Tucker Carlson Tonight | Media Matters for America

Tucker Carlson Tonight

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  • Tucker Carlson’s insipid accusation of anti-Trump “collusion” by The New York Times

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservatives have spent several decades waging a remarkably successful campaign to reinforce their coalition by turning it against the mainstream news media, a potential source of critical information. Fox News benefited greatly from this endeavor, assembling a sizable audience in part by convincing viewers that mainstream outlets could not be trusted as their journalists were deceitful leftist partisans. The resulting feedback loop requires a steady flow of new outrages that are often based on either appalling ignorance of or deliberate disinformation regarding basic journalistic practices.

    Fox host Tucker Carlson’s attempt last week to rile up his viewers with a nonsensical argument that The New York Times had colluded with the FBI appears to fall in the latter category, an intentional effort to hoodwink his audience and bolster his network’s hate campaign against the press.

    On Thursday, the conservative newspaper The Washington Examiner reported that Times reporter Michael Schmidt had “fed information” to the FBI in a March 2017 email regarding a story his colleagues were working on about the bureau’s Russia investigation. The Examiner obtained the email from the pro-Trump organization Judicial Watch, which called it evidence of “FBI-Media Collusion.”

    This argument made no sense: The “information” Schmidt supposedly “fed” the FBI was about the agency’s own investigation; the journalist emailed a press aide at the FBI, so a request for comment was implied if not stated; and the information in the email was published in the Times days later. Reporters at the Times and other outlets pummeled the Examiner for scandalizing routine journalistic processes, and the paper eventually published a lengthy correction in which it apologized for failing to adhere to its “normal standards and procedures.”

    But before the Examiner effectively retracted the sinister implications in its story, Carlson amplified it to his audience of millions.

    The Fox host argued that Schmidt had been caught engaging in “profound collusion” with, and “political consulting” for, the FBI, saying, “Schmidt wasn't seeking comment for a story; he was only supplying information. He was the source, in other words.”

    “The Schmidt kid just seems like a total lackey” for the bureau, Carlson told Mollie Hemingway, a Fox contributor and right-wing media critic. “I mean, so why does he get to call himself a reporter? If he is calling to pass information on to the FBI, doesn't that make him -- I don't know what it makes him. A source? A snitch? But it doesn't make him a reporter, does it?”

    He did not return to the story on Friday and let his audience know that the Examiner had effectively retracted it, apparently preferring to keep his viewers misinformed.

    Carlson wasn’t the only Fox host to push this nonsense. Sean Hannity, the co-hosts of Fox & Friends, and Lou Dobbs Tonight guest host David Asman all promoted the story, with the latter two drawing the attention of President Donald Trump, an inveterate Fox watcher who treats journalists as a hate object and constantly tries to delegitimize the press. “This shows the kind of unprecedented hatred I have been putting up with for years with this Crooked newspaper,” he tweeted in response to a clip from Carlson’s show that re-aired on Fox & Friends. “Is what they have done legal?”

    Carlson knows exactly what he’s doing. Unlike his fellow Fox prime-time hosts, he has actual experience in journalism outside the comfortable confines of the right-wing echo chamber. Carlson’s two-and-a-half-decade career in the news media includes stints writing for local newspapers and national magazines, and hosting programs at PBS, CNN, and MSNBC. That resume informed Carlson’s famous 2009 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, in which he begged conservatives to create their own reporting institutions whose “primary objective” should be to “deliver accurate news” -- holding up the Times as an exemplar (the audience responded with jeers and boos).

    Carlson’s experience suggests that when he tries to spin basic acts of journalism into nonsensical conspiracy theories, he’s engaging in a campaign of deliberate disinformation. And his bad-faith argument of sinister “collusion” between journalists and the administration becomes a farcical masterpiece when held up to the actions of Carlson and his network, which has effectively merged with Trump’s White House and become a state media outlet.

    The last week alone, amid Carlson’s criticism of Schmidt for acting as a “lackey” and a “snitch,” brought several fresh examples of Fox’s perverse alignment with the Trump administration.

    The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that Carlson had been privately counseling Trump on how to respond to rising tensions with Iran.

    On Friday, a judge unsealed months of chummy text messages between Hannity and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Among the revelations from the 56 pages of chat logs, the Fox host shared information with Manafort and described them as being “on the same team,” while Manafort suggested possible lines of attack Hannity could use on his show and said he deserved a Pulitzer prize.

    And The Washington Post reported Sunday that in 2016, inveterate Trump sycophant Jeanine Pirro learned that Trump aide Roger Stone, scheduled to appear that night on her Fox show, was planning to resign in protest of the then-presidential candidate’s disgusting sexist attack on then-Fox host Megyn Kelly. According to the Post, Pirro “got word back to” Trump, allowing him to save face by firing Stone before he could quit.

