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Consumer Reports

Conservative Gen-Xer Tucker Carlson starts new TV show this weekend — on PBS | (KRT) Conservative yakker Tucker Carlson is about to debut a weekly series on PBS - a public network routinely bashed as a liberal mouthpiece.


"Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered," a 30-minute public-affairs show out of Washington's WETA, launches nationally Friday at 10 p.m. EDT.

Some industry observers speculate that "Unfiltered" is a political move by PBS chief Pat Mitchell to win points for the embattled network with conservatives in Washington. (The feds provide about 10 percent of PBS's annual operating budget.)

"If there's some kind of diabolical explanation of why I was hired, I don't know what it is," says Carlson, 34. "Being conservative was not a factor, so far as anybody has told me. From the beginning, my only instructions have been to do a good TV show."

The bow-tied, baby-faced Carlson will continue co-hosting CNN's "Crossfire," rotating with Robert Novak.

Unlike that weekday shoutfest, "Unfiltered" will present a lower decibel level and more intimate setting. Another difference: "No one will get to disagree with me," Carlson says.

But seriously, the host "won't stand for partisanship or any talking points from guests," he says. "If you're there on behalf of somebody else, you're not welcome.

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"That's what politics is. There's nothing wrong with that, in the abstract. It's right for `Crossfire,' but not for this show. I'm delighted to have people with strong views, even if they disagree with me."

Executive-produced by "Today" alum Steve Friedman, "Unfiltered" will feature one-on-one interviews with newsmakers as well as discussions with journalists.

Though Carlson's father, Richard, served as president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from 1992 to '97, don't ask his son to explain how PBS works.

"I understand the structure ... but some of the currents flowing back and forth are over my head. It doesn't bother me a bit."

Even some conservatives accuse him of "not being conservative enough."

"I don't really understand what that means," says Carlson, a regular contributor to the Weekly Standard and Esquire. "I think I'm conservative. I'm unapologetically opposed to abortion. I think affirmative action is racist and immoral. I'm for smaller government."

That said, however, "I can honestly say I'm the most open-minded person I know. I can be convinced. ... I want my beliefs to change as reality changes."

Carlson's most recent shift is about the war in Iraq. Once a backer of the U.S. invasion, he now says "the situation has to change."

On "Unfiltered," Carlson already has had his share of production headaches. The two "awesome" guests booked for Friday's debut both dropped out "at the last minute" Wednesday.

"We're scrambling. I've always respected bookers, but never more than right now. They have one of the most difficult and least appreciated jobs in TV. They have to be aggressive and charming at the same time, which most people cannot do."

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© 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services