Tucker Carlson Tonight | Media Matters for America

Tucker Carlson Tonight

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  • Maddow's bombshell that the Trump administration tracked immigrant pregnancies also reveals how bad Fox's coverage was

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After numerous controversies and advertiser losses, Fox News has been scrambling to erect an imaginary firewall between the network's so-called "news" and "opinion" sides. But recent reporting from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about a 2017 case involving the treatment of pregnant detained teenagers underscores the reality about the two sides: Fox's "news" hosts are in lockstep with their so-called “opinion” colleagues and seemingly have been for some time.

    During the March 15 edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow reported on spreadsheets kept by President Donald Trump's administration containing details about unaccompanied immigrant girls’ pregnancies in an attempt to delay or prevent wanted abortions. In 2017, the Trump administration made a policy change that shelters could not facilitate abortion access for detained minors without “direction and approval” from Scott Lloyd, the then-director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. An undocumented teen (referred to as Jane Doe) who was being held in federal custody and was blocked from obtaining a wanted abortion brought suit, and a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to allow her to access abortion care.

    Although it had been previously reported that Lloyd tracked pregnant teens in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) custody using a spreadsheet, the March 15 edition of The Rachel Maddow Show showcased the exclusively obtained spreadsheet and shared previously unseen details. As Maddow said of the 28-page document:

    This is the federal government, with your tax dollars, keeping an individualized record of pregnant teenage girls’ menstrual cycles, whether they've had a positive pregnancy test, what the government knows about how they believe the girls got pregnant, how they believe this individual girl got pregnant, and whether this girl has requested an abortion.

    As Maddow explained, “This was essentially a spreadsheet designed to facilitate federal government action to block these girls from getting any abortion they might want.” In addition, Maddow noted, Lloyd kept tracking the girls’ pregnancies and cycles even after the court ordered ORR to stop blocking teens from obtaining abortions.

    Back in 2017, The Rachel Maddow Show had reported that Lloyd, an anti-choice extremist, used his position to push an anti-abortion agenda on the undocumented minors in his care. He allegedly visited at least one of the pregnant teens to try to talk her out of an abortion and made others go to anti-abortion fake health clinics for the same purpose. He had also reportedly inquired about whether a teenager in ORR custody could have her abortion “reversed,” an anti-abortion scam that is not based in science. Lloyd left ORR to join the Health and Human Services Department (HHS)’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives in November 2018.

    The updated story about Lloyd keeping tabs on teenage girl's menstrual cycles shines a light on the slanted lens through which both Fox's opinion and "news" sides present stories. Those who get their news from Fox are unlikely to hear about this invasive spreadsheet -- just as they were unlikely to hear about Lloyd’s actions in 2017. Instead, the network’s stories about the Jane Doe case that year focused on anti-abortion misinformation and fearmongering about immigrants.

    For example, during a 2017 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed the Jane Doe case was about “liberals … arguing that U.S. taxpayers somehow have an obligation to fund abortions for illegal aliens,” though Jane Doe had obtained private funding for the abortion. On The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham claimed that, because of a related court decision to allow undocumented minors to access abortion, the United States would become “an abortion magnet.” Notably, Ingraham opened the segment by downplaying the experiences of the pregnant detained minors impacted by the decision, mockingly saying: “Underage and need an abortion? Well, just come to America. … No visa needed.”

    Fox News’ so-called “straight news” hosts covered the 2017 case similarly. Bret Baier and Shannon Bream also pushed abortion misinformation about the Jane Doe case -- as they’ve frequently done for other abortion-related stories. During a 2017 edition of Special Report, host Baier opened a segment about Jane Doe’s case by posing the misleading question of whether viewers and their “fellow taxpayers [would] be required to pay for an abortion for an illegal immigrant.” In that same segment, Bream appeared as a correspondent and alleged that some people “think this could open the door to the U.S. providing abortions for minors who would seek to cross the border illegally solely for that purpose.” On her own program, Fox News @ Night, Bream continued promoting anti-choice groups’ talking points, pointing to comments from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, worrying that his state would become “a sanctuary state for abortions” due to the Jane Doe case.

    MSNBC’s new reporting further highlights the failures of Fox News’ work on this story -- on both the “news” and “opinion” sides. Fox News has a vested interest in proving (no matter how inaccurate) that the network's news hosts are somehow different from the network's opinion hosts. But hosts on both sides of Fox's artificial divide have prioritized anti-abortion misinformation and xenophobia over accurate reporting on Scott Lloyd's tenure at HHS. Given the amount of energy the network has spent fearmongering about abortion this year, it seems unlikely that viewers will hear anything accurate about the spreadsheets -- or, perhaps, anything at all.

