What Tucker Carlson’s edit of Kanye West tells us about Fox News
Fox News host Tucker Carlson clearly hoped to use his interview with Kanye West (now known as Ye) to advance his own political agenda by highlighting the rapper’s “White Lives Matter” commentary and support for former President Donald Trump. But at the conclusion of their sit-down, Carlson had a problem: West peppered the interview with toxic antisemitic comments, as well as conspiracy-minded rants which suggested that he was in the throes of one of his well-documented manic phases.
Carlson responded to this conundrum by simply cutting the worst of West’s bigotry and paranoia from the version of the interview he aired last week, Vice’s Motherboard revealed on Tuesday, after obtaining original footage from the interview. The deceptive editing points to how much leeway the Fox host thinks he has from the network brass, as well as the deceitful way he handles his show.
Carlson knows where the line is for antisemitism on his show
Tucker Carlson Tonight revolves around an antisemitic conspiracy theory. The host posits that a cabal of global elites controls the heights of U.S. politics, media, culture, and business, and is using its power to corrupt American children, destroy western civilization, and replace its population with immigrants.
Carlson’s innovation is that he generally deracinates these familiar antisemitic tropes. While open white supremacists might argue, for example, that Jews are using immigration to replace the white population with a black and brown one, Carlson tells his viewers that elites like the financier George Soros (who is Jewish) are replacing “legacy Americans” with people from “far-away countries” in the “third world.”
Carlson’s stated worldview is close enough that neo-Nazis regularly praise his show for mainstreaming their blood-soaked positions. But Carlson’s careful use of language, and his furious denials that he is a racist, give the Fox brass just enough plausible deniability that they can continue to defend and support his program.
You can see this balance play out in what Carlson included from his interview with West and the clips Motherboard published that were left on the cutting room floor.
In: West’s suggestion that Jared Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House aide, worked on Middle East peace to “make money” and his comment about Jared and his brother Josh, “What they’re about is making money.” That language aligns with the antisemitic trope of the money-hungry Jew, but it’s apparently palatable to Fox because West did not specifically mention that the Kushners are Jewish (West even asked Carlson whether those comments had been “too heavy handed,” to which Carlson replied, “We're not in the censorship business”).
Out: Nakedly antisemitic comments in which West more explicitly mentioned Jews, including his statement, “Think about us judging each other on how white we could talk would be like, you know, a Jewish person judging another Jewish person on how good they danced or something” (which West himself told Carlson went too far and asked to have edited out) and his remark, “I prefer my kids knew Hanukkah than Kwanzaa. At least it will come with some financial engineering.” Those comments are so obviously bigoted that they apparently could not be aired on Fox in an interview meant to promote its subject.
Carlson could have responded to those comments by changing the way he intended to frame the interview; instead, he cut out the comments to preserve his narrative.
Carlson’s edits left his colleagues in an uncomfortable position, as they were apparently unaware that West’s interview had featured naked antisemitism. Many of them responded to the interview as it aired by praising West’s wisdom and authenticity, and promoting his support for right-wing ideas as a boon to their movement. They were then forced to make an abrupt about-face after West spent the weekend on a social media tirade against “JEWISH PEOPLE” he claimed had “tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”
For his part, Carlson simply pretended that antisemitic outburst had not happened when he ran another segment praising West on his Monday broadcast. He hid the antisemitic comments West made on social media from his viewers, just as he had hidden the antisemitic comments West made to his face.
Carlson knowingly lies to his audience about West’s mental state
Carlson stressed to his viewers as he promoted his interview with West that the rapper’s well-documented mental health issues are a fabrication of journalists who want to shut him up — and he presented his sit-down as an antidote that would allow his audience to come to their own conclusions.
“The enemies of his ideas dismissed West as they have for years -- as mentally ill, too crazy to take seriously,” he alleged at the top of Thursday’s show. “But is West crazy? You can judge for yourself as you watch what we're about to show you.”
Carlson added that he did not find West to be “crazy,” adding, “In fact, we've rarely heard a man speak so honestly and so movingly about what he believes, but again, you can judge for yourself.”
Carlson returned to that theme later in the program.
“We told you at the top, you'd be able to assess for yourself whether West is crazy, as virtually every single media outlet on planet Earth claims every day, all year long,” he said. “Is he crazy. As you try to assess that, ask is what you just heard over the past 40 minutes any crazier than what you see on television every day? The lies, the lunacy presented to you with a straight face as reality?”
“No, he is not,” Carlson concluded. “He is not crazy at all. He is a big thinker, though."
It’s easy to see why Carlson is so defensive about West’s mental state. If West is “crazy,” in Carlson’s words, then the Fox host is a despicable hack taking advantage of a vulnerable person’s “lunacy” for ratings and political advantage.
But Carlson is being deceptive in two ways.
One is that West’s struggles with bipolar disorder are not a media creation, but something that he has publicly discussed in detail for years.
“When you’re in this state, you’re hyper-paranoid about everything, everyone,” West told David Letterman in a 2019 interview. “This is my experience, other people have different experiences. Everyone now is an actor. Everything’s a conspiracy. You feel the government is putting chips in your head. You feel you’re being recorded. You feel all these things.”
The second is that West reeled off several conspiracy theories during his interview with Carlson, as the Motherboard videos show. He suggested, for example, that “fake children” had been “placed into my house to sexualize my kids,” and that the fashion house Louis Vuitton had “killed” the designer Virgil Abloh, who died of cancer in 2021.
Those diatribes cut against Carlson’s argument that West is lucid, and thus an appropriate interview subject whose political views should be taken seriously. So Carlson edited them out of what he showed his viewers, even as he told them that they could make their own determination about West’s mental state from what aired.
That’s pretty typical — Carlson is a deeply dishonest person who has contempt for an audience he constantly cons. The Motherboard videos are just a new and compelling example demonstrating his duplicity.