Former Vice President Mike Pence answers questions from former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson on July 14, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. Several Republican presidential candidates were scheduled to speak at the event, billed as “the largest gathering of Christians in the Midwest seeking cultural transformation in family, church, government, and more.”
DES MOINES, Iowa — Tucker Carlson can no longer air his anti-Ukraine, anti-vaccine and Jan. 6 views on Fox News, but on Friday he was able to make his conspiracy theories the main topics of a forum of key candidates on the road to the Republican caucuses in Iowa.
Carlson – who just days ago gave a lengthy interview with rapist and human trafficker Andrew Tate – asked South Carolina Senator Tim Scott why the country’s 12 million undocumented immigrants could not be picked up and dropped off in Tijuana, Mexico.
He asked former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson why he supported COVID vaccines, saying “many” people have been harmed by them.
He opened with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley throwing out a favorite conspiracy theory that Democratic President Joe Biden couldn’t have won 81 million votes in the 2020 election, and therefore , there must have been huge amounts of fraud.
And he has harassed former Vice President Mike Pence both over his role in blocking Donald Trump’s bid to stay in power despite losing the 2020 election as well as his support for Ukraine in its efforts to repel the invasion of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
“Are you upset that the Ukrainians don’t have enough American tanks? Carlson asked, then claimed that every city in the United States is filthy and crime-ridden. “Yet your concern is that the Ukrainians, a country that most people can’t find on a map…don’t have enough tanks?”
Pence, who had previously dismissed Carlson’s allegation that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was persecuting Russian Orthodox priests because of their religious beliefs, became visibly irritated.
“Tucker, I’ve heard the routine from you before,” Pence replied. “Anyone who says we can’t be the leader of the free world and solve our problems at home has a pretty small vision of the greatest nation on Earth.”
Pence reiterated his position that if Putin were to take control of Ukraine, he would then target a NATO ally of the United States, and that Ukraine’s fight against Russia served an important American interest. “A year and a half ago, Russia had the second most powerful army in the world. Today they have the second strongest army in Ukraine,” Pence said.
The former vice president later told reporters he wishes other issues – such as abortion – could have come up during his 25 minutes on stage. “I’m really never surprised by Tucker Carlson,” he said.
Carlson was recruited to interview the six presidential candidates who appeared at the forum by Bob Vander Plaats, the leader of the evangelical Christian group Family Leader who sponsored the event. He could not be reached for an interview on Friday.
Carlson was the keynote speaker at last year’s summit, and Vander Plaats said in his opening remarks that he invited Carlson to handle the onstage interviews earlier this year.
Participants had mixed opinions on Carlson’s approach.
Donna Jost, a 66-year-old retiree from Morton, Ill., said she doesn’t think NATO should exist at all. She was therefore delighted that Carlson made US support for Ukraine a priority. “I support him,” she said, adding that Carlson was going after all the candidates, not just Pence. “He hits everyone at a point of weakness.”
But Joan Bundt, who is 83 and said the householder summits were a highlight of her year, said she was not happy with Carlson or his questions. “Personally, I just thought it was offensive,” she said, wondering why Carlson didn’t ask any of the contestants during the morning session about abortion or school vouchers or other issues important to Iowa conservatives. “He talks about what he wants to talk about.”
Carlson was fired from his Fox News program shortly after the network settled with Dominion Voting Systems for $787 million after the voting machine company launched a libel suit. Carlson and other Fox hosts and guests have repeatedly claimed — wrongly — that the company’s machines were part of a plot to steal the 2020 election from Trump. Trump in turn based his January 6, 2021 coup attempt on anger over the election among his supporters.