  • Tucker Carlson's shock jock tapes are R-rated versions of what you'll find on his show

    Surprisingly little has changed between then and now

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Earlier this week, Media Matters for America published controversial comments Tucker Carlson made between 2006 and 2011 during interviews on shock jock radio program Bubba the Love Sponge. Sunday night’s post contained a roundup of misogynistic and perverted comments by the now-Fox News host, and Monday’s releases highlighted Carlson’s racist and homophobic statements. On Tuesday, NowThis published additional comments Carlson made about Miss Teen South Carolina in 2007.

    Carlson brushed off the initial post as Media Matters catching him “saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago” and said he would forego “the usual ritual contrition.” He began Monday night’s episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight with a monologue about getting caught in the gears of “the great American outrage machine,” and how “bewildering” it can be when the quotes in question are more than a decade old.

    Others on the right suggested that these were just jokes, or that Media Matters was being hypocritical for dumping these recordings, highlighting how right-wing figures like Mike Cernovich were criticized for using old tweets to take down people like Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. This theory -- that this is all meant as one big “gotcha" -- relies on an assumption that the recordings were just outdated jokes not relevant to Carlson’s views today.

    In truth, as regular viewers of Tucker Carlson Tonight can confirm, the unearthed clips are simply R-rated versions of the same messages his audience can expect to hear every weeknight.

    One of the more shocking moments in the recordings comes from a 2006 interview in which Carlson mounts a protracted defense of Warren Jeffs, then charged with two first-degree felony counts of being an accomplice to rape for facilitating a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

    He's not accused of touching anybody; he is accused of facilitating a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a 27-year-old man. That's the accusation. That's what they're calling felony rape. [crosstalk] That's bullshit. I'm sorry. Now this guy may be [crosstalk], may be a child rapist. I'm just telling you that arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her. That's bullshit.

    It’s easy to say that 2006 comment doesn’t represent who Carlson is or what he believes, but not much has changed in the years since. During the April 28, 2014, episode of Fox News’ Outnumbered, Carlson defended a teacher accused of giving one of her students a lap dance for his 15th birthday, saying, “There’s no victim here.” At one point, co-host Sandra Smith interjected, “She fondled an underage child in front of his entire classroom. You’re not embarrassed?”

    Viewers were similarly shocked, which is why he returned a week later to defend his position: “I’m not saying that all teachers should do lap dances at school. I’m merely saying when a teacher gets so enthusiastic she breaks out into a lap dance, don’t send her to prison. That’s all I’m saying.”

    On June 5, 2014, Carlson made another appearance on Outnumbered, in which he took the side of a 38-year-old teacher who allegedly raped one of her 16-year-old students, saying it was “ludicrous that we’re calling this a rape” and lamenting that the student "went and tattled to the police." The following year, the teacher would go on to plead guilty to rape and criminal sexual act charges. She was sentenced to 10 years of probation.

    Are you being serious? The kid is 16, he pursued her, and they’re calling it a rape? I’ll tell you, she was wrong to this extent -- he went and tattled to the police and destroyed her life. Are you joking? I mean, what a whiny country this is.

    In 2015, months after the teacher had pleaded guilty, Carlson appeared on Gavin McInnes’ Free Speech podcast, where he once again reiterated his thoughts on statutory rape:

    There are lots of things you have to play along with in life, and I understand society demands compromises. We all live together in close quarters. … But there is a limit beyond which I can’t pretend anymore. And calling -- in this case, it was a 17-year-old kid -- a “rape victim” because a teacher, who wasn’t even that old, or married, was kind enough to initiate him into the ways of adulthood. I’m not just going to sit there. … I’m not going to pretend that that’s rape because it’s just not. And it demeans and devalues real rape.

    None of this is to say that Carlson can’t change his views. We all make mistakes, and I believe that people should be encouraged to learn from those mistakes and grow. In fact, that’s why this piece isn’t dedicated to one-off flubs or the use of “naughty” language, to quote Carlson himself.

    The issue with Carlson has much more to do with the fact that it’s not clear his views on things like the age of consent or misogyny have shifted.

    Prior to the 2016 election, Carlson claimed that people were only “pretending” to be shocked -- trafficking in manufactured outrage -- over Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments. In another interview, Carlson belittled his guest, Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca, telling her to “stick to the thigh-high boots.” He also suggested that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) met with then-President-elect Donald Trump because “she’s the prettiest member of Congress.” In 2017, Carlson lamented rape shield laws that protect the name of accusers, something he also did on Bubba the Love Sponge in 2006.

