Libertarian presidential frontrunner Javier Milei used a high-profile interview with right-wing US commentator Tucker Carlson to attack Pope Francis, accusing the Argentine pontiff of being a “communist” and cosying up to “bloody” dictatorships in Latin America.
Milei, 52, granted the interview to Carlson last week and political onlookers were eagerly awaiting its release. The libertarian didn’t disappoint his supporters, lashing out at Argentina’s political “caste,” promising to fix runaway inflation, slamming abortion as immoral and questioning the science behind climate change.
Carlson, 54, is almost as controversial as his interviewee. A former Fox News host, he was fired by the company back in May after the network made a US$787-million payout to settle a defamation case brought by an election technology company.
Since then, the journalist has gone direct to viewers, snubbing offers to sign with traditional broadcasters and taking his own show direct to X, the social network formerly known as Twitter.
Speaking from a rooftop overlooking the Plaza de Mayo, Carlson opens the video released on Friday by explaining that Argentina was once one of the richest nations in the world, but that today it is a “desperate country” with an economy that has been “in shambles … for a long time.”
The people too are “desperate,” continues Carlson, hinting at the cause for Milei’s surge in popularity even before the libertarian has made it onto the screen.
The introduction carries on with the US commentator speaking about the worthlessness of Argentina’s currency and small value of its banknotes, detailing that people use “bricks of local currency, the peso, to pay for dinner.”
“It feels like Weimar, Zimbabwe, but it’s not. This is a developed country,” Carlson tells the camera.
Presenting the October 22 election as a fait accompli, the right-winger explains that “frustration” has “built up” among Argentina’s population, “including poor people,” and that “a man called Javier Milei is poised to become its next president.”
Since winning the PASO primaries, the 52-year-old economist – a “traditional libertarian” in Carlson’s words – has been misrepresented in the “hostile” US press, who have even branded him “far right” and a “Nazi,” Carlson states. He, however, argues that the La Libertad Avanza “didn’t seem very radical” compared to the insanity of Argentina in its present day.
After Carlson’s ‘Us v Them’ filmed monologue, Milei begins immediately letting rip as the camera cuts to the duo. The La Libertad Avanza leader jumps straight in.
Asked about his tensions with the Argentine leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, Milei goes on to accuse the Argentine pontiff of having “great affinity with dictators such as [Fidel] Castro and [Nicolás] Maduro.”
“He is on the side of these bloody dictatorships,” says the La Libertad Avanza leader. "He has an affinity for the murderous communists. In fact, he does not condemn them.”
Milei also vowed to “not do business with China” or “any communist” – a definition he said included Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The ultra-libertarian economist also gave his views about abortion. “We believe that liberalism is based on the unrestricted respect for another’s life, based on the principle of non-aggression and in defence of the right to live and be free. One of the pillars [of liberalism] is to defend the right to live, and there’s also a scientific explanation: life begins at conception, a new being is formed with a distinct DNA. It’s true that the woman has rights over her own body, but this child is not her body. Therefore, an abortion is a homicide aggravated by the family-ties and the difference in relative force.”
Carlson also asked the Casa Rosada hopeful about former US president Donald Trump, who is also running for election in 2024.
“I would tell to him to continue his fight against socialism,” Milei answered, “because he’s one of the few who truly understood what the fight against socialists and statists means. He perfectly understood that wealth creation resides in the private sector."
He continued: "The State doesn’t create wealth, it destroys it. The State cannot give anything because it doesn’t produce anything, and when it wants to do it, it does it horribly. From my humble position, the only thing I could say is that he should double his efforts in the direction of defending the ideas of freedom without giving an inch to the socialists.”
Blaming Argentina’s inflation woes on the country’s “embrace of socialist ideas more than 100 years ago, he vowed to solve runaway price hikes.
Tuckin’ in at the Cueva
Twenty-four hours prior to the release of his Milei interview, Carlson posted a 10-minute video on X that introduced Argentina’s recent economic woes to viewers.
The controversial commentator offered a running commentary for most of the video, as well as short clips of interviews with a normal citizen and Milei’s pick for foreign minister, Diana Mondino (though she was not presented as such).
But the most notable section of the video feature is when Carlson decides to visit a cueva (“cave”), the illegal money-changing exchange houses that are dotted at locations across the capital, in order to highlight the weakness of Argentina’s currency and the government’s strict currency controls. Familiar to the vast majority of porteños, the TV host seemed less at home in his curious surroundings. His producers, however, lean on the scales to help him make his point – Carlson’s exchange is paid out in 100-peso bills, in order to accentuate the size of the “brick” of money he enjoys showing off the camera.
(It may be a little unkind to say so, but maybe the fact that he only exchanged US$100 illegally at the cueva underlines the fact that Carlson’s Fox News budgets are no more.)
The fall-out from the interview – and its potential impact on support for Milei – is still to come, but it’s safe to ensure that the libertarian presidential frontrunner will at least be better known worldwide for his appearance on Carlson’s show. Within 90 minutes of the feature’s release it had already been viewed by more than one million people.