    None of these revelations, which would likely sink an employee at any other network, are likely to spur concern at Fox over the excessively cozy ties between its employees and the president. After all, when Pirro and Hannity spoke at a Trump political rally last year, Fox offered no apology or promise that the behavior -- an ethical calamity anywhere else -- would not be repeated.

    Meanwhile, the network’s attacks on other journalists will continue. Fox media criticism is based on denouncing the press by falsely attributing to real journalists the unethical behavior its own hosts practice. That’s simply part of its business model.

  • Right-wing media melt down over Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's comments about pro-choice judges

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) spoke about her commitment to nominate only pro-choice judges to the Supreme Court if she became president, right-wing media responded by leveling personal attacks against Gillibrand and by alleging she was trying to censure abortion opponents.

    On June 10, The Des Moines Register asked Gillibrand about her proposal to nominate only those judges to the Supreme Court who would vow to uphold Roe v. Wade, questioning whether “imposing a litmus test” would be “seen as an encroachment on judicial independence.” Gillibrand responded:

    I think there’s some issues that have such moral clarity that we have, as a society, decided that the other side is not acceptable. Imagine saying that it’s OK to appoint a judge who’s racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic. Telling -- asking someone to appoint someone who takes away basic human rights of any group of people in America, I think that we are, we’ve -- I don’t think those are political issues anymore.

    And we believe in this country in the separation of church and state, and I respect the rights of every American to hold their religious beliefs true to themselves. But our country and our Constitution has always demanded that we have a separation of church and state. And all these efforts by President Trump and other ultra radical conservative judges and justices to impose their faith on Americans is contrary to our Constitution, and that’s what it is.

    And so, I believe that for all of these issues -- they are not issues that there is a fair other side. There is no moral equivalency when you come to racism. And I do not believe there is a moral equivalency when it comes to changing laws that deny women reproductive freedom.

    Gillibrand later reiterated her position during an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio, explaining that her statement “had nothing to do with” the personal views of abortion opponents, but it was rather about the importance of appointing judges who support the “settled precedent” established in Roe. She concluded: “The question and my answer was specific to what kind of judges I would appoint.” Still, right-wing media responded with vitriol, saying that her comments were "shocking and stunning," that they were "just dumb and over the top," and that she was suggesting anti-choice people "should never be granted access to polite society." The meltdown is yet another example of right-wing media’s ongoing effort during the 2020 election cycle to characterize Democrats’ support for abortion rights as “extreme.”

    Right-wing media had a meltdown over Gillibrand’s comments

    • On Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum, Fox News contributor Charlie Hurt said he didn’t know whether Gillibrand is “evil or ignorant,” but that he felt comparing anti-choice views with racist views was “just absolutely shocking and stunning.”
    • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs attacked Gillibrand, asking, “Has she taken complete leave of her remaining senses?”
    • On Fox Business’ Trish Regan Primetime, guest host Gregg Jarrett characterized Gillibrand’s comments as calling someone “a racist … if you happen to be pro-life.” He continued that this was “a stupid, idiotic comparison” and claimed her comments were “just dumb and over the top.” He concluded, “If you had any doubt that Kirsten Gillibrand is obtuse on her best day, she removed all doubt.”
    • On his program, Tucker Carlson claimed that Gillibrand was equating holding anti-abortion views as being “on par with racists, maybe even the Nazis.” Carlson’s guest Lila Rose, the founder and president of the anti-abortion group Live Action, said, “This idea that it's not even justified to have the pro-life position -- you're even a racist. I mean, that term is just thrown around today. But saying that you're even a racist to be pro-life -- half of America is pro-life.”
    • Fox host Sean Hannity named Gillibrand “Villain of the Day” because of her comments.
    • Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said on his No Spin News show that Gillibrand’s comments demonstrated that she was “a dangerous person” and “a demagogue.” He continued that “Gillibrand is basically saying as a sitting senator, all the pro-life people in America are not supposed to be heard. You shut up because you’re just like a racist. How vile is this? Now that should disqualify the woman from public office.”
    • National Review called Gillibrand’s comments “more sinister than pandering” and characterized them as “irresponsible, malicious rhetoric.”
    • The Washington Times claimed that Gillibrand was “demonizing millions of pro-life citizens” with her comments.
    • Townhall accused Gillibrand of being “desperate to score some political points amongst the progressive base in hopes of boosting her ranking from dead-last in the presidential primary.”

    Other outlets published opinion pieces echoing right-wing media’s attacks and allegations

    • Philip Boas, the editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic, claimed in an opinion piece that Gillibrand’s comments “revealed her authoritarian instincts.” He wrote:

    Gillibrand added that opposition to abortion should be regarded in the same way we regard racism. In other words, critics of abortion need to be banished from the public square. They need to be treated with all the loathing and disdain we reserve for racial bigots.

