Cuomo & Carlson part 1

Click here to watch Part 2 of “Cuomo & Carlson: The Conversation”

(NewsNation) — NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo and commentator Tucker Carlson sat down for a wide-ranging conversation in Carlson’s first national television appearance since he left Fox News Channel.

Cuomo and Carlson discussed recent criticism Carlson received for his interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the January 6 riot, COVID-19 and other topics, including the pair’s rocky history with each other.

Despite Carlson and Cuomo being critical of each other in the past, both were let go from partisan cable networks the past few years — Carlson from Fox and Cuomo by CNN. They also have the same lawyer, Cuomo said, who encouraged them to “bridge the gap and talk to each other for personal reasons.”

Carlson’s Putin Interview

What Carlson said he learned from the interview is that Russia “is an extremely complicated political environment.”

“These are the people who dominate world chess, and so their politics are incomprehensible to me — so what’s actually happening? I mean, I’ve been in a lot of countries and covered a lot of stuff abroad, and the one thing I’ve learned is you actually don’t really know what’s going on,” he said.

Critics challenged Carlson, saying he barely questioned Putin during the two-hour interview and let the Russian leader talk unchallenged about his country’s history.

“I don’t disagree that sitting across from Putin and getting into a shouting match, or whatever, is going to bear much fruit for people. But you made choices,” Cuomo said to Carlson in a discussion that aired on NewsNation on Monday.

One of these choices Carlson made, Cuomo said, was not asking about Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who later died.

“Don’t you feel that if you are gonna go and sit with someone like that you have to hold them to account for things that matter — the fact that he may have murdered somebody or a lot of people?” Cuomo asked.

The Kremlin has said Navalny’s death in a remote Arctic penal colony was from natural causes, while Western leaders are pointing the finger at Putin. Navalny had been one of Putin’s biggest critics.

Carlson said to Cuomo that “Ukranians say he didn’t kill Navalny,” although the country’s officials and Navalny’s family have said the opposite.

“Now what’s going on there? I can’t even guess,” Carlson said.

To Carlson, Cuomo asked, “Who killed him then? Guy looks good one minute, the next minute, he’s dead.”

After Navalny’s death, U.S. President Joe Biden said Washington doesn’t know exactly what happened, “but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something Putin and his thugs did.” 

Carlson said he had a “bunch of Navalny questions” for Putin but ultimately decided that whatever he asked wouldn’t “move the ball at all.”

“There’s a war going on that is resetting the world. I’m not for throwing your political opponents in prison,” he said.  

Carlson argued that the federal government is playing “the hardest-edged possible politics” in Russia and “using the U.S. dollar” as well as sanctions to do so. 

“What is the message to the rest of the world? Get the hell away from the United States,” Carlson said. 

This is something that will change American history as well as “world history,” he said. 

“I don’t think Americans understand that,” Carlson said. “And I want them to, and I want to hear what Putin’s thinking is.”

Carlson acknowledged that he didn’t know if he achieved that or not. Media outlets were critical of the interview, noting that Putin, during his interview with Carlson, was not asked about war crimes Russian troops have been accused of in Ukraine or his relentless crackdown on dissent, the Associated Press wrote. 

Carlson remarked on his approach to conducting the interview with Putin, highlighting a departure from a confrontational style often expected in such encounters.

“I can go in there and tell Putin, ‘You’re, you’re a monster.’ OK, what do we get out of that? So I can, like, prove that I’m a tough guy? I don’t need to prove that,” Carlson said. “If you’re 31, and try to make it in TV … you’re sort of itching for a confrontation to show your skills. … I’m not interested in that. It’s totally pointless.”

Even Putin himself later told a Russian TV interviewer that he had hoped Carlson would have behaved more “aggressively and ask so-called sharp questions” during the interview, according to Reuters.

But to Cuomo, Carlson said, “I don’t care” what the media thinks of him.

“What I didn’t want to do is try to convince other journalists, for whom I have no regard at all, for the most part, that I’m a good person. I don’t care what they think of me. They call me a Nazi all the time, which I’m not, so their views are totally immaterial,” Carlson said. “I just want to focus on what I want to focus on and if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. That’s my view.”

Cuomo’s and Carlson’s Departures

Carlson and Cuomo both left major cable networks — Carlson from Fox, and Cuomo from CNN.

“I do believe that one of the lessons I’ve learned is you have to think about how other people are being affected by situations,” Cuomo told Carlson, reflecting on the dehumanizing nature of media discourse.

“It does make you kind of wonder — maybe there are forces trying to prevent those conversations,” Carlson said, reciprocating the sentiment and acknowledging the importance of engaging with those who have major disagreements.

“We are not supposed to be doing this. I am doing something bad right now,” Cuomo said of the conversation. “I am giving Tucker Carlson a platform. … And that’s the end of the analysis. But look where it’s gotten us. Nobody talks to each other anymore. Everything is about silos and sides.”

Cuomo’s departure from CNN came after he was accused of helping his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, when the then-governor was accused of sexual harassment.

Carlson said Cuomo’s prioritizing family resonated with him, emphasizing the importance of placing family above other obligations.

“My take on it from a distance, knowing neither you nor your brother, was, ‘You gotta stick with your brother.’ It’s your brother. And that obligation supersedes all others because that’s your family,” Carlson told Cuomo.

