Fox News host Tucker Carlson angrily lashed out on Thursday night over the fact that journalists filed a Freedom of Information Act request on his FOIA request to the National Security Agency, calling one reporter—who has a lengthy history of exposing the intelligence community’s abuses—a “stooge.”
Over the past week and a half, Carlson has devoted much of his airtime to accusing the NSA of spying on his communications so the Biden administration could force his program off the air. While the NSA issued a rare statement rebuking the Fox star’s claims, Carlson continued to double down before eventually saying he had proof that “the NSA leaked the contents of my e-mail to journalists in an effort to discredit me.”
The ongoing drama took several strange turns this week when Axios reported that Carlson’s attempts to secure an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin through U.S.-based Kremlin intermediaries was the basis of his explosive accusation. Even though Axios reported that government officials learned about the outreach, the story added: “It is unclear why Carlson, or his source, would think this outreach could be the basis for NSA surveillance or a motive to have his show canceled.”
At the same time this week, both BuzzFeed and The Intercept’s Ken Klippenstein filed a FOIA request to the NSA requesting Carlson’s FOIA request to the agency. (Carlson said he had filed one when he first made his allegations.) A copy of the Fox host’s request, which was filed by one of his producers, showed that Carlson’s request for information from the NSA was extremely broad and covered a period dating back to Jan. 2019.
“I am requesting any call records, texts, or emails the NSA has obtained from journalist Tucker Carlson’s cell phone or email,” the Tucker Carlson Tonight producer wrote. “I am requesting any memos or documents related to surveilling journalist Tucker Carlson. I am requesting any communication between NSA officials regarding journalist Tucker Carlson.”
The idea that reporters would use basic journalistic tools to verify his claims, however, set Carlson off on Thursday night—and he took specific aim at Klippenstein.
Grumbling that the NSA had yet to respond to his cumbersome and extremely generalized FOIA request, the conservative host then complained that the agency “did promptly respond to some stooge at The Intercept, which is some joke billionaire-funded website.”
Airing an image of Klippenstein, Carlson fumed that “this guy filed a FOIA request about our FOIA request” while insisting that it “crystalized the total degradation of American journalism because the Intercept was founded to push back against the surveillance state.” He added that it was founded by frequent Fox News guest Glenn Greenwald, who left the site acrimoniously amid cries of censorship when he was subjected to editing of his work.
“They are busy covering it up and cheering it on,” Carlson exclaimed. “You would think that instead of FOIA’ing our FOIA requests… why don’t you figure out what the NSA is doing, the largest intel agency in the world? That might occupy your time! That might be a virtuous thing to do.”
He continued: “It doesn’t occur [to them]. Because of course, they support them and its excesses.”
Klippenstein, despite Carlson’s description, has extensively reported on the excesses of America’s surveillance state and the intelligence community. He has also carved out a reputation for using FOIA requests to help expose under-reported governmental abuses.
Following Carlson’s over-the-top reaction to his FOIA request, Klippenstein noted on Twitter that it was “funny” since he was “seemingly one of the few people” who thought it was plausible the NSA could have incidentally collected information on the Fox host.
“So I FOIA’d his FOIA to find out specifics,” Klippenstein added. “But this is all pro wrestling to him so he can’t imagine journalistic curiosity.”