Other Carlson associates said the affinity between the two men — one a longtime conservative commentator who once wore a bowtie and moved seamlessly within liberal political and media circles, the other an eccentric music celebrity whose tumultuous relationship with Kim Kardashian recently ended in divorce — is real.
Prior to the election, Carlson said he would vote for West, according to a third person who knows Carlson. “He and Kanye get along. They both regularly find themselves in the crosshairs. They’re both pro-life,” this associate said.
Carlson is registered as a Republican to vote in Florida, according to Florida registration records. The Fox host voted in-person in 2020, according to voting records in Lee County, where Carlson lives part of the year.
West failed to make the ballot in Florida in 2020, however, suggesting that if Carlson indeed voted for the volatile rapper, he had to have done so by writing in his name.
West, running on a “Birthday Party” ticket, made the ballot in 12 states and garnered more than 60,000 votes. But unlike in states like New York and Connecticut, West didn’t submit the necessary paperwork to Florida’s elections division, so any write-in votes for him were not counted.
With Carlson declining to comment, POLITICO sought to verify whether local records might indicate that anyone did try to vote for West. Lee County does not track how many write-in votes non-qualified candidates like West received, complicating those efforts. But in the precinct where Carlson voted last year, there were 8 invalid write-in votes for president, a county official said.
Tammy Lipa, another Lee County election official, said in a brief interview that she remembered that some people in the county did indeed write in West.
An outspoken populist whose eponymous program has become the most popular show on cable news, Carlson won credit on the left for helping persuade Trump in early 2020 to not attack Iran. He’s also been critical of some of Trump’s policies, such as criminal justice reform. But his remarks on racial issues and immigration have earned him widespread condemnation by liberals who accuse Carlson of spreading toxic, divisive ideas.
Carlson and West have a friendly but not necessarily close relationship, associates say. The two men have spoken from time to time, and Carlson even spent some time in Wyoming with West shortly before the election. A planned interview fell through, although the two had a “cordial back and forth,” according to a person familiar with the trip. West could not be reached for comment.
Carlson has praised West on his program. Last August, he called him “the most compelling voice against abortion and Planned Parenthood.”
“[O]n core conservative issues, not political issues like legislation before the Congress, but on foundational questions about life and children and what happens when you die, no one with a national platform has been more honest or sincere or effective than Kanye West has been,” Carlson said. “Maybe in generations.”
In 2018, Carlson implicitly compared West to Trump after the hip-hop artist, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, visited the Oval Office to ostensibly discuss issues like criminal justice reform and other policies that affect Black Americans. The meeting devolved into West pontificating for 10 minutes on issues such as “male energy,” sleep deprivation and his own mental health.
“[M]uch like someone else who comes to mind, West may be precisely crazy enough to think for himself, and that’s a valuable quality right now,” Carlson said. “But listen carefully to what he said. Sprinkled throughout his ramblings are flashes of truth, real insights into the way the world actually is rather than the way they tell us it is. … And that makes him dangerous to a system that is based almost entirely on piety and lying. If you’re benefiting from a system like that, Kanye West must be crushed.”
Carlson didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 either, according to an interview he gave Business Insider in 2017 — in which he said he didn’t vote in the presidential election at all.
“I never vote so that’s the truth. I didn’t vote this time, I never do,” he said. “I’m registered with a party that I sincerely despise because I think it’s really a force for bad in this country and it’s the Democratic Party. But I’m registered because I live in the district, it’s a one-party state and the one election I always vote in is the mayor’s race because it matters. I own property there, I raised four children there.”
At the time, Carlson was living in Washington, D.C.’s posh Palisades neighborhood, which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. But he sold his D.C. home in 2020 for nearly $4 million. He now splits his time between Florida and Maine.
Carlson’s comments about West stand at odds with his on-air persona: a pugnacious Trump backer and conservative thought leader who opines frequently on immigration and the Covid-19 pandemic, echoing the former president’s controversial views on both issues.
But Carlson has a reputation for criticizing Trump in private, according to media reporter Ben Smith, who described the Fox host as journalists’ “go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about Donald J. Trump” in a recent New York Times column.
Carlson has also been known to share his candid assessments with Trump directly. He reportedly told Trump last fall that his debate performance “was not good,” according to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender’s new book “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.”
Since Trump left office, Carlson has been a fierce critic of President Joe Biden and his administration, and even recently accused the National Security Agency of surveilling him, prompting a rare on-the-record denial from the NSA.
Marc Caputo contributed to this report.
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