Tucker Carlson comments on public's reaction to Lauren Duca interview
Regular Fox News viewers will be getting a change Monday night. For the first time in years, the 9 p.m. ET primetime slot will not be hosted by Megyn Kelly, who said farewell on her final show at the network last Friday. (She moved to NBC.) Instead, it will be Tucker Carlson, the familiar cable-news journeyman whose resumé includes hosting jobs at CNN and MSNBC and running the conservative news site The Daily Caller, which he co-founded.
Of course, Carlson is no stranger to the Fox News audience — his program Tucker Carlson Tonight has been airing at 7 p.m. ET for some time now, and its ratings were deemed impressive enough for the network to move it to its coveted 9 p.m. slot, right between Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity’s programs. Perhaps one reason for the success is Carlson’s penchant for making headlines: His recent interview with Teen Vogue’s Lauren Duca got so heated, it reverberated across the media landscape and inspired a torrent of negative reaction, with many accusing Carlson of sexism. Carlson, for his part, claims to be unaware of the controversy.
We spoke to Carlson about his show’s timeslot change, the pressure of living up to Megyn Kelly’s spectacular ratings, and that notorious interview with Duca.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So what’ll your show look like in the new timeslot? Will there be any updates or alterations now that you’re moving?
TUCKER CARLSON: Yeah, I mean, I’m sure there’ll be some tweaks. I don’t think we’ve settled on them, probably mostly having to do with booking. I think 9 o’clock’s a pretty good timeslot for newsmakers, so I would expect we’d have more of those than before, but I don’t think the nature of the show, at least right off the bat, will be different from what it’s been.
You’ll be placed in between The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity, two programs that have been on Fox for a long time. What would you say that your show provides that theirs don’t? How will yours kind of stand out in between theirs?
I don’t know. I mean, I think all primetime shows are primarily informed by, you know, the instincts and the personality of the anchor, and if you like that person, it’s good, and if you don’t, you’re probably not going to watch.
My instinct from the first day has been to put on stories that I think are interesting, that I would want to watch on television, and Fox, to its great credit, has been very, very hands-off on the editorial side — and they’ve always been that way. They give you almost complete editorial freedom. Not one time has someone told me who to book, what to say, what to think about something, what kind of spin to put on a topic, nothing like that, ever. So, my diet has just been what I want to watch.
Well, you’ve worked at various cable news networks. What other things does Fox offer that other networks maybe don’t?
Yeah, I’ve actually worked and hosted shows on all of them — and I enjoyed it, by the way. I really enjoyed my time at CNN. I liked the people I worked with a lot. I’m still friends with them, and I loved my time at MSNBC, even though at the end, they made me leave. But they were really nice to me, so, I mean, I don’t have any complaints anywhere.
But the differences are pretty obvious, you know? At Fox, there is no editorial interference, at least with me. And you can ask anybody who works there, you can ask anyone who works with me or for me. I mean, we’ve never heard, from the second floor, “You have to say this or that,” or “You can’t use this word,” or “Here’s the way you have to phrase it.”
And that’s not true at all the networks. I mean, there are certain language policies that you have to abide by, and if you care about language, and I do, that can be frustrating. You know, it doesn’t wreck your life or anything, but it’s annoying. The second thing I’ve always liked about Fox, in the seven years I’ve been there, is that most people get along pretty well, and I know that periodically there are stories about people who disagree or whatever within the network, but day to day, people are genuinely nice to each other. They really are, from the cameramen to the lighting guys to the other anchors to all the producers.
I mean, they’re just nice. It’s the culture of it, and I like that. I’m older now, I’m not interested in fighting with people at all. So, it suits me that way.
A lot of people were speculating that Fox might find of a more centrist voice to replace Kelly, particularly in a post-Roger Ailes landscape. Will your 9 p.m. show attempt to fit that bill at all?
Well, centrist means having views that are closest to those of the largest number of people, and I think my views are centrist, by definition. I mean, I think if you were to poll my views on most issues, they would be pretty darn close to the plurality view in America, you know? They would not be close to the plurality of, like, people at the New York Times newsroom, but if you did a poll of 330 million Americans, I think I’m a centrist.
One might say there was a poll of 330 million Americans, and more of them voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, so that might suggest that the plurality of Americans might not share the views that you do.
Well, I mean, unfortunately, presidential races, as you well know, are not simply about issues and ideas, but about personalities. And about the people running. You see plenty of instances where people running on pretty popular positions lose, or people running on not-great popular positions win for other reasons. But I’m just saying, if you break out the issues, I mean, name an issue, and I’d probably have…I mean, I’m sure there’s some exceptions where I have eccentric views, but I’m not out of the mainstream that I’m aware of on any major issue.
During her time at Fox, Megyn Kelly gained a reputation as a sort of maverick who kind of didn’t always hew to party line. What’s your pitch to the fans of hers that’ll now be seeing you in her timeslot?
