Fox News host Tucker Carlson felt like a “lunatic” for saying that his electronic communications have been intercepted by the U.S. National Security Agency, the conservative commentator acknowledged Wednesday.
The host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” explained during an interview that he was initially reluctant to go public with accusations that the secretive federal spy agency had monitored his private messages, before ultimately deciding to do so.
“I felt like kind of a lunatic,” Mr. Carlson told Fox News alumnus Glenn Beck.
“You don’t want to go on TV — I mean, would you want to go on-air and [say], ‘They’re spying on me?’ No, you sound like a nutcase, but I didn’t feel like I had a choice,” Mr. Carlson said on The Blaze.
Mr. Carlson said that in early July that he learned from a friend that his private messages were being monitored by the NSA, a U.S. government agency that mainly collects foreign intelligence communications.
NSA initially responded by issuing a rare statement that said Mr. Carlson “has never been an intelligence target” of the agency, yet it neither confirmed nor denied his communications were monitored.
Mr. Carlson later said the communications in question involved plans for him to potentially interview Russian President Vladimir Putin, so the NSA could have legally intercepted messages he sent and received from abroad.
Nonetheless, Mr. Carlson argues the NSA should have obscured, or “masked,” his identity in any communications it collected and never should have allowed details about him to be leaked, as he now charges.
“People in the building learned who I was, and then my name and the contents of my emails left that building at the NSA and wound up with a news organization in Washington,” Mr. Carlson said last month.
The NSA‘s inspector general announced Tuesday that his office has launched a probe “related to recent allegations that the NSA improperly targeted the communications of a member of the U.S. news media.”
Appearing on The Blaze, a conservative news outlet Mr. Beck founded after leaving Fox News, Mr. Carlson said that his source told him the NSA had intercepted his text and emails and planned to leak them.
“This person told me that the NSA had been reading my electronic communications, my texts and emails, and had unmasked me and was going to spread this to news organizations to suggest that I was somehow a disloyal American,” Mr. Carlson said. “It actually scared me.”
Mr. Carlson said he subsequently spoke with an unnamed U.S. senator who encouraged him to come forward with his story.