When Ted Cruz asked to be interviewed by Tucker Carlson after his comments in Congress, Fox News staffers must have thought their dreams had come true.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz was appearing on the show to explain what he said on the floor of the Senate, which was discussing the one year anniversary of the riot on Capitol Hill.
He said; “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week … And it is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.”
Many Republicans, both privately and publicly reacted with shock and alarm at Cruz labelling the protestors and rioters as “terrorists”.
This made for ripe territory for Tucker Carlson, and when the Senator asked to come on his show, it must have been like another Christmas Day.
Carlson immediately went for the juggular, and gave Cruz no wiggle room at all. He said; “Senator, thanks so much for coming on. There are a lot of dumb people in the Congress. You are not one of them.
“I think you’re smarter than I am. And you never use words carelessly. And yet you called this a terror attack when by no definition was it a terror attack. That’s a lie. You told that lie on purpose, and I’m wondering why you did.”
Senator Cruz, clearly on the back-foot, gave every interviewer and journalist’s favourite answer… something contradictory and an attempt at a nonsense apology. Cruz responded; “Well, Tucker, thank you for having me on.
“When you aired your episode last night I sent you a text shortly thereafter and said listen, I would like to go on because the way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb.”
As a seasoned interviewer and journalist, Carlson was having none of it. He responded; “I’ve known you a long time since before you went to Senate. You were a Supreme Court contender. You take words as seriously as any man who has ever served in the Senate, and every word, you repeated that phrase, I do not believe you that used that accidentally. I just don’t.”
For a politician, to be called out in such a way, with no counter-argument, on a high rating television channel – no less one that leans in their favour – is highly embarassing, if not politically damaging.
One thing is for sure, the art of the political interview on television is certainly alive, and this kind of live broadcast grilling of politicians is what makes the media so important in society and democracy.
We all witnessed a politician being held to account and being kept honest.