Fox News host Tucker Carlson blamed Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Wednesday for urging President Donald Trump to participate in taped interviews with Bob Woodward for the veteran journalist's new book "Rage."
Earlier that day, recordings of Trump privately acknowledging the severe "deadly" threat posed by the new coronavirus as early as February leaked. Despite this knowledge, Trump admitted to playing down the gravity of the situation to the American public in order to prevent "panic."
"I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward shortly after declaring a national emergency. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
Carlson, who has also downplayed the deadliness of the disease, did not address the president's claims themselves. Instead, he wondered "why in the world" Trump would speak repeatedly with Woodward on tape after refusing interviews for his 2018 book "Fear." The earlier White House insider account described a "nervous breakdown of Trump's presidency."
"Why in the world would he do that? Well, tonight from a source who knows the answer to that mystery: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina," Carlson said without naming the source.
"It was Lindsey Graham who helped convince Donald Trump to talk to Bob Woodward. Lindsey Graham brokered that meeting. Lindsey Graham even sat in on the first interview between Bob Woodward and the president," Carlson claimed. "How'd that turn out?"
During that first interview, on Dec. 5, 2019, Woodward said Trump was focused on showing him "sort of cool" photographs of himself with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone. Trump then falsely told Woodward that "nobody's ever done that (Trump was the first president to step onto North Korean soil.)
During that same interview, Trump had made his desk into "a big show" with what Woodward described as "props."
"The parchment appointment orders of the judges stacked in the middle of the desk, the large rolls of pictures of him and Kim and a binder with letters from Kim," Woodward said. "I knew it was a big show."
Graham, a fierce Trump critic throughout the 2016 campaign who morphed into one of the president's most fervid supporters, admitted Wednesday that he had told Trump that the interviews, which began two weeks before the House of Representatives voted to impeach him, would be a "chance to tell your side of the story."
"The last book Woodward wrote — Trump said he didn't know that he had wanted to be interviewed," Graham told The Daily Beast. "So I said, 'Well, the guy is a well-known presidential author. And, you know, you got a chance to tell your side of the story. The president agreed — and there you go."
Carlson questioned Graham's loyalty to the Republican Party, and appeared to suggest that the senator had intentionally attempted to sabotage the president.
"Now remember, Lindsey Graham is supposed to be a Republican. So why would he do something like that?" Carlson asked. "You would have to ask him. But keep in mind that Lindsey Graham has opposed — passionately opposed — virtually every major policy initiative that Donald Trump articulated when he first ran. From ending illegal immigration. to pulling back from pointless wars. to maintaining law and order at home."
"Lindsey Graham was against all of that — more than many Democrats," Carlson concluded. "So maybe you already know the answer."
Graham finds himself in an unexpectedly tight re-election contest against Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, with Cook Political Report pushing the seat closer to Harrison's grasp last week. According to Johns Hopkins University data, South Carolina has reported at least 2,942 COVID-19 deaths.