Tucker Carlson believes the Biden administration is monitoring his personal emails with the goal of shutting him down—or at least, that’s what he claims a whistleblower at the National Security Agency told him.
The Fox News host made the claim during a Monday segment decrying the White House’s ongoing efforts to combat domestic extremism in the U.S., arguing that Americans are “much more likely to die from a lightning strike than at the hands of a white supremacist.” (He made this claim two days after a suspected white supremacist murdered two Black people near Boston.)
Carlson, who has pushed the theory that the FBI organized the attack on the Capitol, said that he’s currently the subject of a surveillance operation by the federal government for which the objective is getting his show canceled.
“Yesterday, we heard from a whistleblower within the U.S. government, who reached out to warn us that the NSA, the National Security Agency, is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take the show off the air,” Carlson claimed.
Carlson cited a “whistleblower who is in a position to know,” who “repeated back to us information about a story that we are working on that could have only come directly from my texts and emails. There’s no other possible source for that information.”
Carlson’s reporting should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism; last year, lawyers for Fox argued in court—”persuasively,” according to a federal judge—that in Carlson’s broadcasts he isn’t “stating actual facts” but rather employing “exaggeration” and “non-literal commentary.”
The NSA did not immediately respond to emails from VICE News requesting comment on Carlson’s claims, for which he has provided no evidence. Asked about Carlson’s claim during a press gaggle Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the NSA “is an entity that focuses on foreign threats and individuals who are attempting to do us harm on foreign soil, so that is their purview. But beyond that I would point you to the intelligence community.”
Government surveillance of journalists, however, has been a shared pastime of the last few administrations.
In recent weeks it’s been revealed that former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department secretly obtained or attempted to obtain the digital communications of various reporters from CNN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times in order to investigate the sources of leaks. The DOJ under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, also seized months worth of phone records from the Associated Press in 2013, also in an investigation over leaks.
In 2019, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a brief in federal court arguing that dragnet surveillance of Americans’ communications threatens reporters’ abilities to “investigate and report on important issues of public interest.”
The Fox host said the show has filed FOIA requests with the NSA and FBI, which he conceded would likely turn up nothing. He also called on federal policymakers to increase transparency.
“Only Congress can force transparency on the intelligence agencies, and they should do that immediately,” Carlson said. “Spying on opposition journalists is incompatible with democracy. If they are doing it to us—and again, they are definitely doing it to us—they are almost certainly doing it to others.”
This article has been updated throughout to reflect recent developments.