Out of the blue

NEW YORK (AP) — Here’s a point to ponder: To what extent is Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson responsible for President Donald Trump stepping away from a potential war with Iran?

From his prime-time perch on the top-rated cable network, Carlson has advocated restraint in dealing with Iran, and resisted cheerleading the Trump-ordered drone killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Shortly after the story of Iran’s counter-attack broke on Tuesday, Carlson hosted a show that mixed coverage of the story as details became known, emphasizing early reports of a lack of American casualties, and interviews with experts on the Middle East. Some of those guests pointed out the dangers of spiraling escalation.

“I continue to believe the president doesn’t want a full-blown war,” Carlson said. “Some around him might, but I think most sober people don’t want that.”

Trump, who announced his decision not to retaliate against Iran’s missile strikes in a nationally televised address 14 hours later, told some close to him that he watched Carlson’s show, according to BuzzFeed News. He told confidants in recent days that Carlson’s strong advocacy not to escalate the situation in Iran played a role in his decision-making, two White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Trump keeps a close eye on how his base responds to policy decisions, feeling their beliefs are often reflected and influenced by Fox News hosts. His Twitter feed reflects how he keeps close tabs on Fox, and he tweeted a link to a Carlson piece on Monday night.

The president often consults with Fox News hosts off-air, including Carlson. Carlson was seen among the president’s entourage this past summer when he visited the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea. He conducted an interview with Trump that was later shown on Fox.

Following Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, Carlson said that “we’re back from the brink.” He played a clip of the president’s speech where he said that a pause in hostilities between Iran and the United States was a very good thing for the world.

“That’s a big claim but in this case it is not an overstatement,” Carlson said.