A provocative Fox News host and a Dutch historian who literally wrote the book advocating for open borders and basic universal income have a conversation. What could possibly go wrong? Surprisingly, not much — until about five minutes in. This video of Tucker Carlson and Rutger Bregman arguing in a taped interview is pretty much everything you need to know about ideological divides in the modern day.
The Carlson-Bregman interview never aired, but it still made the rounds across social media and the internet more broadly after Bregman released his own recorded version of the exchange on Wednesday, Feb. 20. (Welcome to 2019, y'all.) The interview turned messy when the two began talking about taxes, the wealthy, and corruption.
Bregman, author of the book Utopia for Realists, was invited onto the conservative pundit's show after making an eyebrow-raising appearance at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he shattered decorum by being harshly critical of global elites.
"We gotta be talking about taxes," Bregman said on a panel at the January 2019 forum. "1,500 private jets flew in here to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about how we're wrecking the planet... Almost no one raises the issue of tax avoidance. It feels like I'm at a firefighters' conference and no one's allowed to speak about water."
Getting off a good foot in the own interview, both Bregman and Carlson found common ground over the accusations of hypocrisy Bregman mentioned at the forum. But the conversation boiled into a heated exchange when Bregman criticized the news channel, the host, and the owners of Fox for being part of what he saw as the problem.
Bregman explained how corruption and tax avoidance at the top was a part of the problem with America's economy. Carlson pushed back, asking, "How does it work?"
"It works by you taking their dirty money," Bregman said, referring to the Murdoch family, an empire of media magnates that own Fox. "It's as easy as that. I mean, you are a millionaire funded billionaires, that's what you are … You're not part of the solution, Mr. Carlson. You're part of the problem. All the anchors of Fox, they're all millionaires."
"Fox doesn't even play where you are!" Carlson shot back.
"Well, have you heard of the internet?" Bregman responded with a laugh. Insisting he had watched it, he added, "I can't say I'm a fan of your show, but I do my homework when you invite me on your show." Elite Daily reached out to Fox News for comment or confirmation of Carlson's salary, but did not receive a response.
As to how so many Fox anchors, as he claimed, were millionaires, Bregman argued it was because they were being paid by the Murdochs, a media magnate family that owns the news corporation, not to say certain things. Rather, they were allegedly being directed to scapegoat the country's economic problems on immigrants rather than on the loopholes and tax breaks enjoyed by the wealthiest Americans — people like them. Representatives of Fox News referred Elite Daily's request for comment to Carlson's own video response.
But Carlson disputed the idea that it was because of corruption that he and his colleagues weren't talking about certain things on air.
"[Bregman] claimed that my corporate masters tell me what to say on this show," Carlson said in a subsequent video response from Feb. 20, addressing the release of the unaired interview. "Whatever my faults or those of this channel, nobody in management has never told us what positions to take on air, not one time. We have total freedom here."
Addressing the released interview, Carlson continued his response video with an apology:
I did what I try hard never to do in this show, and I was rude. I called him a moron and then I modified that word with a vulgar Anglo-Saxon term that is also intelligible in Dutch. In my defense, I would say that's entirely accurate. But you're not allowed to use that word on television, so once I said it out loud, there was no airing the segment. ... There is some profanity, and I apologize for that. On the other hand, it was genuinely heartfelt. I meant it with total sincerity.
With nearly 7.9 million views of the NowThis video as of 12 noon ET on Thursday, it's clear that the interview that never was still ended up getting lots of play on the online airwaves.
For his part, Bregman didn't seem too apologetic. "I stand by what I said," he wrote in the Feb. 20 tweet releasing the audio. "I chose to release it, because I think we should keep talking about the corrupting influence of money in politics. It also shows how angry elites can get if you do that."
So there you have it. If anything, the disaster exchange might make for some great person-walks-into-a-bar jokes later on.