Sergio Muñoz discusses Fox News, Tucker Carlson, and critical race theory on Matt Binder’s DOOMED podcast

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Citation From the June 24, 2021, edition of Matt Binder's DOOMED podcast

MATT BINDER (HOST): So, you know, I want to focus now on specifically -- Fox News' role, and let me get a little bit into how, you know, these parents are now filling up these school board meetings and, you know, we have Ron DeSantis basically signing into law the fact that you have to now teach because of this critical race theory stuff, critical race theory banned in Florida. But you now are forced to teach students to hate anything that would be perceived as communist, which obviously good job there. I mean, really, thank God we're not forcing our beliefs on educators. Right. Freedom to teach good ole American values. Right.

But I want to focus on Fox News first and really hone in on where this is headed, because we're now no longer really just talking about a parent doesn't want their first-grader or second-grader or third-grader or whatever to hear about the realities of race in this country. We're actually starting to go well beyond that. And nothing will showcase that more right now than what Tucker Carlson said on his program. Just no more than an hour ago, Media Matters had clipped it right before we went live and I grabbed it. Let me play this clip.


BINDER: Tucker Carlson said, how do we stop this country from turning into Rwanda as the little -- for people who are listening to the podcast version of the show -- the little graphic next to him, as he's saying all this says "anti-white mania." I mean, they're basically pushing the white genocide angle now and wrapping that up into critical race theory, which, you know, it's always been, you know, dog whistle, been hinted at since, I would say, since they started wrapping this all into critical race theory. But now, Tucker Carlson, I guess, feels like we don't need to do that anymore. The parents across this country are already on board. We can just get really specific now and go right at it. And, you know, they feel quite brazen. I'm sure.

SERGIO MUÑOZ (POLICY DIRECTOR, MEDIA MATTERS): We could have an entire show about Tucker Carlson. I'm sure you probably either have or you're thinking of one. Tucker Carlson, he's the most dangerous thing on Fox News right now. He has been dabbling, and by dabbling, I mean throwing it at the top of his hour show, he's been dabbling in white nationalism and now, quite honestly, white supremacy for some time.

You mentioned the I believe you were alluding to the replacement theory, which is a white power,  white supremacist theory that everyone on the left, multiracial democracy, people who support a multiracial democracy are out to replace the white race. This is something that used to be confined to the really nastiest of the nasty white nationalists, the racist, racist white supremacists. But Tucker Carlson has been referring to it for some time in perhaps the most valuable time slot that Fox News has that the advertisers helped pay for. Fox News is okay with this, and he is without a doubt causing great damage to this country. What he's pushing onto the air on one of the most powerful media platforms in the country is either white nationalist or white supremacist propaganda, depending on the night you're watching it. He's overt, he's completely overt at this point. White grievance used to be a way of abstractly describing certain political and sociological phenomena. Now he is literally talking about white grievance and spelling it out and talking about how white people have to be afraid and how white people are under attack. He is taking out the dog whistle. He is taking out the subtext. He's just putting it in front of everybody. And Fox News is tolerating it. Advertisers are funding it. Cable packages are helping to keep it sustainable. It is dangerous. It is extremely dangerous. And this is unfortunately for those of you that are watching Fox on a regular basis, not out of character for him. He's saying a version of this almost every night. As we talked earlier in the show, it was arguably on his show where Chris Rufo kicked off this entire critical race theory scare.

And as I did want to mention, if we have time, I wanted to get back to your DeSantis point just because all politicians are opportunistic, right. They're always going to go for the thing. Even if they have principles, they're going to go for the thing that works as well. They're going to try to package their principles into the thing that works. Once they saw the critical race theory was working, they started throwing everything that they could into it. And they had plenty of think tanks willing to give them legislative language. If you look around at the state legislative language these politicians are pushing, a lot of it is cut and paste. A lot of it is very similar to the model legislation being pushed by these right-wing think tanks. A lot of it is clearly, I'm sure some of your viewers remember, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council from back in the day. It was literally called a bill mill because they would produce this legislation for legislators who are either too cynical or too uninformed to figure it out on their own. And they would just put their name on it, introduce it, it would get passed and it would further some right-wing donors' conservative fantasy. This is what's happening right now with this critical race theory legislation. And it's not always under the rubric, or it is not necessarily literally spelling out critical race theory. Maybe it's spelling out studying divisive use of race, which is what they've been attacking.

For example, the 1619 project, the New York Times Pulitzer-winning project that examined how slavery has had such a crucial part of America's creation, not just back then, but had a contributory effect to the systemic racism we're trying to unravel now. Republicans and the right wing are folding that under their attacks on critical race theory, saying we're trying to attack any teaching or any acknowledgment of the veracity of a 1619 project because it's quote-unquote "critical race theory." They're attacking diversity efforts because that's "critical race theory." They're attacking any history that, and to get back to saying you were saying, that might make their kid uncomfortable. Any history about racial discrimination in this country that might make their kid uncomfortable that can't be taught because that's harming white kids. You know, they're basically putting legislation which is going to brainwash white children, which, to be honest, we have a long history in this country of doing.

You know, right after the Civil War it was our first attempt during the reconstruction and a multiracial democracy that failed. We tried again after the civil rights movement and a multiracial democracy and passed major legislation and continuously tried to make voting more accessible to a wider swath of the population. That's ebbed and flowed and is currently under attack again. This is something that's brand new, us trying this experiment. And it's not going to help if we go back to the old ways of lying to our children about how new and how hard it is to create, expand, and sustain a multiracial democracy in this country. And that's what they're trying to do.

They might have forgotten some history, but apparently, they haven't forgotten McCarthyism. You know, the communist angle is a really interesting one. It's good to see that we're going back to clearing communists out of the schools. You know, we never can, we never can finish that job, apparently.

So is it a wedge issue? It is a political issue, yes, of course. But again, we're seeing a tested and true issue. Perhaps that one's a little older, but there is throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. Who knows? Maybe that will be the thing that sticks. Maybe we're going to make everyone in Congress where they're not a communist again. I don't know. We're going to find out, but it is something that we're going to see on the political level. DeSantis clearly has political ambitions. He clearly thinks that this is a winning issue. Even if he changes it a little bit and brings in red-baiting, you know, they're going to go with what works. And right now, what we're seeing that works not just in terms of Republican politics, but also, unfortunately, when it gets back to Tucker Carlson, what apparently gets views in this country is overt white nationalist politics with a certain segment just going full-on white supremacist. It's a dangerous, dangerous thing to be doing, especially when the institutional Republican Party has apparently decided that they're going to change the rules of democracy if it doesn't work to their electoral advantage. We're playing with fire. You know, it's something we can laugh about when you watch these idiotic Fox News clips about how they're convinced that communist China, for example, is pushing critical race theory into K-12 education. Yeah, it's pretty ludicrous to watch them try to convince their audience of that. But it seems to be working.

BINDER: Right. I mean, I'll say this, you know, and I guess to end it here, I don't think I've ever seen parent school board meetings get so much media attention. It's incredible. I mean, listen, if you are somewhere in this country where, like, you know, maybe, you're not in like New York where there's just like morning shows filming all the time, and you just walk by the window and wave on TV. If you're somewhere in this country that doesn't exist and you've always dreamt of just being on TV for even a minute, just go to your local school board meeting and the video will probably appear on Fox News at some point.

MUÑOZ: Yeah, you're right. It's a brave new world and it's a dangerous place to be playing these old games.

BINDER: Sergio Muñoz, policy director at Media Matters for America, thank you so much for joining me tonight and for walking us through this really. Media Matters has been doing absolutely some of the best work I've seen on this. I can't thank you guys enough.