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Tucker Carlson’s Obama interview is a conspiracy too far

It's not outrage; it's bewilderment. (Tucker Carlson/X)

September 6, 2023 - 7:10pm

What’s old is new again. In a move that underscores his continued trajectory from traditional conservative pundit to voice of populist outrage to social media provocateur, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson is now interviewing figures on the periphery of credibility, such as manosphere influencer Andrew Tate and Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy. Tonight, he’s taking it a step further by speaking to Larry Sinclair, a man notorious for making unverified claims that he engaged in a drug-fuelled sexual encounter with former president Barack Obama in 1999.

Carlson teased this forthcoming interview on X. The promo clip featured Sinclair rehashing an old story about giving Obama $250 for drugs before they had a sexual encounter. In a bold move, Carlson deemed Sinclair’s account to be “credible information that [Obama is] smoking crack and having sex with dudes” — providing his interviewee with the biggest platform of his career in the process. Yet Sinclair’s allegations have never been substantiated. His credibility is further marred by a lengthy criminal record, which includes convictions related to forgery, fraud and larceny. He even once claimed to be “terminally ill”, likely as a strategy to have an arrest warrant dismissed.

By choosing to interview Sinclair and resuscitating decade-old theories once peddled by Jerome Corsi, Carlson appears to be trading intellectual rigour for sensationalism. Although these topics may excite a certain faction on the Right, they’re fundamentally recycled and unimportant tales that reveal more about Carlson’s willingness to capitalise on controversy than they do about the state of American politics.

The evolution of Carlson from a bridge between traditional Republican orthodoxy and the burgeoning populist Right to his current persona is both striking and indicative of the broader shifts within conservative media. Once wearing the bowtie of establishment conservatism, Carlson was a figure who could comfortably navigate the worlds of both policy wonks and grassroots activists. His critiques of globalism, immigration, and the liberal elites had elements that could resonate across party lines, opening up conversations that had bipartisan relevance.

However, this previous image of him as a political intermediary seems to be fading into the rearview mirror. In its place is a provocateur who increasingly trades in National Enquirer-style sensationalism. The change isn’t just cosmetic, involving the occasional wearing of flannel shirts and working in a woodshop: it signals a shift in focus from presenting issues of legitimate public concern to resurrecting salacious tabloid stories that were debunked or broadly dismissed years ago. The line between respectable journalism and gossip-mongering has not just been blurred: for Carlson, it appears in danger of being completely erased.

What’s particularly interesting is how this transformation is received by his viewership. For the “based” Right — a faction that appreciates audacity and often eschews political correctness — Carlson’s latest antics may be a welcome development (save for those who believe he is an “op”, discrediting fringe stories by presenting them in ridiculous ways).

But this new tack seems more like a play to the lowest common denominator than a genuine attempt to enlighten the public discourse. By choosing to air interviews with fringe figures peddling old, discredited rumours, Carlson — no stranger to evolving to grow his brand — is completely embracing commercially-oriented opportunism. It’s a move designed to draw eyes and clicks, not to encourage serious reflection on the state of American society or its politics.

While the presenter’s shift may be personally profitable in the short term, one cannot help but feel pessimistic about the prospects for political discourse in general and populism in America specifically. Carlson, who presented himself as a people’s champion during the peak of his Fox-era celebrity, now seems to be a free agent more interested in chasing engagement by any means necessary. 


Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work

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D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago

Every time I hear something labeled as a “conspiracy theory” I suspect there really is something to the story

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

It’s like ‘stereotyping’. What make a stereotype ring true is that it reflects a certain degree of ‘truth’.

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
8 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

And in over 5,000 years of recorded human history, MOST things declared to be “conspiracy theories” have turned out to be true.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Mostly the ‘something to’ is people’s appetite for prurient or fiendish gossip and entertainment; the likelihood of being simultaneously overwhelmed and under informed; and the gratifying sense of power that comes with the special knowledge (the mirror of that projected onto the fiendish conspirators). Time and History tends to disprove ‘conspiracy theories’, whilst confirming business-as-usual chicanery (great powers engineered reasons to invade, tobacco & pharma & Burger King lie about the quality of their wares ….shurely not!)

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
8 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

There has never been a time in over 5,000 years of recorded human history when there were NOT thousands of actual conspiracies. Labeling something a “conspiracy theory” by the left is a big bright spotlight announcing it is a fact they wish to make disappear.

