Lionel Shriver Lionel Shriver

I’m a sucker for Tucker Carlson

[Getty Images]

I was asked on Tucker Carlson Tonight only once, while in New York about two years ago, and I turned the invitation from America’s most popular cable news commentator down. Did I worry that while discussing my previous Spectator column, I might put my foot in it? The subject of immigration is always a minefield. No, I believed computer modelling of the astonishingly high number of illegal immigrants really living in the US had attracted far too little press, and a sympathetic host would have given these staggering figures a wider airing.

Obviously, then, I was instead loath to appear alongside a notoriously racist, far-right, xeno-/Islamo-/homo-/trans-phobic purveyor of deceit and disinformation who panders to the basest instincts of a white-supremacist underclass and threatens American democracy. Bravely resisting the lure of the national spotlight, I was displaying my moral backbone.

After force-feeding myself the usual self-righteous news, I settle down to dessert: a truffle from the dark side

Umm… not quite. Television appearances rattle me, and my first instinct is to try to get out of them. I calculated that branding myself as a Tucker Carlson guest would tarnish my reputation in America as a fiction writer, which could hardly afford to become more compromised in the eyes of a far-left publishing establishment.

And what really put the kibosh on saying yes was the fact that I had family staying with me at the time for whom my appearance on Fox News would damn me for eternity. One of these relatives had previously volunteered how much she detested Carlson in particular, even though, typically for a Democrat, she’d never watched a single clip of the guy, much less one of his shows. The blowback around the dinner table would have smashed a fair whack of crockery.

Ergo, I didn’t decline from principle but from cowardice.

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