Oh, I don’t know. I don’t have a specific pitch. TV is a pretty small-D democratic medium. You like it or you don’t. If people don’t like it, they don’t watch. You know immediately what people like, and they’re not under obligation to watch your show. There are a lot of other offerings out there, and so you find out the first week. You find out if people like it or not. Period. That’s the beauty of television, there’s no guessing.
So you don’t have to wonder if you’re popular, you’ll find out — and especially at Fox, because people watch Fox. There’s a big audience, and Megyn had a big audience, so it’s not like you have to go find these people. They’re there! They’re going to render judgment immediately. It’s nice. So, ask me a week in, and we’ll both know whether people like me or not. [Laughs]
Well, to that end, the ratings for your current show have grown impressively. You’ve hosted various shows before at many networks — why is this one connecting? Have you changed your technique, or is it something else?
Well, I’m not going to lie to myself. I work at Fox. That’s 99 percent of it right there. I’m serious. I’ve done good shows on other channels that nobody watched because nobody watched the channel, and Fox, the power of my show is the fact that it’s on Fox News. It’s the preeminent news channel, so I’m not pretending I have some special magic.
On the margins, you can make things better or worse, and I think I’ve, from day one, followed my instinct, which is to put something on that I would like to watch. And one of the things I don’t like to watch is people who don’t know what they’re talking about weighing in on issues to which they have no direct connection. I think there’s too much analysis from uninformed people just in general in the world — not only on television, but in our Congress, and at my kids’ school, everywhere. So, I wanted to book people who are directly involved, because I think it’s more satisfying to ask participants rather than observers.
Probably the biggest “participant” to book right now would be President-elect Donald Trump. Is there any discussion about getting President Trump onto the show?
Well, I’ve interviewed Trump many, many times, and I think that Trump is a really interesting conversationalist in person — interesting, knows a lot, smart, candid, funny as hell. I think on television he’s a harder interview. It’s hard. I don’t know that I’ve had a really satisfying TV interview with Donald Trump, and I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for it. I’m not sure I understand all of them, but I’m just being honest with you. I haven’t, so, you know, so, that’s where we are.
Do you plan to amend that?
Yeah. I mean, at some point, but you know, there are a lot of things to talk about, a lot of people to talk about and talk to. I think Trump is interesting, but I also think we’ve talked a lot about Trump.
Probably the most notorious moment from your show so has been the segment with Teen Vogue’s Lauren Duca. That got quite a reaction online, a lot of it negative. How do you feel about the way that your performance was received?
I’m not exactly sure how…I’m not sure how it was received because it was the night before Thanksgiving, and I got on a plane that night immediately after and never went back online.
But you must have—
No, I really didn’t. I’m not a self-Googler, and I know that people pretend that they don’t Google themselves, but I really don’t. Ask my wife. Because I’m a happy person, and I don’t want to change that. But my general feeling was that she was hostile, really hostile right out of the box, and that it probably wasn’t a very interesting interview because of that. I had, I thought, pretty straightforward questions, she didn’t want to answer them, so, you know, it wasn’t an interview I got a lot out of.
So you haven’t heard about the reaction to it all? No one has been like, “Oh, hey, this is what people saying about this interview?”
Not really, no.
I guess that means you haven’t spoken to her since then.
Yeah, I’m on…no. She hasn’t called me, and we haven’t had breakfast or anything, but I know that she was yelling by the end. I do remember that. But you know, we’ve got a five-day-a-week show that will definitely absorb your time. So I don’t wallow a lot in past segments. I guess my one takeaway, and I’m sure I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t remember all of it, but I remember that she came out of the box in a very, very hostile way, and I don’t remember ever getting a straight answer to anything.
Can viewers expect more of these sorts of confrontational interviews on your 9 p.m. show?
For sure. I like people, but I don’t want to have a vigorous agreement. That’s not very interesting. That’s the model for a lot of television, and I just don’t find it compelling. I want to hear views that I disagree with, because I’m interested. And by the way, I’m won over sometimes. I am. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but you know, occasionally I’ll hear an argument that convinces me because it’s a powerful, thoughtful argument. I was completely for the death penalty my whole life, and I was debating someone who was against it, and I switched sides. I’m not for it because someone won me over. So, I’m genuinely interested in hearing what the point is, and what’s the perspective.
I live in a city where four percent of people in D.C. voted for Donald Trump. It’s the most Democratic city in America, and I live with people, next door to them, I’m with them all the time, who I disagree with. And I don’t take it personally. I want to hear it, you know? I read liberal magazines every single day. So, I’m not afraid of that at all.
Now that you’re back in primetime and some of the mojo’s back, are you going to bring back the bow tie?
Probably not going to do that, for the simple reason that it’s just too provocative. I mean, it’s like wearing a middle finger around your neck. People can’t even hear what you say, they dislike you so much. I’m going to give them a chance to hear me speak first.