Last edited 8 months ago by Johnathan Galt
AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago

Is Larry Sinclair a reliable witness? Maybe yes, maybe no. But this follows the Elite playbook of encouraging journalists to dismiss ‘otherwise unthinkable’ claims based on their own celebrity.
There certainly have been false accusations, but there have also been cases where celebrities have perhaps got away with bad behaviour for a long time. Jimmy Savile, Jeffrey Epstein (allegedly), Cyril Smith (allegedly), many famous film stars of the past, and so on. Often the revelations of their alleged guilt only surfaced after their death – when it was ‘safe’ to criticise them.
I have no idea if Barack Obama has anything to hide. But until the police and/or journalism does a ‘proper’ job some people will get away with crimes.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Because the right wing hate machine has only had 20 odd years to investigate these claims and have come up with nothing I guess we had better go back to the ludicrous claims of a convicted criminal?
Hilarious!

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
8 months ago

Cenk, is that you?

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
8 months ago

Keep telling yourself that, sweetie. You may even convince yourself!

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
8 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I seriously doubt Sinclair’s “sex with Obama” claims for the same reason I doubted the “Trump Russia collusion” narrative — there would be too much money to be made if there was any proof of either. However I don’t think anything can be reflexively ruled “unthinkable” anymore. The last 7 years has seen too many “unthinkable” claims turn out to be completely true, while so many things that were pushed as self-evident have been proven utterly false.

Last edited 8 months ago by Brian Villanueva
Coralie Palmer
Coralie Palmer
8 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

There is no ‘maybe’ about Larry Sinclair, a convicted con man with a long criminal history of fraud, larceny and forgery. You then compare his shopworn claims that Obama was having promiscuous gay sex, to the cases of three men who were known paedophiles. Sex with underage children is illegal because it causes appalling harm and misery. Homosexuality is not, because it doesn’t. Perhaps you can spot the difference.

Last edited 8 months ago by Coralie Palmer
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

Ugh. This latest Carlson interview is beyond cringeworthy. It’s gross and creepy and nothing more than profiteering. I never watched his show or his new thing on Twitter, but I’ve heard him in interviews and always thought he was nice, polite and pleasant. I appreciate him stepping across the line and tackling subjects that others won’t, but this is just awful. I hope he gets some pushback from his fans, but I’m not expecting much.

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Barry Soetoro is bent as a nine bob note and worst of all another CIA creatura.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Totally agree, saw his latest interview last night, and couldn‘t believe that Tucker basically now sinks to the level of the National Enquirer. During his time at Fox some of his commentaries were quite on the button and sometimes even quite critical of Trump during his time as President.

Last edited 8 months ago by Stephanie Surface
Steve White
Steve White
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Jim, you wrote this comment 18 hours ago, and the video was released 15.5 hours ago….How could you know those things before you even saw it?

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve White
Martin Smith
Martin Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

It’s his truth…

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

The whole premise of the interview serves no purpose. It’s clickbait. Who cares what Obama did with some guy 15 years ago. It’s irrelevant today. It’s not news.

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

There’s a button on every video player, which usually looks like this:

||

It stops playback you find offensive. Instead, you chose to listen and cry about it. Sad.

aaron david
aaron david
8 months ago

In 2008, the front runner for the Democrat Presidential nomination was one John Edwards, a toothy Kennedyesque media darling. And, it turns out, that selfsame media was hiding that Edwards was cheating on his wife, who was dying of cancer.
The story was broken by the tabliod rag The National Enquirer, what the mainstream press would call gutter journalism, or, as this piece would say, tabloid journalism.
It seems the media buried this piece, years ago int their love for Obama. So, now we get to hear it, and judge for ourselves. And maybe, just maybe,there was a reason for all those rumors all that time ago. And “journalists” like Bateman here, don’t wan’t to face up to it.

Last edited 8 months ago by aaron david
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
8 months ago
Reply to  aaron david

But who really cares nowadays if Obama was/is bi-sexual, except for his wife, when supposedly the marriage was on the rocks at the time. He talked to a girlfriend about having fantasies about having sex with men. Maybe would be a vote winner with the woke.
John Edwards was a different story, because he cheated on his wife, who had cancer, but presented himself as a faithful loving family man.

Emre S
Emre S
8 months ago

Obama has written about his homosexual fantasising as a young men to a girlfriend which is on public record (at a university library):

“In regard to homosexuality, I must say that I believe this is an attempt to remove oneself from the present, a refusal perhaps to perpetuate the endless farce of earthly life. You see, I make love to men daily, but in the imagination,”

From: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/barack-obama-made-love-men-letter-ex-girlfriend-5bd2jcd0l
Given that I’d find it likely this criminal is blackmailing him for what may have been a consensual affair, or simply something he heard about.

