Washington — Former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlon’s announcement on Tuesday that he interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin has been met with disapproval from an array of journalists, some of whom say the Kremlin may use the interview for propaganda purposes.
In a video posted on the social media platform X, Carlson said he wanted to interview the longtime Russian leader because “Americans have a right to know all they can about a war they are implicated in.”
In mid-March, Russia is set to hold presidential elections, which Putin is all but guaranteed to win. Putin likely agreed to the interview with Carlson because he thinks it will help his campaign, according to Mikhail Rubin, deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian investigative outlet Proekt Media.
Carlson “needs to understand that he’s a part of the presidential election campaign, and he’s going to help [Putin], unfortunately,” Rubin told VOA.
Rubin added that Carlson’s interview is likely to be used to paint Moscow in a positive light.
“The most important is to show that Putin is open and that American journalists can work inside Russia because Russia is an open and free country,” Rubin said.
But that narrative is plainly false, said Rubin, who fled the country in 2021 for safety reasons.
“If I go to Russia, as far as I understand, I will be arrested the next day,” said Rubin, who is now based in Washington. “I’m not sure that I will ever see my father again.”
Other Russian journalists shared similar critiques on social media.
“I am like hundreds of Russian journalists who have had to go into exile to keep reporting about the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine. The alternative was to go to jail,” said Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats on X. Meanwhile, Carlson was “shooting from the $1,000 Ritz suite in Moscow,” she said.
Carlson also drew criticism for appearing to ignore the poor state of press freedom in Russia, which has led to the arrests of scores of reporters inside the country and forced many others into exile.
“Quite something to complain about how not enough American journalists are reporting on the Russian side of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine when two of them — Evan Gershkovich and Alsu Kurmasheva — are in jail right now for doing just that,” Max Seddon, Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times, said in a post on X.
The Wall Street Journal’s Gershkovich was arrested in March 2023 on espionage charges that he, his employer and the U.S. government vehemently deny.
Kurmasheva, an editor at VOA’s sister outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was jailed in October 2023 and is facing charges for failing to register as a “foreign agent” and spreading false information about the Russian military. She and her employer reject the charges.
Besides Kurmasheva and Gershkovich, at least 20 other journalists were jailed in Russia as of the end of 2023, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the interview was recorded on Tuesday.
The interview will likely be published Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal. Carlson said it will be uploaded live and unedited to X, where he launched a show after he was abruptly fired from the conservative channel Fox News last year.
The right-wing television personality hosted a prime-time show on Fox News from 2016 until his firing in 2023. Carlson’s departure came shortly after Fox News agreed to pay over $787 million to Dominion Voting Systems to settle a defamation lawsuit over false election claims, many of which Carlson himself propagated.
The Tucker Carlson Network did not immediately reply to VOA’s email requesting comment.
After accusing U.S. media of “fawning pep session” interviews with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Carlson went on to claim that “not a single Western journalist has bothered to interview the president of the other country in this conflict, Vladimir Putin.”
Journalists took to social media to criticize that claim, as well.
“Does Tucker really think we journalists haven’t been trying to interview President Putin every day since his full-scale invasion of Ukraine?” CNN’s Christiane Amanpour said in a post on X. “It’s absurd — we’ll continue to ask for an interview, just as we have for years now.”
Even the Kremlin fact-checked that claim from Carlson.
“No, Mr. Carlson is wrong. In fact, he cannot know this,” Peskov, the spokesperson, said, adding that the Kremlin receives many requests for interviews with Putin.