Tucker Carlson defends Trump's praise for North Korea's Kim: Leadership means 'killing people'

Fox News host Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonWhy target Tucker Carlson? It's part of the left's war on the right Carlson calls racism one of nation's problems, says people should 'calm down' Trump lashes out at Fox News's Shep Smith, says 'fake news CNN is better' MORE on Sunday defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE’s praise of North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnNorth Korea: Kim supervised test of 'super-large multiple rocket launcher' Trump 'not happy' with North Korea missile tests, but denies they violate agreement Japan must keep America engaged MORE, saying part of leading a country “means killing people.”

Trump faced backlash from critics when he became the first sitting president to cross into North Korea during a meeting with Kim, an authoritarian leader accused of human rights abuses, in the heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). 

Carlson was asked during a phone interview on "Fox & Friends Sunday" whether it could appear that Trump was “pandering” to the North Korean leader or upsetting the American public by not standing tough to human rights violations.

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The frequent Trump ally said there “is no defending the North Korean regime, which is a monstrous regime. It is the last really Stalinist regime in the whole world. It is a disgusting place, obviously.”

“On the other hand, you've got to be honest about what it means to lead a country. It means killing people," Carlson continued. "Not on the scale the North Koreans do, but a lot of countries commit atrocities, including a number that we are closely allied with." 

The conservative commentator went on to say that while he "is not a relativist or anything,” it is the "nature of life, and certainly the nature of power" to have to choose between "the bad people and the worse people." 

"I do think that's how the president sees it," Carlson said. "He's far less sentimental about this stuff." 

The president has previously touted his “love” for Kim, saying they get along well and have “good chemistry.”

Carlson said he thinks Trump sees Kim as a "competent, scrappy guy," though "he's not an admirer of the atrocities he's committed, obviously." 

"It takes a pretty hard man to keep a hold on power in a place like North Korea, so I think Trump respects his toughness,” Carlson added.

The Fox News host was seen alongside with Trump administration officials during the president's trip to the DMZ, smiling with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBill Maher says he's 'glad' David Koch is dead Trump spurs new wave of economic angst by escalating China fight Trump on North Korean projectile launches: Kim 'likes testing missiles' MORE.

The meeting was the first between Trump and Kim since nuclear talks broke down at a February summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

“Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Trump said, adding that he would invite Kim to visit the White House.

Bill Kristol, a conservative critic of Trump, appeared to criticize Carlson’s comments on Twitter, noting the host is expected to be a keynote speaker at the upcoming National Conservatism Conference.

“I don't know they realized they were signing up to be associated with this,” Kristol wrote.

A spokesperson for Fox News deferred comment to Carlson’s on-air remarks. 

--Updated Monday at 9:57 a.m.