Right-wing Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson poses as an independent who stands up to the mainstream media, and is happy to turn journalists into objects of derision and contempt for his audience. But today the New York Times' Ben Smith outed Carlson as a regular anonymous source for the very media he claims to hate.
Mr. Carlson, a proud traitor to the elite political class, spends his time when he's not denouncing the liberal media trading gossip with them. He's the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about Donald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself). I won't talk here about any off-the-record conversations I may have had with him. But 16 other journalists (none from The Times; it would put my colleagues in a weird position if I asked them) told me on background that he has been, as three of them put it, "a great source."
Here's The Guardian, summarizing Smith's paywalled item:
"In Trump's Washington, Tucker Carlson is a primary supersecret source," Smith quoted Wolff as writing in a new book of essays. "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."
… One "reporter for a prominent publication who speaks to Mr Carlson regularly" said: "It's so unknown in the general public how much he plays both sides." Another said: "If you open yourself up as a resource to mainstream media reporters, you don't even have to ask them to go soft on you." Smith said he would not reveal the contents of his own off-record chats with Carlson.
Smith explains that mainstream journalists won't go after Carlson the way they nailed Glenn Beck:
Mr. Carlson's comfortable place inside Washington media, many of the reporters who cover him say, has taken the edge off some of the coverage. It has also served as a kind of insurance policy, they say, protecting him from the marginalization that ended the Fox career of his predecessor, Glenn Beck, who also drew a huge audience with shadowy theories of elite conspiracy.
Carlson has even cowed the New York Times itself into not covering him by spreading lies about a reporter assigned to the story, who could not complete it due to the resulting death threats and publicity.
When a freelance writer and photographer for The Times began working on an article about his studio in rural Maine last year, Mr. Carlson pre-emptively attacked the two by name on the air and characterized one as a political activist, which Erik Wemple of The Washington Post called a "stunning fabrication." The planned article, a light feature that was nowhere close to publication, became impossible to report, after threats and a menacing incident at the photographer's house, according to The Times's media editor, Jim Windolf.
Politico also spiked a story it was going to run about sleazy ads on Fox News to avoid Carlson's wrath, Smith reports: "Before any story could be published, Mr. Carlson went on the offensive, airing a segment attacking Politico's partnership with a Hong Kong newspaper, and he demanded that [reporter] Mr. Schreckinger answer for it."