Tucker Carlson and his wife were looking to get their son a leg up in his college application to Georgetown University when they turned to a well-connected Washington friend who had an even better-connected father.
Tucker Carlson offered that his son was a good squash player and an excellent fly fisherman. “He loves Washington for all the right reasons, I think,” Carlson added, “and really wants to go to school here.” When Biden agreed to write a letter of recommendation, Susie Carlson added a heap of praise: “Tucker and I have the greatest respect and admiration for you. Always!”
The Carlsons’ past entreaties to Biden may come as a surprise to many present-day viewers of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the highly rated prime-time Fox News show on which the host has repeatedly ridiculed Biden for seeking to profit off his family connections and at times for his history of personal troubles and drug use.
The interactions reveal the extent to which Carlson was willing to turn on a former associate as he thrives in a hyperpartisan media world in which conservatives have made Biden a prime target for attack during his father’s presidency. They also show how Carlson once sought to benefit from the elite political circles in Washington that he now regularly rails against as the “ruling class.”
“When your dad is president, you get superpowers,” Carlson said in October 2021 during a segment about Biden pursuing a new career as an artist. “Maybe Hunter Biden will invent a new vaccine next we will be required to take. Who knows? You never know. The sky is the limit when your dad is in power.”
Some emails between Tucker Carlson and Biden, saved on a device copied from a laptop that Biden purportedly left at a Delaware computer repair shop in 2019, have been previously reported. The Washington Post has verified many of those emails through a forensic analysis and corroborated additional messages, including the correspondence with Carlson’s wife, with a person familiar with the communications.
Tucker Carlson, during a 15-minute phone interview, said that he was once close with Biden, as he has stated on his show.
“Hunter Biden was my neighbor. Our wives were friends. I knew him well. I talked to him many times about addiction, something I know a lot about,” Carlson said. “And I’ve said that. I think that Hunter Biden is an addict and that’s why his life is falling apart, and I feel bad for him. I’ve said that many times, and I mean it.”
But Carlson refused to discuss the emails, pointing to past claims by former U.S. intelligence officials that the laptop’s emergence in the final weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign had all the hallmarks of Russian disinformation.
Carlson was speaking with apparent irony, as he has frequently mocked those disinformation claims as part of an effort by establishment figures and the tech industry to protect Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. Social media companies that had been widely criticized for spreading disinformation in the 2016 campaign sought in 2020 to block the spread of early news stories about the laptop.
“I can’t confirm these emails. The emails that you’re referring to were described by our intel community as Russian disinformation,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have access to the account so could not verify the emails. “So why would I? And I read that in The Washington Post.”
“I would just remind you that there’s a war going on,” he added. “And loose lips sink ships.”
On his show earlier this month, when Carlson hosted the owner of the computer repair shop where Biden purportedly left his laptop, the host predicted that the “Russia hysteria will not age well,” adding: “Everyone’s admitting the laptop was not Russian disinformation. It’s real. It was Hunter Biden’s.”
Hunter Biden declined a request for an interview through his lawyer.
The illumination of the Biden-Carlson relationship is one of the more unexpected chapters in the trove of correspondence included on the copy of the Biden laptop, much of which has been widely cited to document Biden’s overseas business dealings during his father’s time in office as well as his personal travails.
A copy of the laptop hard drive was provided to The Post by Jack Maxey, an activist who received a copy from Rudy Giuliani in 2020, at a time when Maxey was working with Stephen K. Bannon and his “War Room” podcast. Two security experts who did a forensic analysis of the data at the request of The Post were able to verify a portion of the emails as authentic communications. The emails cited in this report were either verified by the analysts or recently corroborated by a person familiar with the communications.
After articles surfaced in the New York Post in October 2020, The Washington Post had requested a copy of the material to independently assess — repeatedly asking Giuliani and Bannon for a copy of the data to review before the election — but the requests were rebuffed or ignored. The Washington Post wrote about the New York Post articles at the time and, in March, began publishing reports based on its own review of the data.
