Glenn Greenwald’s Lalaland Defense of Tucker Carlson

Glenn Greenwald is a man whose life in the early and mid-2010s seemed right out of a spy thriller as he helped Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden in landmark incidents exposing, among other things, US military atrocities and illegal NSA spying. Long seen as part of the radical left, he has, in recent years, found himself increasingly in alignment with the MAGA wing of the Republican Party.

One manifestation of this alignment has been his numerous friendly appearances on the Tucker Carlson Tonight program. Defenders of Greenwald argue that it is a guilt-by-association smear to connect Greenwald with Carlson’s racism and other reactionary views. They say that Greenwald appears on Carlson’s program to merely promote leftist anti-war and civil liberties views. In reality, however, Greenwald has actively worked to whitewash Carlson’s racism.

Tucker Carlson and the 2020 Election

Given that his appearances on Carlson’s program give him by far his widest possible exposure compared to other platforms (like System Update, the Rumble podcast he hosts), a frantic desire to keep in Carlson’s good graces may explain his pathetic and sloppy efforts to defend the Fox News Host’s reputation. For example, on a March 3rd System Update, Greenwald addressed Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News for spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 US presidential election being stolen from Donald Trump.

Greenwald declared emphatically multiple times throughout his monologue that the Dominion lawsuit was based on a false theory: that Fox News primetime hosts such as Tucker Carlson pandered to their audience by publicly embracing election fraud conspiracy theories but privately heaped scorn on those theories. In fact:

“nobody can point to a single Tucker Carlson segment or Laura Ingraham segment, from late 2020 or early 2021, where they endorse this election fraud theory….

All of the evidence…. make clear that Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham were refusing to go on air and endorse this voting fraud claim. And, in fact, they were working as hard as they could to ensure that the Fox audience understood that there was no evidence for it….

To the extent [Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham] were opining them at all, they were telling their audience there was no evidence for them,…” (Transcript, System Update #50, 3/3/23).

Greenwald’s evidence for exonerating Carlson of the charge of election denial consisted of the following: a CNN news story from November 2020 stating that Fox’s somewhat more cautious approach to election fraud was losing it viewers to Newsmax; a Dominion legal brief citation of Fox executives’ internal communications from November 6th 2020 where Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham were cited as not endorsing the election fraud claims; and a Carlson monologue from November 19, 2020 where he criticized Trump lawyer Sydney Powell for not presenting evidence for her voter fraud claims.

Of all Tucker’s Carlson’s public utterances in the period after the 2020 election, Greenwald focused exclusively on that November 19th, 2020 monologue. He ignored all other public statements Carlson made about Trump’s voter fraud claims on his show during the period. In the monologue, Carlson resoundingly criticized Sydney Powell for not presenting evidence for her election fraud claims. This denunciation earned Carlson “enormous amounts of rage” from Trump fanatic Fox Viewers, according to Greenwald. This was during a time when the Trump campaign publicly distanced itself from Powell. It was also a time period when Powell’s wild conspiracy theories became too much even for Rush Limbaugh who paused his backing of Trump’s voter fraud claims to criticize Powell’s presentation of the evidence (or lack thereof).

The biggest problem with Greenwald’s analysis is that it is comically far from reality. He claimed that “nobody can point to a single Tucker Carlson segment” where election fraud conspiracy theories were endorsed—in fact mainstream media outlets like the New York Times were pointing out several such segments more than a week before Greenwald aired this particular System Update (and more after it aired).

Following are some examples of Tucker Carlson giving credence to election fraud theories on his Fox News show:

–On November 5th, 2020, two days after the election, he said: “Not all the claims are credible, but some are…..Serious questions about the legitimacy of ballots remained unanswered.”

–On November 9th he stated:

“We don’t know how many votes were stolen on Tuesday night. We don’t know anything about the software many say was rigged. We don’t know. We ought to find out, but here’s what we do know. On a larger level, at the highest levels, actually, our system isn’t what we thought it was. It’s not as fair as it should be. Not even close. Sorry. Hate to say that.”

–On November 13, he issued a retraction after claiming two days earlier—according to the Dominion lawsuit documents, based in part on false information fed to him by the Trump campaign after he privately solicited voter fraud stories from it –that four dead persons had voted in Georgia’s election.

–On November 19th, in the same monologue Greenwald cited where Carlson excoriated Sydney Powell, Carlson opined regarding Rudy Giuliani’s statements at the famous press conference where he visibly shit hair dye from his head:

“Rudy Giuliani began by saying the Democrats stole the election and they did it with a coordinated fraud in a number of states. Giuliani did not conclusively prove that as every newsreader on television promptly informed you, but he did raise legitimate questions and in some cases, he pointed to what appeared to be real wrongdoing.”

