When he wants to be, Tucker Carlson can be one of the most engaging, difficult, and critical interviewers in all of news media. But since taking his show independent, Carlson has repeatedly published, to audiences of tens of millions of trusting viewers, weak interviews that uncritically parrot unlikely narratives from uncredible individuals.
The latest such interview features a man, Larry Sinclair, who says he did drugs and had sex with Barack Obama in the late ’90s.
Breaking news, according to Carlson’s show: Barack Obama is a gay crackhead!
There’s just one problem. This isn’t actually a new allegation; it was made (and largely ignored) back in 2008 because it lacked any evidence and Sinclair was not a credible figure. Carlson decided to recirculate this story, not because of any new revelations or evidence, but simply to draw eyeballs and clicks with this salacious narrative.
The result is a deeply misleading interview that betrays journalistic ethics to push wild conspiracy theories.
For one, Carlson, when introducing his guest and touting his supposed seriousness, mentions Sinclair signed a sworn affidavit and took a lie detector test as part of why these allegations are “credible” in his view. However, Carlson fails to mention that Sinclair failed that lie detector test.
Why would the host possibly omit that detail? The omission serves only to mislead his audience. (To be clear, lie detector tests are not dispositive; their scientific reliability is hotly disputed .)
Carlson also does not inform his viewers of the specifics of Sinclair’s extensive criminal history. Here’s how journalist Ben Smith summarized Sinclair’s criminal record, writing for Politico in 2008:
“Public records and court filings reveal that he has a 27-year criminal record, with a specialty in crimes involving deceit. The record includes forgery charges in two states, one of which drew Sinclair a 16-year jail sentence. The Pueblo County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office also has an outstanding warrant for Sinclair’s arrest for forging an acquaintance’s signature and stealing her tax refunds.”
Sinclair allegedly continued his criminal activity while beyond bars. Smith reports, “In prison, according to state records filed in federal court, Sinclair was disciplined 97 times for infractions including assault, threats, drug possession, intimidation, and verbal abuse, most recently in 1996.”
The Politico story also notes that Sinclair operated under 13 aliases in Colorado — not typically a sign of trustworthiness or credibility.
These details are all omitted from Tucker Carlson’s more than 40-minute interview with Sinclair. The host briefly mentions Sinclair’s criminal history but downplays it and does not inform his viewers that this history specifically involves multiple crimes of fraud and deceit. You’d think that background might be relevant to assessing the credibility of an individual’s allegations against a major political figure.
What’s more, Carlson never reckons with how implausible this story is. After all, if there’s one thing that critics and fans of Obama alike have always agreed upon, it’s that his ambitions were sky-high from very early on in his political career. But, we’re supposed to believe that a man who, at the time, held elected office and had aims of going much higher up the political food chain was randomly smoking crack and cheating on his wife with a complete stranger? Even if Obama was engaging in this behavior, it’s hard to believe he would ever have been so flagrant and indiscreet about it.
So, we have an old, implausible allegation against a controversial political figure made by someone with a criminal background in fraud that is bolstered by no meaningful evidence or corroboration.
That shouldn’t be newsworthy at all, let alone be credulously promoted to millions of viewers. Yet Carlson doesn’t even present Sinclair’s story as an allegation. He goes far beyond “just asking questions” and, at one point, point-blank refers to Sinclair as “the only person on this set who has had sex with Barack Obama.” In another interview, Carlson refers to the allegations as “obviously true.”
This is nothing short of disgraceful.
It’s a betrayal not just of any sense of journalistic ethics but also of everything conservative media, including Tucker Carlson himself, argued about due process in the court of public opinion during the Brett Kavanaugh saga . The Right argued, absolutely correctly, that it is wrong to publicly defame national political figures with salacious and criminal allegations in the absence of any corroborating evidence. (And, in that case, the accuser wasn’t even a convicted fraudster!)
But now, since Obama is the target, Carlson and his defenders are adopting a totally different standard — and becoming exactly what they say they hate about liberal media.