Cuomo admitted to feeling on shaky ground after his departure, citing family support as a driving force behind his return to the public sphere.

“I had a big-shot media person say to me, in an interview on their platform, ‘I would not have helped my brother, not if it would have conflicted with my ethical obligations as a journalist,’” Cuomo explained. “First of all, it didn’t. Because I didn’t cover my brother’s situation on my show, I’ve never had the audience give me a hard time until they started hearing things in the media that didn’t square with what they had thought.”

In contrast, Cuomo described Carlson’s demeanor following his departure from Fox News as “ebullient.”

Carlson, once the most popular figure on Fox News, was let go in the wake of Dominion Voting Systems settling its defamation lawsuit with the news outlet. He had initially replaced Greta Van Susteren in Fox’s prime-time lineup with his show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in 2016 before taking over Bill O’Reilly’s slot in 2017.

“You were laughing. And you were, ‘Yeah. Well, let me tell you, it was a favor to me. And this is going to be OK, I’m going to be fine. This is a weird world. And now I know things I didn’t know before,’” Cuomo said. He noted Carlson displayed resilience, laughter and ptimistic outlook.

Carlson shared his philosophical evolution, expressing a newfound desire for authenticity and a rejection of confrontational media tactics.

Carlson said his initial shock lasted for just three minutes. He indicated that he wasn’t consumed by anger or resentment, instead seeing his departure as part of his life’s trajectory.

“I knew that they disagreed with me on a bunch of big topics. And to their great credit, they never tried to change my view on those topics, but you aren’t fully free if you work for someone else,” Carlson said.

Carlson viewed the event through a lens of destiny, suggesting that he felt a sense of inevitability about the outcome. He said he quickly embraced the newfound freedom and an opportunity for personal growth.

“I also had this kind of supernatural sense [that] everything’s gonna be fine. And that in the end, you know, you die anyway. So what are you afraid of exactly,” Carlson said. “It’s good to be fired because it brings you low and you don’t become the overbearing a—— that every TV person is on some level.”

“I really felt that it was destiny, as I feel that most things are. I think there is a plan,” Carlson said.

Cuomo praised Carlson for being tougher than he is and for his resilience in coming back to the news. He admitted that he still felt like he was on “one knee” and struggling to recover from his dismissal, whereas Carlson appeared more resilient and optimistic about the future.

Cuomo mentioned his wife’s encouragement to move forward, emphasizing the need to continue contributing positively to their lives despite the setback.

“She was, like, ‘You gotta get up … we got kids, you got to get up, you got to do something with your life that is helping people and making something of this place,’” Cuomo said, also reflecting on the impact of his departure on his children.

“I put my family through so much that I didn’t understand that I was doing at the time because I had blinders on. I wasn’t thinking that my son was having to deal with stuff. My daughter making up accounts online to defend her uncle killed me,” Cuomo said.

Following his departure from CNN, Cuomo said he wanted a shift in his approach to journalism, particularly in how he engages with guests and topics on his show. Cuomo admitted to reevaluating his previous confrontational style, recognizing that he no longer approaches interviews with the same combative attitude.

“I don’t pick fights the way I used to. I believe that my value at the time on CNN was, ‘I’m gonna bring on Tucker Carlson. He’s a smart guy. He’s practiced on what he is. I’m gonna take them apart tonight,’” Cuomo explained.

Cuomo expressed a commitment to authenticity and transparency in his reporting, which he considers the most important elements of good journalism.

“I’m choosing to try to create a better professional mode for myself. But I can’t look at what happened to me and not see injury,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said he is also working to correct his legacy so that when his kids Google him, they don’t see, “‘Chris Cuomo, fired by CNN, for lying about what he did to help his brother.’ That is not true, and it cannot stand,” Cuomo said.

COVID-19

Carlson expressed staunch opposition to government-imposed restrictions on movement and medical mandates, citing concerns over personal freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also referenced his skepticism towards abortion rights arguments, although he acknowledged the appeal of the slogan “My Body, My Choice.”

“I was completely opposed to, from the very first day, the idea that you can restrict people’s freedom of movement,” Carlson said. “I totally believe this. My body, my choice. People are like, ‘actually, no, it’s not your body or your choice. It’s my body and my choice. And you’re going to do this or we’re going to hurt you.'”

Carlson criticized public health officials’ handling of COVID-19 measures, particularly regarding mask mandates, citing personal discomfort as a reason for non-compliance.

Cuomo defended his coverage of COVID-19, stating his intention to relay government guidance while acknowledging its imperfections. He also addressed criticism regarding his mask-wearing practices, admitting to instances where he did not wear a mask.

“I understand the restriction argument. But why was it wrong for me to say this is what they’re telling us to do?” Cuomo asked Carlson about his frequent criticism of Cuomo.

“Cause I’m a d— probably. Because it was easy. Cause I don’t like CNN and I really mean that in my heart of hearts,” Carlson responded. “It was me taking the cheap shots, which I’m not always above. But you should be.”

Carlson attributed it to a mixture of personal enjoyment and pressure from outside sources while acknowledging his wife’s disapproval of his sometimes sharp commentary.

Despite their ideological differences and public sparring, both Carlson and Cuomo shared moments of introspection. Carlson admitted to enjoying the ‘animal thrill’ of making jabs, while Cuomo reflected on the impact of such criticism on his personal and professional life.

[CUOMO]

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