Tucker Carlson Almost Had A Wildly Different Career Before Fox News

Tucker Carlson had become synonymous with Fox News (which he joined in 2009 as a commentator) when, in 2023, he was suddenly fired by the network. According to various sources, the controversial talk show host was blindsided by the decision, but in public, he joked he was looking forward to his retirement. Despite those reassurances, it didn't take long for Carlson to return to politics, first with a new show hosted on Twitter, now X, then with his own streaming service, the Tucker Carlson Network. And even though he's been ousted from traditional news TV, he's continued to make headlines, most recently by interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2023.

The sit-down, which took place in Moscow, was hugely controversial, but as Carlson justified on X, he wanted to expose the truth about the war in Ukraine, including the cost to Americans and its impact on the economy. Calling Western media corrupt, he accused American outlets of only telling one side of the story and omitting the whole picture. "Most Americans have no idea why Putin invaded Ukraine or what his goals are now," Carlson told followers. "That's wrong." The resulting interview, which ran for over two hours, was quickly slammed and denounced by the White House – and it also seemed to backfire on Carlson himself. That's because, at one point in the conversation, Putin let slip that Carlson had once hoped to join the CIA, then mocked him for being rejected.

Vladimir Putin exposed Tucker Carlson's failed career dreams

There are few political commentators as widely recognized as Tucker Carlson, and yet, it turns out the former Fox News star once had very different career aspirations. During his lengthy conversation with Vladimir Putin, Russia's president made a long list of surprising allegations, including that former British PM Boris Johnson once sabotaged a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine and that Ukraine itself was to blame for Russia's invasion.

Among the most eyebrow-raising statements was also Putin's assertion that the CIA orchestrated a coup d'etat in Ukraine in 2014, which, in turn, motivated Russia to invade Ukraine in 2022. According to Putin, he's simply trying to liberate Ukraine's people following the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014. That February, mounting public protests resulted in then-president Viktor Yanukovych being ousted and fleeing to Russia. However, that unexpectedly opened the door for Russia to annex Crimea the following month.

According to Putin, it was secretly America that set off that chain of events. "The US told us, 'Calm Yanukovich down, and we will calm the opposition,'" he told Carlson. "As the Americans requested, Yanukovich did use neither the Armed Forces nor the police, yet the armed opposition committed a coup in Kyiv." He then accused the CIA of helping to orchestrate said coup, and finally, he mocked Carlson. "[It's] the organization you wanted to join back in the day, as I understand," he mused. "We should thank God they didn't let you in."

Tucker Carlson really wanted to join the CIA

The revelation that Tucker Carlson tried — and failed — to join the CIA likely came as a surprise to many, but it was actually first revealed back in 2017. That's when a profile in The New Yorker reported how Carlson had struggled through much of his academic career before eventually finding TV. First, he completed his high school studies at St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island, but when it came time to apply to college, no major institution was impressed by his grades. Luckily, he was dating the headmaster's daughter (his now-wife, Susan Andrews), who put in a good word with Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Once there, things didn't get any better, as Carlson took an extra year to graduate. What's more, a source told Business Insider his GPA was somewhere between 1.9 and 2.1.

His dreams again came crashing down after graduation when he applied for the CIA and was denied. According to The New Yorker, he was simply too "gabby and insubordinate" to be a good fit for the agency, but there may have been more to it. A college friend told Business Insider, "He mentioned that he had applied and they rejected him because of his drug use — he was too honest on his application."

Carlson instead landed a job at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, then caught his big break in 1995 when he was hired to write for the Weekly Standard, published by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.