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Opinion Tucker Carlson lets President Trump hold a rally on his show

Fox News host Tucker Carlson. (Richard Drew/AP)

When President Trump sat for an interview on Monday with Fox News host Sean Hannity, moments after his grimly historic Helsinki press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he made a reference to someone else on the premises. “[Putin] also says there is absolutely no collusion, which you know, and everybody that watches your show knows, and I think most of the country knows, and Tucker standing over there definitely knows, because he gets it. He’s one of the people that get it.”

That “Tucker” would be Tucker Carlson, another Fox News host who also interviewed Trump in Helsinki. And, as viewers discovered on Tuesday night’s edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Tucker “gets it.”

By “getting it,” we’re talking about allowing Trump to essentially hold one of his patented rallies, only this time in interview format. Such was the effect of Carlson’s mild and minimal intervention over the roughly 15-minute session. Journalists typically pose questions to a president in such a setting. What Carlson tossed to Trump, however, were more like invitations — invitations to reprise well-rehearsed riffs sure to please Carlson’s audience.

For example, immigration is a hot topic these days, so Carlson could have asked, “What have you done, personally, to expedite the reunification of families ripped apart as they arrived at the U.S. border?” Instead, we got this from the host: “As you’ve traveled around Europe and looked at Europe over the years, can you think of a place that’s been improved by mass immigration or movements of large numbers of refugees?” At the start of his predictable response, Trump said, “Not one.”

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He also asked this: “Why do you think so many political and cultural leaders in the United States disagree with you and are making the case that borders are themselves immoral?” Got that? Carlson asked the president — a man who doesn’t read — to comment on the intellectual climate of the United States.

On the topic of the week — Trump’s decision to side with Putin against the U.S. government on foreign soil — Carlson asked this question, which kicked off the session: “The reaction to your press conference in Washington was swift and intense. Former CIA director John Brennan called it ‘treasonous’ and a potentially impeachable offense. Why the push toward conflict in Washington, on both sides?” See that? Let’s enlist Trump as a pundit, as a commentator on contemporary America, rather than pressing him on just why-oh-why he was so convinced by the “extremely strong and powerful” Putin in his denial of interference.

Ignore the critics who say Sarah Huckabee Sanders's stonewalling makes press briefings a waste of time. (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

In his CNN newsletter, “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter termed such moments “missed opportunities.” No, they’re part of the plan. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” used Trump to cement its go-to status as the TV show for immigration hard-liners and white nationalists. These are the folks who love nothing more than to hear Trump say, “The immigration policies in Europe are a disaster, you’re destroying Europe, you’re destroying the culture of Europe. The crime is up in those areas. And you better do something — I tell them that . . . But the culture’s changing rapidly.” At that, Carlson asked what are the lessons for the United States, which touched off a Trump riff on the wall.

None of the foregoing, however, shall be permitted to diminish the reputation of Tucker Carlson as a tough interviewer.

Because even though he gave a pass to the president of the United States, he sure did stick it to a writer at “Elite Daily.”

And even though he indulged the president of the United States, he blasted the communications director of the Working Families Party.

And even though he softballed the president of the United States, he took the fight to a liberal attorney.

And even though he assisted the president of the United States, he held a college student’s feet to the fire.

And even though he shilled for the president of the United States, he demanded accountability from a Democratic strategist.

And even though he welcomed the president of the United States to showcase his talking points, he sure did own the Erik Wemple Blog.

And even though he journalistically caressed the president of the United States, he got tough with an immigration protester.

If it weren’t for the brave actions of Tucker Carlson, that powerful cabal would be ruining the country right about now.

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