow to interview Putin, Carlsson replied cryptically, "We'll see," followed by a smile. This is exactly what prompted the journalists to speculate that Carlsson probably did it on purpose.
Carlson, once the most popular anchor on Fox News, was fired last April and has since aired his right-wing talk shows on the X platform. He gained popularity in Moscow under President Donald Trump, where he regularly mocked claims of Russian interference in the US presidential election.
He was a loyal supporter of authoritarian regimes around the world, which was the main reason for the dismissal of the most popular host on Fox. Since his ouster from cable TV, Carlson has been traveling, and his interviews with Argentina's Javier Miley and Hungary's Viktor Orbán have garnered hundreds of millions of views on the social network X.
Carlson also does a kind of shadow diplomacy.
In late October, Carlson arrived in London to visit Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison.
Less than twelve days later, he was spotted on the streets of Madrid in the company of Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain's far-right Vox party, during a demonstration against amnesty for Catalan separatists. Lately, after his dismissal, it seems that the journalist wants to show that it only had the opposite effect and intensified his cooperation with dictators.
Carlson's Fox show aired from Budapest in 2021, during which he interviewed the prime minister and took a helicopter ride to see the fence preventing migrants from crossing the Hungarian border. He took it upon himself to apologize for the behavior of the US ambassador to Hungary during his August trip to Budapest.
According to a new book by former CNN reporter Brian Stelter, Fox executives disapproved of Carlson's week-long mission there, and his flirtation with authoritarianism may have been a contributing factor to his ouster. Within months of being fired in April, Karlsson was back in Budapest, interviewing Orban for his X show.
During his time on Fox News and X, Carlson echoed many of the Kremlin's positions in its conflict with Ukraine, criticizing Washington for supporting Ukraine while implying that the West was to blame for the invasion. He described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a "dictator" and made derogatory remarks about him.
His pro-Putin and anti-Ukraine rhetoric has been praised in Moscow, and his footage has become a regular feature on Russian state television, and local propagandists are using it as evidence that influential figures in the US are sympathetic to Putin's military campaign.
Carlson recently claimed that he had previously tried to interview the Russian president, but was allegedly "blocked" by the US government. Since he enjoys great popularity in Russia, we would not be surprised if the interview took place this time.
If Carlson finds a way and succeeds in interviewing Vladimir Putin, it will be a historic interview that will be talked about for a long time. However, Carlson's reasons for visiting Moscow are still unclear, and his trip has caused division among American politicians.
Adam Kinzinger, a former Republican representative from Illinois, branded Carlson a "traitor" in response to a picture of him traveling to Moscow. However, far-right Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene defended the interview, stating, "We have a free press in this country and we depend on people like Takeru Carlson to tell the truth." As reported by the New York Times, Carlson was on the board of directors of a Washington lobbying firm hired to help improve the reputation of Budapest and Moscow.