Who is Tucker Carlson? Is he a sincere conspiracy theorist earnestly feeding his millions of viewers misinformation? Or is he a grifter cynically flinging red meat to his base while secretly bearing different beliefs? The truth gets even murkier in a new piece by The New York Times’ Ben Smith, in which he — a proud member of the “fake news media” — alleges to not only be really good texting buddies with the Fox News stalwart. He’s also, Smith claims, he’s widely considered a great source for unflattering Trump gossip.
In a new piece, the paper’s premier media columnist confesses he has a frenemy-style relationship with the media figure who was roasted the very same day by CNN’s Brian Stelter. While Stelter had solemn questions for Carlson, Smith was a bit more savvy and Inside Baseball, alleging that it’s an “open secret” that he’s a big time gossip hound — the “go-to-guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about Donald J. Trump,” as well as dirt about his home network. Smith names over a dozen colleagues (none at the Times) that they get dirt from him. Three of those called him “a great source.”
“In Trump’s Washington, Tucker Carlson is a primary supersecret source,” the media writer and Trump chronicler Michael Wolff writes in his forthcoming collection of essays, “Too Famous.” Mr. Wolff, who thanked Mr. Carlson in the acknowledgments of his 2018 book, “Fire and Fury,” explained, “I know this because I know what he has told me, and I can track his exquisite, too-good-not-to-be-true gossip through unsourced reports and as it often emerges into accepted wisdom.”
Stelter even admitted that one “can see Tucker’s fingerprints all over the hardcover” edition of his 2020 book Hoax. But times have changed. When it came time to release the paperback edition, he’d found he “couldn’t stomach” talking to him anymore, presumably because of how increasingly deranged his show has become since Trump’s 2020 loss.
It’s no shock Carlson would be a great source for gossip. Born into a world of insiders, he’s also powerful enough a figure in rightwing media that he has the former president’s ear. What’s more, one source speculates, Carlson’s habit of keeping non-Trumpist media fat with fun stories may explain why he hasn’t suffered the same fate of another Fox News conspiracy theorist, Glenn Beck, whose notorious reign in the Obama era came to a premature end. Had Carlson not made himself useful, the idea goes, journalists would treat him even worse than they do.
Carlson, for the record, denied to Smith that he was a notorious leaker to the “liberal media.” “I don’t know any gossip,” he texted back. “I live in a town of 100 people,” referring to his life in remotest Maine. Then again, in our brave new tech world, gossip doesn’t need to have a zip code to get around.