The request for Hunter Biden to help their son get into Georgetown came at a time when the Bidens and the Carlsons were close. “Tucker and I would be so grateful if you could write a letter or speak to someone in the Georgetown Admission’s Office about Buckley,” Susie Carlson wrote.
Biden wrote back that he would be honored, and he agreed to prepare a letter to the president of the university. “I will do anything you would like me to do.”
Tucker Carlson supplied a summary of his son’s attributes, hobbies and academic record. He added that his son was a compulsive reader, enjoyed the outdoors and spent a month on a sailboat.
The next day, Carlson sent a note of gratitude.
“I can’t thank you enough for writing that letter to Georgetown on Bucky’s behalf,” he wrote. “So nice of you. I know it’ll help. Hope you’re great and we can all get dinner soon.”
It is unclear whether Biden ended up writing the letter. It is also unclear whether Buckley Carlson got into Georgetown, but he attended the University of Virginia. Buckley Carlson, who is now the communications director for Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), did not respond to requests for comment.
Tucker Carlson declined to comment about the request for a letter of recommendation, saying only that his son did not go to Georgetown.
The unlikely connection between Biden and Carlson illustrates the ways Washington works, or at least used to, with odd alliances combining forces to help one another with personal favors. Each now is seen by one part of the political spectrum as the personification of evil.
After some portions of the email exchanges were previously made public, when Trump ally Lin Wood posted one of them on social media, liberals who had long questioned the authenticity of other emails rushed to point out Carlson’s hypocrisy. Some conservatives, who have pilloried the Bidens for trying to do family favors, downplayed Carlson’s efforts as merely a father trying to help a son.
In reality, for years there was a chummy relationship between Biden and Carlson, two on-the-rise figures who became fixtures in the Washington establishment.
And while Hunter Biden was willing to offer a helping hand for his son, Tucker Carlson later jumped in to try to help Hunter Biden.
In 2015, for example, Biden sent an urgent message to Carlson: “Call me pls.”
Hunter Biden’s name was on a list of those leaked as apparently having accounts with Ashley Madison, a site for those seeking to have extramarital affairs, and he was concerned about a news story that would break on it. The account purportedly associated with his name, Hunter Biden said, did not have his credit card number or his correct birthday.
Carlson responded quickly, saying that he was happy to intervene.
“Just lost my s--- on the editor over there,” Carlson wrote in an email. “He claims the London office forced him to do it. He’s a pig either way, and I told him so. This whole thing is disgusting and awful and it breaks my heart that you all have to go through it. I’m really sorry. Let me know if there’s anything Susie and I can do to help.”
Biden then apologized for reaching out.
“I’m sorry for even calling you,” he wrote in an email. “I know I put you in a difficult position- and upon reflection as you’re friend I should have never done that.”
He was going through a tough time, Biden added. The email came three months after his brother Beau had died. Although he didn’t write it, his marriage was collapsing.
“I’ve been in DE the last two months sleeping in my nephew’s bed, and it’s hard to even get up in the morning sometimes,” he wrote.
Biden said he was particularly shaken that reporters had apparently confronted one of his daughters at their house about the accusation.
“Regardless, I should have never put you in this position — you have your own family all of whom I love, and your own business and defending me is not something a friend should ask a friend to do,” Biden added. “Tell Susie we love her and miss you both very much.”
Carlson responded with gusto, attempting to lift up a friend who had been laid low.
“Are you kidding? I’m glad you called,” he wrote in an email. “What they did was repulsive and immoral and I hope I wrecked their day. I certainly tried to. F--- them. Let me know if there’s any way we can help.”
In December, when DailyMail.com published an article on Carlson’s emails with Biden, Carlson commented on those exchanges saying that it had been a story from that news outlet about the Ashley Madison leak that he was trying to quash.
A “Daily Mail reporter showed up at his house when he wasn’t home and informed one of his daughters that her dad was cheating on her mom. I don’t care if it’s Hunter Biden or not, that’s awful,” he said in a statement to that news organization. “I knew the Daily Mail’s Washington editor at the time, so I called and told him I thought he was a pig for doing that. That’s still my opinion.”
