Tucker Carlson’s Lesson in the Perils of Giving Airtime to an Autocrat

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Tucker Carlson left Moscow more than a week ago, riding high from an interview with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that returned him to the spotlight after his abrupt cancellation by Fox News last spring.

But the interview with the wartime autocrat, mocked in various corners of the political-media world for its soft touch, continues to have a long and tortured afterlife — becoming a trending topic all over again on Friday after Mr. Putin’s most vocal domestic opponent, Aleksei A. Navalny, turned up dead in a Russian prison.

“This is what Putin’s Russia is, @TuckerCarlson,” Liz Cheney, the former Republican congresswoman from Wyoming, wrote on X after the news of Mr. Navalny’s death broke on Friday. “And you are Putin’s useful idiot.”

Naomi Biden, President Biden’s granddaughter, also weighed in, pointing to a video that Mr. Carlson had recently posted in which he contrasted the supposed splendors of Russia under Mr. Putin’s leadership with the “filth and crime” of the United States. “Has anything aged so poorly, so quickly before?” Ms. Biden wrote on X.

In a statement to The New York Times on Friday, Mr. Carlson said: “It’s horrifying what happened to Navalny. The whole thing is barbaric and awful. No decent person would defend it.”

The comment represented a notable change in tone from earlier this week, when he appeared to offer a blasé opinion regarding Russia’s treatment of Mr. Navalny, who was first imprisoned three years ago on charges of corruption and “extremism” that the United States called baseless.

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