Tucker Carlson aired DeSantis dog-kicking claims in book before public denial, author claims

‘The source on this is Tucker himself. I just reflect what he told me,’ Michael Wolff says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 26 September 2023 17:08 BST
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Related video: DeSantis lists reasons he is better than Trump

Author Michael Wolff has claimed that Tucker Carlson was the source for his claim that Florida Governor and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis shoved and possibly also kicked the rightwing pundit’s dog during a lunch.

Mr Wolff told Mediaite’s podcast The Interview that Mr Carlson told him about the awkward incident before the broadcaster then chose to deny the allegation.

The author writes in his new book The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty that Mr DeSantis and his wife Casey DeSantis had dinner with Mr Carlson and his wife Susie at their home in Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island on Florida’s western coast.

Mr Wolff writes that the DeSantises didn’t make a great impression on the couple, that the governor spoke in an “outdoor voice indoors,” that he focused on his own achievements, and that they had a complete “inability to read the room”.

The governor also allegedly “pushed” the Carlsons’ dog under the table.

The incident was included in an excerpt of the book published in New York magazine on 20 September.

“Carlson put DeSantis’s fate to a focus group of one: his wife. When they lived in Washington, Susie Carlson wouldn’t even see politicians. Carlson himself may have known everyone, dirtied himself for a paycheck, but not his wife,” Mr Wolff writes. “In her heart, it was 1985 and still a Wasp world, absent people, in Susie Carlson’s description and worldview, who were ‘impolite, hyperambitious, fraudulent.’ She had no idea what was happening in the news and no interest in it. Her world was her children, her dogs, and the books she was reading. So the DeSantises were put to the Susie Carlson test.”

“They failed it miserably. They had a total inability to read the room — one with a genteel, stay-at-home woman, here in her own house,” Mr Wolff adds. “For two hours, Ron DeSantis sat at her table talking in an outdoor voice indoors, failing to observe any basics of conversational ritual or propriety, reeling off an unself-conscious list of his programs and initiatives and political accomplishments. Impersonal, cold, uninterested in anything outside of himself.”

“The Carlsons are dog people with four spaniels, the progeny of other spaniels they have had before, who sleep in their bed. DeSantis pushed the dog under the table. Had he kicked the dog? Susie Carlson’s judgment was clear: She did not ever want to be anywhere near anybody like that ever again. Her husband agreed. DeSantis, in Carlson’s view, was a ‘fascist.’ Forget Ron DeSantis,” Mr Wolff writes.

The dog incident was later rejected by both Mr Carlson and Mr DeSantis.

Mr Carlson told Insider that Mr Wolff’s account was “absurd”.

“He never touched my dog, obviously,” he added.

“The totality of that story is absurd and false,” the DeSantis campaign told the outlet. “Some will say or write anything to attack Ron DeSantis because they know he presents a threat to their worldview.”

“But rest assured that as president the one thing he will squarely kick is the DC elitists in both parties either under or over the table, and that’s why they are so desperately fighting back,” a spokesperson said.

But Mr Wolff recently told Mediaite that his source for the story was Mr Carlson.

“The source on this is Tucker himself. I just reflect what he told me,” he said.

The author was asked if Mr Carlson and the DeSantis campaign were lying.

“I don’t know, maybe he exaggerated. Maybe he lied. I don’t know. Maybe he regrets saying that. I have no idea,” he told Mediaite.

“I think what I am accurately reflecting is his feelings about Ron DeSantis, and at the moment he seemed to have felt that he kicked the dog,” he added. “I can’t tell you whether that happened or not. I can tell you with the greatest authority that that’s what he said happened.”

Mr Wolff was also asked if Mr Carlson would be comfortable with the revelation that he was the source.

“I don’t know what he’s comfortable with. As I said, this is from the horse’s mouth,” Mr Wolff told the outlet.

Responding to criticism that Mr Wolff’s reporting in the book is inaccurate, the author said: “This book is my version of the experience that I had, of what I know, of what people have told me. This is the story through my eyes.”

He said everything in the book is “100 per cent true”.

But concerns about the book’s veracity continue to be shared, with The Daily Beast’s Confider reporting that it wasn’t fact-checked with Fox News or Fox Corp, and while Mr Wolff states in the book that he contacted all principals for comment, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham didn’t receive requests for comment, according to two sources.

The book, which has no footnotes or citations, asserts that Mr Carlson was terminated from Fox News as part of its defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, but both Fox and Dominion have rejected that version of events.

Several people have said that Mr Wolff employs flattery to get access and then embellishes the stories he acquires.

“It’s like when you are watching one of those adapted-for-TV movies and it says it’s based on real events. It’s not saying it’s based on the truth. That tells you everything about the way he writes,” former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer told Confider. Mr Spicer interacted with Mr Wolff when he wrote Fire and Fury.

“It’s not about journalism. It’s about him reporting his impression of facts,” one person with insight told Confider.

Some in the publishing industry see Mr Wolff’s most recent book as a “contract filler” – a book written to fulfill his contract with his publisher.

“You can’t trust anything he writes because … he needs headlines, because headlines mean more money,” one person in the publishing industry told Confider.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Wolff and his publisher, Henry Holt, for comment.

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