Why is Tucker Carlson in UAE after controversial Russia visit?

American media personality Tucker Carlson praised the United Arab Emirates as a better place to live than parts of the United States at an event in Dubai on Monday, while also using the forum to attack US policy on Ukraine and Gaza.

The former Fox News host, who now has his own show on X, spoke at the World Government Summit in the UAE’s largest city. The annual event brings together thought leaders from around the world to discuss global issues. Artificial intelligence is a major feature of this year’s event, and Monday’s speakers included CEO of the Emirati AI firm G42 Peng Xiao and UAE AI Minister Omar Al-Olama in addition to Carlson. He was interviewed by Egyptian journalist Emad Eldin Adeeb.

Carlson’s remarks focused heavily on the war in Ukraine, coming less than a week after his interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Carlson criticized the US position on Ukraine, calling in one instance the US view that Crimea should return to Ukraine “insane.”

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 at the start of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war that preceded the 2022 invasion.

Carlson further claimed that the US administration is convinced Russia will invade Poland.

Adeeb pushed back against Carlson at times. On the point of Poland, Adeeb asked Carlson why he did not press Putin more on the invasion of Ukraine in light of Putin saying he has no intention of invading Poland. Carlson defended himself by pointing to his first question in the interview in which he questioned Putin’s justification for the Ukraine invasion.

Adeeb asked Carlson why the United States has not joined other countries in calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Carlson accused the United States of abetting war in response, though he did not mention Israel nor the Palestinians specifically.

“If you see a nation with awesome power, abetting war for its own sake, you have a leadership that has no moral authority, that is illegitimate,” he said. “I’m not even referring to any specific region or conflict. I mean generally, and I’m deeply offended by that.”

Carlson also praised Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as Moscow, Singapore and Tokyo, comparing them favorably to areas of the United States and dismissing criticism of their governments.

“These cities, no matter how we’re told they’re run and on what principles they’re run, are wonderful places to live,” said Carlson. 

This is not the first time Carlson has spoken highly of the UAE. In an interview with the Swiss outlet Die Weltwoche in September of last year, he called UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan the “wisest and most interesting leader” he has ever spoken to. Carlson had recently returned from a trip to the UAE at the time.

Why it matters: Carlson is a polarizing figure in the United States. Since his firing from Fox News last year, he has vociferously criticized US foreign policy, and propagated conspiracy theories on immigration and race. Carlson has been accused of bigotry for some of his remarks. During his first show on X in June 2023, he called Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy “ratlike,” invoking a stereotype about Jews.

Carlson had a degree of influence over former US President Donald Trump concerning foreign policy. The New York Times reported in 2019 that Carlson was influential in convincing Trump to not strike Iran after the Islamic Republic downed a US drone.

Know more: The UAE is seeking to boost its holdings in international media amid the World Government Summit and Carlson’s appearance in Dubai. Late last year, reports emerged that a UAE-backed fund planned to take over the Telegraph Media Group in the United Kingdom. The group publishes the eponymous Telegraph newspaper, and the move prompted concerns about press freedom.

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