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‘I meant it with total sincerity’: Tucker Carlson defends viral profanity-laced clash with Dutch historian

Fox News host Tucker Carlson responded Feb. 20 to a now-viral video of a spiked interview in which he swore at Dutch historian Rutger Bregman. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)
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Fox News host Tucker Carlson responded Wednesday to a now-viral video of an unaired interview in which he swore at a guest, calling him a “moron” and a “tiny brain,” by apologizing for his use of profanity but defending his fiery reaction as “entirely accurate.”

“I did what I try hard never to do on this show, and I was rude,” Carlson said in a video posted to Fox News’s website about his exchange with Dutch historian Rutger Bregman. The host later added, “There is some profanity and I apologize for that. On the other hand, it was genuinely heartfelt. I meant it with total sincerity.”

Last week, Carlson invited Bregman onto his show following the historian’s January appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Bregman made headlines worldwide after he excoriated the Alpine conference’s attendees — a who’s who of global elites — for tax avoidance.

But viewers never saw Carlson’s interview with Bregman, who wrote on Twitter last week that the host called him a “f---ing moron.” In another tweet, Bregman said he had a recording of the entire exchange, prompting many to push for the video to be released.

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On Wednesday afternoon, the people got what they wanted.

“Here’s the interview that @TuckerCarlson and Fox News didn’t want you to see,” Bregman tweeted, sharing a roughly eight-minute-long video published by NowThis News that had been viewed more than 6 million times as of early Thursday. “I chose to release it, because I think we should keep talking about the corrupting influence of money in politics. It also shows how angry elites can get if you do that.”

The segment appeared to begin as a civil discussion about taxes that took a turn when Bregman called out Fox News, claiming that the people on the channel, along with those at Davos, had been “bought by the billionaire class.”

“Almost all the pundits on this channel for years have been against higher taxes, right?” Bregman said.

Carlson could be heard stammering before responding, “It would be interesting to know how many hours of Fox you’ve watched.”

The host then directed the conversation back to tax avoidance, but Bregman wasn’t finished with his critique of Fox News. He accused Carlson of being a “millionaire funded by billionaires” and “part of the problem,” arguing that all the anchors on Fox News are millionaires because they don’t broach certain topics.

“Fox doesn’t even play where you are,” Carlson retorted, which led to Bregman asking the host if he had “heard of the Internet.”

“I can watch things, whatever I want, you know” Bregman said, chuckling.

The verbal sparring continued as Carlson insisted that he does talk about issues that may be unpopular among the wealthy, but Bregman remained unswayed.

“You jumped the bandwagon.” he said. “You’re all like, ‘Oh, I’m against the globalist elite,’ blah, blah, blah. It’s not very convincing to be honest.”

With that comment, Carlson unleashed a torrent of profanity and insults.

“I want to say to you, why don’t you go f--- yourself, you tiny brain,” the host said. “I hope this gets picked up because you’re a moron. I tried to give you a hearing, but you were too f---ing annoying.”

In tweets to his more than 2.48 million followers on Wednesday, Carlson hinted that an explanation for the spiked interview was coming, before sharing the Fox News video shortly after his show had ended. (Carlson did not address Bregman’s interview on air).

In the video, Carlson said the interview started smoothly, but went off the rails after Bregman “launched into an attack on Fox News.”

“It’s not clear that Bregman has ever seen Fox, but he wanted to make his point, fine,” he said. “But then he claimed my corporate masters tell me what to say on this show, and that was too much.”

Carlson defended his employer, praising the network for giving his show the “total freedom” to “say exactly what we think is true, for better or worse.”

Bregman, however, was not convinced of that, Carlson said, which sparked his profanity-laced outburst and caused the interview to be unusable.

“I called him a moron and then I modified that word with a vulgar Anglo-Saxon term that is also intelligible in Dutch,” Carlson said. “In my defense, I would say that that was entirely accurate, but you’re not allowed to use that word on television, so once I said it out loud, there was no airing the segment.”

In a statement emailed to The Washington Post, Justin Wells, senior executive producer of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” said Bregman “turned an opportunity to have a substantive, informative discussion into an obviously calculated personal insult campaign.”

"We were disappointed in the segment and respect our audience’s time too much to consider airing it,” Wells said.

On Twitter, Bregman said there was only “one thing” he regretted not doing in the interview: quoting famed linguist Noam Chomsky.

Social media was rife with reactions to the leaked interview, and Carlson’s name was still trending on Twitter late Wednesday, with hundreds of thousands of mentions. Critics skewered the host for his behavior during the segment and his subsequent reasoning, while also applauding Bregman. But for some of Carlson’s fans, the heated exchange only made them adore him more.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) enthusiastically backed Bregman, quoting him in a tweet and highlighting the conversation’s “direct, relentless clarity.”

Carlson’s reasons for not airing the interview were also met with criticism, as some theorized that embarrassment may have been a larger factor.

“Seems pretty obvious why,” tweeted former professional tennis player James Blake. “You got made to look a fool by someone much more intelligent than you and your ego couldn’t take it.”

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, issued an even more scathing response.

In an expletive-laden tweet, Avenatti called Carlson a “complete . . . hack who talks a big game” and slammed him for being “too afraid to book real guests.”

But the host was not without his supporters Wednesday, who rallied to his defense.

“Carlson is one of the better, hard-hitting journalists in this business,” one person tweeted. “The fact he’s even addressed the story, which let’s face it; a lot of people wouldn’t even want to, shows that he does care about the responsibility he holds to people as a journalist.”