Report: Tucker Carlson was trying to get an interview with Putin before he made NSA claim

Tucker Carlson.
(Image credit: Rich Polk/Getty Images)

Shortly before Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed on his June 28 show that he was being spied on by the National Security Agency, he was communicating with U.S.-based Kremlin intermediaries in hopes of setting up an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, people familiar with the matter told Axios.

American government officials learned that Carlson was trying to score the interview, the people explained to Axios, and once Carlson found out that they knew, he made his accusation against the NSA. During his June 28 show, Carlson alleged that a whistleblower contacted him and said the NSA "is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air."

Carlson added that the whistleblower "repeated back to us information about a story we are working on that could have only come directly from my tests and emails. There's no other possible source for that information. Period." The NSA responded the next day, saying Carlson's claim was "untrue," he has "never been an intelligence target of the agency, and the NSA has never had any plans to try to take his program off the air."

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Axios contacted Carlson about its reporting, and he replied: "As I've said repeatedly, because it's true, the NSA read my emails, and then leaked their contents. That's an outrage, as well as illegal." A Fox News spokesperson said the network supports "any of our hosts pursuing interviews and stories free from government interference." Axios has not confirmed whether Carlson's communications were ever intercepted by U.S. intelligence, and if so, why.

Many American journalists have interviewed Putin, and Axios said it is unclear why Carlson would think his overtures to the Kremlin intermediaries could have triggered NSA surveillance. It is possible one or more of the people Carlson was communicating with is being surveilled as a foreign agent, but if their messages with Carlson were picked up, his identity would have been masked in intelligence reports. To have an identity unmasked, U.S. government officials have to make a request and prove it's necessary in order to fully understand the intelligence.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.