A DailyMail.com spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
During the time when they were close, Carlson and Biden were clearly at different ends of the political spectrum, with Carlson working as a conservative commentator at Fox News and launching the online news site the Daily Caller. But that period predated his show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which began airing after the 2016 election and the rise of Donald Trump.
With Carlson’s show, which became the highest-rated cable news show in the country, he began focusing on Hunter Biden. And the friend who once sought to protect Biden became the television host who sought to skewer him.
A review of transcripts from the past three years of Carlson’s show illustrates how he at times appears torn over talking about his onetime friend. He has disclosed on his show that he knows Biden and has called him “a very likable guy.”
But Carlson has also cited him as an example of “how it really works in our ruling class.”
“It’s brought attention to the lucrative jobs that Hunter Biden was able to get because he had an important father,” Carlson said, not disclosing that he had once enlisted Biden to help get his son into a prestigious private university.
“In America today, there’s nothing illegal about paying de facto bribes by handing fake jobs to the unqualified family members of powerful people,” he said on the Jan. 13, 2020, show. “And since it is perfectly legal, naturally, Hunter Biden isn’t the only one shamelessly cashing in on his family name — hardly.”
Carlson at times has also appeared uneasy over citing the laptop materials. When news first broke in October 2020, he led his show with stories about the contents. He said that although he couldn’t prove the emails were authentic, he had no doubt they were real.
But he also said there were certain lines he wouldn’t cross.
“Much of the material on the laptop is of limited relevance to the public,” he said on Oct. 19, 2020. “Not everything a famous person does in the course of a day has news value. Some of the pictures in the laptop were sad and weird, of prurient interest only. We’re not going to show the bad ones on this show.
“And by the way, if we’re being honest, some of the exchanges between Hunter Biden and his father, and they are on there, too, reveal that whatever you say about them, Joe Biden really loves his son, and they’re touching,” Carlson added. “We want to be honest about that.”
A few days before the 2020 election, Carlson said that he had documents relating to Biden that he wouldn’t show, because Hunter Biden was not the one running for office.
“Hunter Biden is a fallen man at this point,” Carlson stated. “And I should also say that I knew Hunter Biden fairly well. We lived near each other in Washington for quite some time. I knew his wife, who is an absolutely outstanding person, a good person.
“I never thought Hunter Biden was a bad person. I thought he had demons. But in the time I knew him, he kept them mostly under control. At some point, he lost control of those demons, and the world knows that now. He is now humiliated and alone.”
Carlson said he didn’t exactly feel sorry for Biden, but “pounding on a man, jumping on, piling on, when he is already down is something that we don’t want to be involved in.”
In the months after the election, however — and particularly after Biden attempted to sell his memoir and his artwork — Carlson stepped up his criticism.
“Well, like herpes, the Hunter Biden story keeps going,” Carlson said on June 16, 2021, previewing a segment after Hunter Biden’s memoir came out. “You can treat its symptoms, but you can't really make it go away.”
“When Hunter Biden smokes crack, he does it in style,” Carlson said in February, introducing a segment on Biden administration drug policies.
Carlson did segments on Hunter Biden’s memoir coming out, on reports from ABC News that the Secret Service is spending $30,000 to rent a home near Biden to protect him, and on his attempt to launch a career as an artist.
“So again, let’s say you were a crackhead through your 40s, made a lot of pornographic videos mostly of yourself, your genitals covered in M&Ms, and then once you got to your 50s, decide, ‘Hey, I want to be Andy Warhol,’ ” Carlson said on Oct. 26, 2021. “You probably couldn’t do it unless your dad happened to be the president, and that’s how Hunter Biden pulled that off.”
Carlson has often tried to cast the blame on those close to Hunter Biden — “the people around him are awful” — and has suggested that Hunter Biden, just as he himself once did, is merely attempting to use the opportunities and connections that are presented to him.
“It’s good to be Hunter Biden. It’s kind of not his fault,” Carlson said on July 30, 2021. “He is just taking advantage of a situation that fell into his lap.”
Alice Crites, Tom Hamburger and Craig Timberg contributed to this report.