Tucker Carlson emailed Russian “intermediaries” in the United States about an interview with Vladimir Putin before he claimed the National Security Agency was spying on his communications, according to reports.
Quoting “sources familiar with the conversations”, Axios said Carlson was in talks with the US-based Kremlin contacts to secure an interview with the Russian president when US government officials learned of the efforts.
The report comes after Carlson said on Fox News earlier on Wednesday that his emails were leaked to journalists in an “effort to discredit me”.
Speaking to Fox Business colleague Maria Bartiromo, Carlson said a reporter confirmed that his private emails were leaked to the media.
“There was one other person who knew I sent that e-mail, and it was my executive producer Justin Wells, that’s it, and I didn’t mention it to anybody else, including my wife,” Carlson said.
“There’s no possibility that anyone else could have known and then again yesterday I got a call before air like 7.15, from a journalist I know and like, not many left, but do I like this person he repeated back to me what’s in my email. He got it, because the NSA leaked it, so, yes, entirely real.”
A Fox News spokesperson directed The Independent to the company’s statement to Axios that they support their hosts pursuing interviews and stories free of government interference.
Carlson, meanwhile, told the outlet: “As I’ve said repeatedly, because it’s true, the NSA read my emails, and then leaked their contents. That’s an outrage, as well as illegal.”
While the sources quoted by Axios said Carlson was discussing the Putin interview at the time of the spying claims, the outlet did not confirm whether or not his communications had been intercepted.
The NSA took the unusual step of publicly responding to the Fox News anchor’s claims that they had read his emails but did not go as far as outright denying that the agency was in possession of his correspondence.
In a 29 June statement they instead said he has never been a “target of the Agency” and that they “never had any plans to try to take his program off the air”, which does not directly address Carlson’s claim that they have his private emails and texts.
When reached by the publication to categorically deny any of Carlson’s communications were intercepted, the NSA refused to comment and referred back to its previous statement.
While Carlson supporters like Marjorie Taylor Greene took the Axios report as confirmation the NSA spied on him for doing his job, the truth of whether they did remains unclear.
“The NSA spied on Tucker Carlson for reaching out through proper channels to interview Putin, just like NBC did only a few weeks ago. The NSA unmasked an American citizen for doing his job,” Ms Taylor Greene tweeted.
The sources used as the basis for the report said that the two Kremlin contacts in conversations with Carlson were based in the United States but did not confirm whether they were American citizens or in the country at the time of the correspondence.