It’s possible that Greenwald’s line of thinking in defending Carlson was based on lawyerly semantics: Carlson didn’t whole-heartedly embrace the election fraud theories in the manner of fellow Fox hosts Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs. He used more cautious language; however, he fully accepted the idea that something was amiss with the 2020 vote counting, even if he didn’t wholeheartedly embrace every voter fraud claim. It is disingenuous in the extreme for Greenwald to claim that Carlson did not encourage Fox viewers to believe in election fraud lies.

It’s worth noting that since late 2020, Carlson has become a 2020 election legitimacy denier without caveat. For example, on March 6th of this year he said on his show:

“[The January 6th protestors] believed that the election they had just voted in had been unfairly conducted. And they were right. In retrospect, it is clear the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy. Given the facts that have since emerged about that election, no honest person can deny it.”

Tucker Carlson and Iraq

During a different System Update episode filmed on the same day as the episode on Carlson and election fraud, Greenwald took another opportunity to perfume Carlson’s reputation. The occasion was Carlson’s appearance on the right-wing podcast Full Send. On the podcast, Carlson expressed regret for past mistakes made in his political commentator capacity. The only specific mistake Carlson referenced was his support for the Iraq War. On System Update, Greenwald was overcome by the moral majesty of Carlson’s repentance:

“Unlike Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, whose apologies are very begrudging and only when forced because they need to win an election, Tucker, I’ve heard him say it privately, I’ve heard him say it publicly many, many times. When he talks about the shame he feels for having publicly advocated the Iraq war, he feels it in the deepest part of his soul, and he hasn’t made excuses for himself. He talks about the shame he feels….(Transcript, System Update #57, 3/3/23).”

Neither Greenwald nor Carlson saw fit to elaborate on the reasons Carlson turned against the Iraq War. One possible reason was given by Carlson during an appearance on the Bubba the Love Sponge radio program in 2006 when he said:

Iraq is a crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semi-literate primitive monkeys, that’s why it wasn’t worth invading….

I hate the war. You know, I’m not defending the war in any way, but I just have zero sympathy for [Iraqis] or their culture. A culture where people just don’t use toilet paper or forks.”

….[Iraqis] can just shut the fuck up and obey, in my view. And, you know, the second we leave, they’re going to be calling for us to return because they can’t govern themselves.

In other words, he turned against the Iraq War because Iraqis, by resisting the occupation, revealed themselves to be “semi-literate primitive monkeys” unworthy of US beneficence. It is interesting that Greenwald did not refer to these comments on System Update, even to spin them in a way favorable to Carlson—possibly because they don’t align with his efforts to paint Carlson as a credible anti-war figure.

During the Trump administration, Carlson took somewhat peculiar positions for a Fox News host: he made vaguely critical noises about US support for Saudi Arabia; criticized US sanctions against Venezuela and Trump’s assassination of Qassim Soleimani. He made these criticisms not as someone who opposes US domination of the world but as someone who sometimes questions whether conventional tactics can secure that domination. He is an advocate for a US military build-up against China rather than Russia.

Regarding the “anti-war” and “anti-corporate” views of Carlson which so enchant Greenwald, frequent Counterpunch contributor Jonathan Cook wrote recently in Consortium News:

The reality is that the far right, first under Donald Trump and now through hybrid mainstream and social media stars like Tucker Carlson, have appropriated the concerns of the progressive left – unaccountable corporate power, dysfunctional politics, media collusion with the establishment, the war industries – and harnessed them to their own cause.

Yes, they have done so for entirely cynical reasons. They understand that young people sense the political and media systems are rigged. They understand that declining living standards are hitting the young hardest. They understand that the planet’s eco-systems are collapsing. They understand that turbo-charged capitalism offers no solutions and are determined to deflect attention from its real crises.

What [George] Monbiot terms the far right – some of it, beyond Trump and Carlson, is simply the disillusioned libertarian right – address these issues, even if they do so out of a mixture of bad faith and incompetence.

The Trumps and Carlsons want the discredited status quo to remain largely the same, but they also know the game is up. So they cosplay dissent to buy time – they steal ideas traditionally associated with the progressive left so they can pose as opposition to the technocratic establishment, which itself is cynically posturing as the rational, sensible centre.

According to Cook, Greenwald appears on Carlson’s show to “try to steal back the political concerns that were appropriated — cynically — by the right,” offering his “cutting” left wing “critiques of the US domestic and foreign policy establishment” to Fox News’ audience. This claim by Cook deserves far more attention than this article will allow. But even accepting the claim that Greenwald’s appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight further left-wing goals, must Greenwald compromise the truth as much as he does in defense of Carlson?

Chris Green has a master’s degree in history from Western Washington University. He can be reached at, his twitter handle is @Del4163.