Tucker Carlson rejects NATO, questions aid to Israel in podcast interview

In a wide-ranging, three-hour interview with podcaster Lex Fridman this week, right-wing pundit and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson challenged the wisdom of US aid to Israel, assailed NATO as a violation of American sovereignty, and rejected what he called a “moralizing” approach to politics, reflecting on his recent interview with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The conservative commentator became the first American to interview Putin since 2021 in February, in a two-hour-long sit-down that focused almost exclusively on the war in Ukraine, which entered its third year this week. 

Speaking to Fridman, an AI researcher whose podcast is among the most popular in the world, Carlson defended his decision not to ask Putin more pointed questions about domestic repression, apart from one about the detention of Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who was arrested by Russia’s security agency in March 2023. “I thought [Putin’s] rationale [for detaining Gershkovich] was absurd,” Carlson told Fridman. 

Carlson denigrated other, more antagonistic interviews by American journalists, however, as virtue-signaling.

“Mike Wallace’s son did an interview with [Putin],” Carlson said, referring to Chris Wallace, an American news anchor known for combative interviews, whose father was also a media personality. Wallace was also Carlson’s colleague at Fox for many years. “It was all about him, ‘I’m a good person, you’re a bad person,’” he said. 

Carlson said that he had initially compiled a long list of questions to ask Putin, including about the dissident Alexei Navalny. Navalny died in a Russian prison a few weeks after Carlson’s interview with Putin after surviving an apparent poisoning attempt widely attributed to the Russian regime. “I thought, ‘no, I want to talk about the things that haven’t been talked about,” Carlson said. “I really wanted to keep it to the things that matter most.” 

Podcaster Lex Fridman interviews conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, February 2024. (credit: screenshot)

Carlson rejects US security guarantees as violations of sovereignty

The pundit, whose Fox News program was the most-watched show on cable news, drawing about 3 million viewers on an average night, returned throughout the podcast to the theme of his increasing skepticism about America’s role in the world.

“I don’t think you can overstate the lack of wisdom, weakness, short-term thinking of American foreign policy leadership,” Carlson told Fridman in a discussion about the Middle East. “When was the last time they improved another country?” he asked, invoking the post-World War II Marshall Plan. “You look at Europe now, and you’re like, ‘I don’t know if that worked,’” Carlson said. 

Addressing the war between Israel and Hamas and its allies, Carlson took a skeptical tone toward what he called “implied security guarantees” of the United States to Israel. “Like every country,” he said, “it’s probably best if [Israel] makes its decisions based on what it can do by itself.” 

The former Fox News host has been one of the loudest critics in mainstream American politics of the country’s support for Ukraine’s war effort, accusing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of persecuting Christians after the government took measures against the local Russian Orthodox Church. 

Carlson has also labeled Zelensky “sweaty and rat-like,” for which Carlson was accused by the Eurasia group’s Ian Bremmer and others of antisemitism. 

Speaking to Fridman, Carlson said that if he were president, he would “pull out of NATO immediately,” telling the podcast host, “I don’t understand the purpose of NATO. I don’t think NATO is good for the United States. I think it’s an attack on our sovereignty.”

Carlson told Fridman that he also wanted to interview Zelensky. The Ukrainian president has harshly criticized Carlson’s interview with Putin, using an expletive to describe the sit-down during a recent interview on Fox News.