    They should never be granted access to polite society. Never hold corporate jobs. Never rise to any position of legitimate authority. They should be shunned and ignored and otherwise marginalized – made so radioactive that their views are no longer to be considered. Only condemned.

    And that especially goes for federal judges one suspects may harbor anti-abortion views.

    • Syndicated columnist Michael Gerson wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post saying, “Few would accuse [Gillibrand] of seriousness in her presidential run.” He characterized Gillibrand’s comments as saying that, “pro-life people are not only wrong; they are bigoted theocrats who threaten democracy.”
    • In The Chicago Tribune, columnist John Kass summarized Gillibrand’s comments as her saying that “if you oppose abortion, then you’re equivalent to a racist” and that these views reflected the Democratic Party writ large because “her bigotry was met with silence. And silence is consent.” Kass also wrote, “In her world, babies don’t have rights. Even thinking of them as human would get in the way of politics that grant power to those who would end their lives.”
  • Alliance Defending Freedom turned to Tucker Carlson to announce it's working to prevent trans athletes from competing

    ADF leaders know they can count on Fox as a friendly outlet to misrepresent the group's anti-trans cases

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson hosted extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and its client Selina Soule, a high school athlete in Connecticut, during a segment in which ADF revealed that it has filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education on behalf of Soule and other students who object to competing against trans athletes.

    ADF’s decision to file a Title IX complaint is particularly troubling given that the organization has allies throughout the federal government, including within the Department of Education. The group’s former director of litigation projects, Thomas W. Stack, worked for ADF for two years before becoming a senior attorney at the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the office that “evaluates, investigates, and resolves complaints alleging sex discrimination.” Records indicate that Stack has previously been assigned to investigate complaints filed with OCR.

    Soule has been interviewed on both Fox & Friends and The Ingraham Angle last February, and she was highlighted on right-wing sites including The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal. Soule’s mother, Bianca Stanescu, also recently participated in a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation advocating against transgender athletes. Heritage has hosted several panels advocating against transgender rights this year.

    ADF has repeatedly used Fox News to promote its cases and policy positions; the Carlson interview was at least the sixth ADF appearance on Fox this year. The reality is that Fox is the perfect place for groups like ADF to introduce their anti-LGBTQ work, because its standards for LGBTQ coverage are out of step with standard journalistic practices. The network frequently hosts anti-LGBTQ guests who work for or are associated with extreme groups, including Heritage Foundation, MassResistance, and Liberty Counsel. Fox hosts allow these guests to push extreme rhetoric and sometimes mirror their language. “Straight news” host Shannon Bream has repeatedly misgendered trans people in coverage, recently calling a trans women a “biological male who now identifies as a woman,” and Fox reporter Greg Palkot misgendered Chelsea Manning. Additionally, reporter Carley Shimkus incorrectly identified Olympic champion Caster Semenya as trans, feeding into the network’s fearmonger tactics about trans athletes.

    Opinion hosts Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson also consistently demonize the LGBTQ community. In just the past week, Ingraham made headlines when her guest promoted an extreme book called The Health Hazards of Homosexuality, and Carlson lied that trans women detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have it “much better” than “ many American citizens.” In attempting to stoke resentment against trans detainees among his white nationalist base, Carlson ignored the deaths of two trans women in ICE custody as well as countless reports of abuse in those facilities.

    During the June 17 segment, Carlson and ADF lawyer Christiana Holcomb repeatedly misgendered transgender girls as “males” and “biological males.” From Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    CHRISTIANA HOLCOMB (ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM): So girls like Selina should never be forced to be spectators in their own sports. But unfortunately, that is exactly what’s taking place when you allow biological males to compete in sports that have been set aside and specifically designed for women like Selina. Title IX was designed to ensure that girls have a fair shake at athletics and are not denied the opportunity to participate at the highest levels of competition. So Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of Selina and a couple of other brave female athletes, has filed or is in the process of filing a Title IX complaint asking the Department of Education to step in, to investigate, and to restore a level playing field for Selina.

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): I mean, Selina, do other girls on your team feel the way that you do, that opportunities are being taken from you by biological males?

    SELINA SOULE (STUDENT ATHLETE): Yes. No one in the state of Connecticut is happy about this. But no one is -- no one has enough courage to speak up. And I haven't been the only one affected by this. There have been countless other female athletes in the state of Connecticut as well as my entire indoor track team. We missed out on winning the state open championship because of the team that the transgender athlete was [INAUDIBLE].

