Fox News is lashing out at incoming White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre over her 2020 description of the network as racist. Jean-Pierre offered the characterization during a March 2020 appearance on MSNBC when she accurately criticized Fox News’ coronavirus coverage, saying, “Fox News was racist before coronavirus. They are racist during the coronavirus. Fox News will be racist after the coronavirus. So there is nothing new here.”
Fox has a lengthy history of racist commentary, and Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch has repeatedly endorsed Fox News’ bigotry, making its most racist shock jock host Tucker Carlson the face of the network.
It’s not just people on the left pointing out Fox’s racism. In 2020, amid the George Floyd protests, The Daily Beast reported that it “spoke to more than a dozen Fox News insiders, who all suggested that behind the scenes there is a growing despair among employees about the network’s role in demonizing and spreading fear about Black Americans in particular.” One Fox staffer quoted in the piece described some of the network’s personalities as “a white supremacist cell,” adding, “This is rank racism excused by Murdoch.” Another described Fox programming as “white supremacist crap.”
Just last week, we learned that a Fox organizational chart had Peter Brimelow, the founder of the racist and nativist VDARE site, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch. That nugget was part of a massive look at Carlson’s Fox show in The New York Times, which also found that the Fox host pushed a racist conspiracy theory hundreds of times. Media Matters has previously documented how Fox hosts push the same conspiracy theories as white nationalists like Brimelow.
During her 2020 appearance, Jean-Pierre was referring to Fox personalities using racist language to describe the then-emerging COVID-19. Fox personalities and others in right-wing media (including VDARE) were rallying around racist terms like “kung flu” even as a surge in anti-Asian violence was apparent. Jean-Pierre, to her credit, called out this language while then-White House press secretary (and current Fox personality) Kayleigh McEnany defended it.
On Fox, her principle was predictably taken by right-wing figures to portray themselves as victims.
Carlson’s prime-time show on May 10 featured the nastiest remarks against Jean-Pierre. Carlson -- who has said immigrants make the United States “dirtier,” called Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys,” and is described by neo-Nazis as “our greatest ally” -- squealed over the criticism of Fox News and degraded Jean-Pierre on the basis of her race and gender orientation, falsely claiming these were the qualifications that propelled her to the White House podium and accusing her of “cry bullying”: “That’s why she got the job. She’s in the right group.”
Carlson then brought on Fox News contributor Charlie Hurt, who said that Jean-Pierre is the “purest, lowest distillation of everything that the Biden administration stands for.” Hurt then bizarrely argued, with no basis whatsoever, that the incoming White House press secretary was “not a product” of her parents' raising but “a product of American education today.”
Host Jesse Watters, who once produced a man-on-the-street interview segment in New York City’s Chinatown that was set to the song “Kung Fu Fighting,” sarcastically remarked that if Jean-Pierre considers Fox News to be racist, “I’m sure [she’s] is going to be treating our very own stupid-son-of-a-bitch Peter Doocy with the utmost respect” -- referring to a hot mic remark from President Joe Biden from January.
On his radio show, Sean Hannity, who once offered to pay for one-way tickets to Kenya for the Obamas, defended Fox News figures calling the coronavirus “the China virus”, saying Jean-Pierre “was lashing out at the network.” He carried the narrative over to his prime-time Fox News show, describing her as “yet another far-left activist with a history of radicalism, extremism, and of course baseless attacks against conservatives and even Fox News.”