Last edited 8 months ago by Emre S
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago
Reply to  Emre S

Sinclair spoke of ‘his sexual encounters’ with Obama for the first time 20 years ago. Obama’s ‘I fantasize having sex with men’ letter came to light in Garrow’s Obama bio in 2017
.so Sinclair could not have known of the letter when he first spoke.

Last edited 8 months ago by Cathy Carron
Emre S
Emre S
8 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

This was interesting to know, thanks. Of course Obama would’ve talked about his fantasies more than once, or indeed engaged in them, and someone could hear about that in different ways.

Andrew Henrick
Andrew Henrick
8 months ago

This is a post about an unreleased interview.
I do not know Tucker Carlson, but I give him the benefit of the doubt based on the past 3 years. If it seems salacious and incredible, turn it off. You could always listed to the Eric Weinstein interview on Modern Wisdom.

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Henrick

I’m curious to know if Mr. Bateman similarly objected to the Steele Dossier.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Buena Vista

Don’t be silly. We all know there is no such thing as a liberal conspiracy theory (especially not one that absorbs most of their opponents term in office). They are all too sensible for that.

laura m
laura m
8 months ago

Give me a break. Sex and Drugs, how human. Of course it is plausible. Those of you overreacting need to examine your internal Saint Barack complex. Take a note from the great intellectual and fellow Chicagoan Glenn Loury, who acknowledged his indulges and spoke honestly about his human foibles.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  laura m

Curious, I rather thought it was the anti-Obama lot that are making rather too much of this story. There are two parts of the story – Obama has bi-sex tendecies (meh, so what, Obama fans would probably welcome this further diversity) – and that he smoked crack and sucked cocks… according to a career criminal convicted of fraud, forgery, theft….you needn’t be a fan to question that. Rather you’d have to be a virulent hater (or just credulous) to accept it.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

Apparently the Tucker public wants this kind of thing. He spent much of the Trump interview asking him if he thought that Epstein had really killed himself in prison.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

A perfectly legitimate question particularly given the predictions that Epstein would be found dead in his cell.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

I’m more appalled about his interview with Andrew Tate, whose comments about women are toxic and disgusting. There is plenty of evidence to support my claim. That doesn’t mean I’m a man-hater; the vast majority of men are fine. However, if my husband legitimized Tate by interviewing him, I’d divorce him.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Just interviewing someone is not ‘legitimizing them’. People have free will and agency and can decide for themselves what to believe. It’s hard for many who seeks ‘curbs’, speech police, authoritarians, etc to accept, but it’s part of being an adult and understanding the complexity of the world.

Apex Predator
Apex Predator
8 months ago

Carlson, in his new form, transparently feeds his audience what he knows they will lap up. No different than Rachel Maddow but now less restrained. In that sense I just see him as another shameless media sociopath who exploits audiences. Independent media likes to act like they’ve beaten back the forces that have corrupted corporate media but, over time, I see them fall to audience capture, click farming and sensationalism. Eventually hidden money will pay them as part of its sources’ public relations agenda. The net of all of it is that it’s very difficult to get quality information, and independent media is no guarantee either.

I mentally dumped Carlson in the refuse bin after his interview with Colonel MacGregor. At the start of the war I watched him as someone with an interesting counter narrative. But I made the mistake of tracking his predictions. Possibly the wrongest man I’ve seen on what transpired (even just going by actual admissions by Russia itself). If Tucker couldn’t ferret out that this guy has zero credibility he’s a fool. If he knew he had zero credibility and fed him to his audience anyway he’s a charlatan. Either way it killed his credibility for me. Next.

Jenn Usher
Jenn Usher
8 months ago
Reply to  Apex Predator

He lost credibility in my opinion with his totally anti-Ukraine rantings, using ONLY MacGregor as his military expert and endlessly parroting the Russian line. His other obsessions include his one-sided take on transgender issues and glorifying Victor Orban of Hungary. Lost me before he was fired.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago

