The writer Michael Lewis once told Cockburn that the American equivalent of Boris Johnson wasn’t Donald Trump. It was Tucker Carlson. Carlson is, like Johnson, a journalist by training. Both men are brilliant and funny stylists who made a habit of infuriating their country’s media class by turning themselves into successful conservatives.
That was back in the 2010s and Cockburn thought it an apt comparison. But the times they have a-changed. These days Boris, now a former prime minister, is a global cheerleader for Weapons to Ukraine and has duly launched a sudden broadside against the Fox News host — claiming to be “horrified” that leading Republicans are afraid of Tucker. Tucker, in return, described Johnson as a “terrified old woman.”
Boris, currently on a glory tour of the US, isn’t quite the man he was. In recent years he’s been blighted by scandal after scandal, from “rules for thee but not for me” lockdown-breaking parties to more recent questions about his financial affairs.
But one area of his legacy Johnson remains confident on is Ukraine. He was the first western leader to visit Kyiv during the war and is a national hero over there. Bucket-rattling for the Eastern European country took Boris to Washington this week, where he met with various Republican leaders, to encourage them to keep funding the war effort. He also spoke at the Atlantic Council earlier today — where he lashed out at Tucker Carlson, his mirror image and one of the loudest and most consistent anti-war voices on the American right.
“I’ve been amazed and horrified by how many people are… are frightened of a guy called Tucker Carlson,” he said. “Has anybody heard of Tucker Carlson? What is it with this guy? All these wonderful Republicans seem somehow intimidated by his perspective… Some bad ideas are starting to infect some of the thinking around the world about what Putin stands for, what he believes in.”
So Cockburn checked in with Carlson to see how he felt about Johnson’s unprovoked barrage. “The funny thing is, I invited him on the show yesterday. He said he was interested in coming, but then he declined because he didn’t want to defend his position on the war. Then today, this,” the Fox host told Cockburn.
“I was shocked by it, honestly. I’d already lost respect for Boris during Covid, when he transitioned into a terrified old woman. But I had no idea he was a liar.”
“I’m genuinely disappointed in the guy,” Carlson told Cockburn. “Like all dumb Americans I guess I’m easily charmed by witty Brits.”
Johnson did bother to turn up for a less confrontational natter with Bret Baier on Fox two hours earlier. But if Carlson is correct, Boris hasn’t shaken the habit of dodging tough interviewers that he developed back when he was prime minister…