Fox News host Tucker Carlson continued to insist Tuesday that the National Security Agency had spied on his email and text communications and planned to leak sensitive information in an effort to "take this show off the air."
Carlson, the host of the top-rated show on Fox News, first made that claim during Monday night's broadcast.
“Yesterday we heard from a whistleblower within the U.S. government who reached out to warn us that the NSA, the National Security Agency, is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air,” he told his viewers.
In response to Carlson's claim, which he made without providing evidence, the NSA took the unusual step of issuing a public denial.
Shortly after the NSA posted the statement, Carlson opened his Tuesday night program by calling it "an entire paragraph of lies," and pressing his claim that a whistleblower had alerted him that the NSA "was reading out electronic communications, our emails and texts, and was planning to leak them selectively in an effort to hurt us."
"This person had details from my emails that no one outside the recipient could have known, so it was not a delusion, it was entirely real. In fact, it was confirmed," he said, again without providing any hard evidence to back up his story.
Carlson has previously made explosive claims on his show that later fizzled. In October, during the final stretch of the 2020 presidential campaign, he told viewers he had been sent documents about then-candidate Joe Biden and his family that were "directly relevant to the presidential campaign." But then the documents disappeared, Carlson said, pinning the blame on UPS. When the documents were located, Carlson never circled back to report on their contents.
CNN reported Tuesday that even Carlson's colleagues at Fox News appeared hesitant to amplify his latest claims.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked aboard Air Force One on Tuesday whether the Biden administration was aware of any efforts by the NSA to monitor the conversations of U.S. citizens, including Carlson.
"The NSA, as I think you're well aware, everyone on this plane is well aware, I should say, is an entity that focuses on foreign threats and individuals who are trying, attempting to do us harm on foreign soil," Psaki said. "So that is their purview."
The NSA's legal mandate is to monitor threats posed by foreign actors. Those targets, however, can have communications with U.S. citizens, leading the NSA to sometimes collect information on Americans. In order to surveil American citizens directly, the agency is legally required to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
But the NSA has been found to challenge its legal boundaries. In 2013, intelligence contractor Edward Snowden leaked a massive trove of classified information revealing the extent of NSA surveillance on Americans' communications.
On Wednesday, two GOP House members, Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida, made sure to highlight Carlson's accusations during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.
“Tucker Carlson stated on his show the other night his belief that the NSA was monitoring his communications,” Jordan said. “While the NSA said in a carefully worded statement — I encourage all of you to read that — that Mr. Carlson was not the target, not a target, they didn’t deny that they had reviewed his communications.”
Gaetz went even further, calling for "an inspector general investigation into any monitoring that the NSA or any other element of the intelligence community has engaged in, relative to Tucker Carlson."
The Florida lawmaker also took aim at the NSA statement.
“What's interesting is there is no denial that they were monitoring Tucker Carlson, even if he wasn't the target,” he said. “There's probably somebody in Tucker Carlson’s orbit that the NSA was monitoring.”
Gaetz is the subject of a Justice Department investigation into allegations concerning a variety of sex crimes. He last appeared on Carlson's program on March 30, where he discussed the investigation. At the conclusion of the interview, Carlson told viewers it was one of the "weirdest" he had ever conducted.
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