Carlson used to be just a tool. He used to be a tool of the Republican orthodoxy, but when he saw how easily Trump used populist rage to destroy the Republican leadership and take over the party, he concluded, correctly, that there was no future for Republicanism as it existed before the Tea Party movement in the early 2010’s. He recognized that the party was realigning itself and that the old guard would be forced to either adapt to the prevailing public mood or join the opposition. He realized he no longer has to answer to them, or anybody and can say anything he likes to make a buck, which is what he’s doing. When leadership collapses, chaos reigns, and Tucker Carlson is a sign of the chaos that still embroils the Republican party. Still, chaos can lead to change. Nonsense and peddlers of nonsense like Tucker Carlson are a necessary evil because free speech needs to be free, and political discourse had grown far too restrained in the Bush/Obama years. If some guy over there is talking about presidential sex orgies, it makes the guy talking about industrial policy, reshoring, and a nationalistic economic policy sound downright tame by comparison. Crap like this, and it is utter crap, undermines whatever boundaries that the powerful had established, and America had, and still has, a lot of boundaries that need undermining.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Tucker doesn’t need to ‘make a Buck’, He inherited part of his step-mother’s ‘Swanson Frozen Foods’ fortune. Add that on to his multi-million dollar yearly income – he’s still being paid $20 million a year by Murdoch – and you get a pile. Tucker is not motivated by money at all. Fundamentally, he’s just curious- the best trait for a journalist to have.

Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
8 months ago

I suspect Tucker never saw his passion as bridge building. Really? He’s a risk taker, a bomb thrower and challenges everything. Think for yourself and decide what to believe. It should never be an all or nothing proposition; we’ve had more than enough of that.

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
8 months ago

LOL – the author is in a jealous rage. So sad!
Tucker may interview anyone he wants to who agrees to be interviewed. None of the people being interviewed by Tucker would ever agree to let this hack interview them.

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
8 months ago

Well what the journalists has totally missed is all the other whistleblowers who have confirmed this to be the case. It’s not far fetched at all. That’s how the really powerful blackmail these people to do what they want, they are puppets, he just happens to be a gay one who likes to smoke crack. Hunter Biden was a conspiracy, conspiracy is now a badge of truth and media is a badge of lies!

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago

Last edited 8 months ago by Dominic A
Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
8 months ago

“Michael and I”.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
7 months ago

That was an awful interview which did Tucker Carlson no favour.

j watson
j watson
8 months ago

Grifter Carlson is always about the ‘ker-ching’ moment. Just like Trump. Who can they fleece next.
They benefit from there being alot of mugs out there who’ll salivate over hearing such nonsense.
What’s perhaps most interesting, as the Author implies, is Carlson is no longer trying to suggest his audience aren’t largely cretins. I guess who cares as long as cash rolls in.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Carlson and Trump are no worse or better than the Bidens or Clintons. American politics is irredeemably corrupt. It’s stupid to take sides.

aaron david
aaron david
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

You might not want to take sides, but the sides want to take you.

0 0
0 0
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

It takes an Englishman to see through the muck and the mire. Spot-on, Mr. Bryant.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

The sneering ad hominin attack containing bald assertions the truth of which the writer has no idea

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
8 months ago

Two factors, I think, help to explain TCarlson’s personal trajectory. Firstly, this is a man who has seen the very worst of The Left, up close and very personal, as mobs have beaten at his door and threatened his family, in addition to carpet-bombing him with online hate. For all his image and wealth, (and I speak as a big fan), he’s just a man who lives with his wife and kids, on a street (at least, often). When you’ve experienced that side of any movement, any depravity is believable of it – and almost any response, even one that plays with the truth, looks fair.
Secondly, as fringe theory after fringe theory is shown to be undeniably true, any story with even a whiff of credibility becomes mandatorily reportable, and with TC’s recent status as flag-bearer for the anti-establishment, you know he must be feeling the responsibility to showcase these theories.
And after all, no one on the Right is forcing adherence to strange claims; whether Hunter’s laptop or Fauci’s criminal poisoning or Obama’s romping, it’s all just “news”. Take it or leave it.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago

Comical! Tucker Carlson was always a clown and his evisceration by Jon Stewart 20 years ago should have been the end of him. However, conservatives have always preferred their leaders to be dumber than rocks so it should come as no surprise that your movement is led by the likes of Tucker, Tate and Trump.
Party of Lincoln – ha!!!

D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago

Jon Stewart LOL if that is in fact his real name

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

Look. Another clever, insightful and whimsical post from SC.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago

It’s a shame that Unheard has started to attract this sort of adolescent ya boo stuff. I suppose it’s a consequence of reaching a wider audience. Couldn’t you do us all a favour and go back to the Guardian?

Emre S
Emre S
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

My understanding is that Unherd is attempting to keep a more classically liberal view of things as the word was understood 20 years ago at least. In that sense a Guardian reader would be welcome here. That it’s seen as a conservative outlet is more an indication of the leftward drift of British/US politics than anything else.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Pot kettle black, Daily Mail/Telegraph