Tucker Carlson may call journalists "cringing animals" on his Fox News program, but behind the scenes he's one of the top sources for gossip about Donald Trump and his colleagues at the conservative network.
Carlson is a former reporter himself and the son of a journalist, and more than a dozen reporters told the New York Times' Ben Smith that they frequently rely on the broadcaster as a source on Trump and the internal politics at Fox News.
"In Trump's Washington, Tucker Carlson is a primary supersecret source," said author Michael Wolff, who thanked the Fox News host in the acknowledgements of his 2018 book, "Fire and Fury." "I know this because I know what he has told me, and I can track his exquisite, too-good-not-to-be-true gossip through unsourced reports and as it often emerges into accepted wisdom."
Smith shared a jocular text exchange he had with Carlson about COVID-19 vaccines and said they speak often off the record, and several reporters said the broadcaster uses journalists to take some of the edge off the coverage of his hardline conservative program.
"It's so unknown in the general public how much he plays both sides," said one reporter who speaks regularly with Carlson."If you open yourself up as a resource to mainstream media reporters, you don't even have to ask them to go soft on you," said another Washington journalist.
Carlson's attacks on the media and on individual reporters -- which often results in waves of harassment -- endear him to his viewers, but he's well known in Washington and among journalists as one of the town's top sources of gossip.
"Too many times to count, after someone's confidence, I've asked, 'Did that come from Tucker?'" Wolff wrote in his new book, "Too Famous." "And equally, after I've shared a juicy detail, I've been caught out myself: 'So … you've been speaking to Tucker.'"