    HOLCOMB: And Tucker, to underscore inequity here, I want to highlight the fact one of these male athletes now holds 10 records inside the state of Connecticut that were once held by 10 individual girls and were established over the course of about a 20-year period. So it's fundamentally unfair to allow biological males to step into women sports and, frankly, dominate them and take away opportunities, not just to medal, but to be at the podium, to advance to the next level of competition, and even compete for scholarships for young women like Selina.

    TUCKER: Well, it’s grotesque and insane, and it hurts women and girls. And the very people who claim to be defending the women and girls are abetting this or making it possible.

  • After two trans migrant women died in ICE detention, Tucker Carlson says trans detainees are treated better than American citizens

    Carlson promoted ICE propaganda and said detention facilities for trans migrants are “worth it for the amenities alone” even though LGBTQ people are being abused and dying in ICE custody

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX PATERSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson lied to his viewers about the conditions facing transgender migrants detained at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, asserting: “Life for transgender illegal aliens is actually much better than it is for many American citizens.” In fact, LGBTQ migrants, including asylum seekers, face alarming rates of abuse, solitary confinement, and sexual assault in ICE facilities, and two trans migrants -- Johana Medina Leon and Roxana Hernandez -- have died while in ICE custody in just over a year.

    During the June 14 segment, Carlson discussed living conditions in ICE’s single dedicated housing unit for trans women at Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico. The agency recently touted the facility on social media, but many advocates have called ICE’s posts “propaganda” and noted dismal conditions for LGBTQ migrants detained by the agency. A May 2018 analysis by the Center for American Progress found that LGBTQ immigrants are “97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees,” and “1 in 8 transgender people detained in FY 2017 were placed in solitary confinement,” which “is considered a form of torture by the United Nations.”

    Carlson's use of ICE propaganda to complain that some trans detainees have access to their basic needs was a blatant attempt to whitewash ICE’s violation of human and civil rights. Carlson painted a false picture of life for queer and trans migrants detaineed in ICE facilities to stoke resentment against them, continuing his efforts to scapegoat immigrants for supposed national crises.

    From the June 14 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): In real life, there’s nothing right wing about this administration's social policy -- maybe unfortunately. For example, did you know that ICE, right now, maintains a special housing unit for transgender illegal aliens? Hard to believe, but it's true. We know it's true because ICE has been bragging about it recently. The agency even sponsors classes to help transgender migrants appear more feminine. 

    Giving fashion tips to men who dress like women who snuck into our country illegally is a priority for the federal bureaucracy. They are happy to spend your money -- a lot of your money -- doing it. Meanwhile, for American citizens, things get steadily worse: Life expectancy declines, half a million people sleep on the streets every night, heroin addicts line the sidewalks of our once-great cities. But at least the federal government can pay for a specialized detention center for transgender migrants in New Mexico. And that's not all. Thirty million Americans don't have health insurance, and millions more pay way more than they can afford for health insurance. But transgender migrants don't have to worry about that at all. According to ICE’s latest press release, they get all the free health care they want. That includes mental health services and dental. Can you afford dental insurance? If not, you might want to seek asylum. It could be worth it for the amenities alone. Transgender migrants in New Mexico have televisions and microwaves. There’s an indoor basketball court and a library. In their free time, they sing opera. For real.

    Life for transgender illegal aliens is actually much better than it is for many American citizens. It’s not really surprising. You can you tell who our government really cares about, and it's not you.

    Carlson failed to note any of the potentially lethal abuse, harassment, and denial of health care that LGBTQ migrants -- particularly trans women -- face while detained in ICE facilities, or the deaths of two trans women in ICE custody.

    Roxana Hernandez died in May 2018 after reportedly spending five days of detention in an “ice box” -- “facilities notorious for their freezing temperatures,” according to The Guardian. Other detainees said that Hernandez received “no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill” despite having a preexisting medical condition. The Transgender Law Center has filed a wrongful death claim against the Cibola County Correctional center -- the same facility which Carlson decried -- maintaining that she “did not receive necessary medical care and medication” while being held there.

    On June 1, after falling ill at New Mexico’s Otero County Processing Center, Johana Medina Leon also died in ICE custody. According to The Washington Post, another trans woman at the same facility reported being sick and not receiving “adequate medical attention,” and an advocate “said he learned that Leon was not feeling well and that others had requested that she be given intravenous fluids but that staff said they couldn’t administer that kind of treatment.” Medina Leon was one of three migrants to die while in ICE detention in the span of three days. In March, the ACLU called for an investigation into Otero County Processing Center’s detention conditions after 12 gay and transgender detainees reported “sexual harassment, withheld medications and dehumanizing treatment by guards.”

    Moreover, the alarming rates of abuse and death LGBTQ migrants face while in ICE custody reflect the anti-LGBTQ agenda of newly appointed acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli has campaigned for the criminalization of sodomy and said that the “homosexual agenda … brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.”