    During a 2018 interview with New York Times reporter Amy Chozick, Carlson asked whether the fact that “the overwhelming majority of beat reporters covering Hillary were women” was akin to “stacking the deck” in her favor, implying that women wouldn’t objectively cover another woman. In another interview that year, he said that the belief that we live under a patriarchy is “a sign of mental illness” and “demented.” During a September 2018 episode of his show, Carlson said survivors of sexual assault have an “obligation” to report the attack immediately in part to “protect the rest of us from whomever you believe did it.” During another show, he took that argument even further, saying, “If there's a rapist on the loose, if you don't tell anybody ... you're part of the problem, are you not?” Yet, a week later, he compared sexual assault survivors speaking out against the confirmation of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to a scene from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a play about the Salem witch trials. In December 2018, he agreed with one of his guests that “feminism has ambitions to take over civilization.”

    This doesn’t even take into account the entire month of March 2018, a banner Women’s History Month in which Carlson parroted the views of misogynists like Jordan Peterson, Stefan Molyneux, Gavin McInnes, Paul Joseph Watson, and Owen Shroyer.

    What these recordings tell us about the past is less important than what they tell us about the present.

    Taking the above examples at face value (and looking only at comments made on his show), there’s little to suggest that Carlson’s views on gender or the age of consent have changed. Even so, that’s not to say that the views he held then or the ones he currently holds will be the ones he holds next month or next year.

    “The reason we released this is precisely because the things you say on your Fox News show echo the misogyny displayed in those clips. We were actually helping people better understand just how vile your current Fox News show is by showing what that worldview really looks like,” Media Matters President Angelo Carusone wrote on Twitter in response to Carlson’s Sunday night statement.

    There’s nothing nefarious about ensuring that Carlson’s advertisers understand the long-standing beliefs still being echoed on his show. Carlson is one of the most powerful voices in media, with an average audience of 2.8 million viewers per episode in 2018. He is not some random blogger or a troll, and it's not as though these comments were meant to be private. These are all things he knowingly said on the air, whether it be on Fox News or Bubba the Love Sponge.

    Carlson is almost certainly a member of America’s ruling class, a group that he’s repeatedly argued should be held to account for what they say and what they do. To ignore the current narratives presented on his show and how they have been shaped by years of comments would be irresponsible. I believe Carlson should be judged on what he says today and not 10 years ago, and it's the overlap between the past and the present that makes those recordings relevant.

  • White supremacist YouTube channel Red Ice TV loves Tucker Carlson

    Red Ice TV’s Henrik Palmgren: “Tucker Carlson does good work over at Fox News”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & JOHN KERR

    Perhaps because of his noticeable descent into white supremacy, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson gets a lot of love from white supremacists, including the founders of Red Ice TV, a YouTube channel that boasts over 300,000 subscribers despite containing explicitly racist content like discussions of the “JQ” (Jewish Question) and criticism of interracial relationships.

    Red Ice TV founders Lana Lokteff and her husband, Henrik Palmgren, have often mentioned Carlson during their shows, specifically to praise his staunch opposition to diversity. They also celebrated when Carlson tweeted out (and later deleted) a link to their site in an attempt to criticize people who call out racism.

    The Red Ice TV founders aren’t the only white supremacists who adore Carlson; others have labeled him their “favorite commentator,” credited him for being their “only voice to a large extent,” actively fantasized about a Carlson presidential run, and rallied behind him in the face of backlash. Clearly, the white nationalist dog whistles in Carlson’s rhetoric have not gone unnoticed by extremists.

  • Leaked chat messages show members of white supremacist group Identity Evropa are obsessed with Tucker Carlson

    Chats show extremists claim Carlson has “done more for” white supremacists than they “could ever hope to.”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A trove of leaked chat messages reportedly from members of white supremacist group Identity Evropa shows the group’s appreciation for Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Members praised segments from Tucker Carlson Tonight and fantasized about the idea of him running for president someday.

    On March 6, the nonprofit media organization Unicorn Riot released chat logs from a Discord server reportedly used by members of Identity Evropa, a group attempting to sanitize white supremacy by rebranding its racist beliefs as pro-white “identitarianism.” The chat server’s name, “Nice Respectable People Group,” reflects Identity Evropa’s focus on “optics,” a strategy of intentionally rebranding away from obvious extremism to avoid the negative press that supposedly keeps their ideas from appealing to the mainstream.

    Media Matters reviewed hundreds of chat messages containing mentions of Carlson -- who extremists refer to with familiarity as “Tuck” or “Tucker” -- and can confirm that the white supremacists routinely turn on Fox News to watch him deliver messages aligned with their extremist cause. They see Carlson’s prime-time audience as an effective opportunity to rebrand themselves and get positive media coverage for their extremism.

    Users in the leaked chats shared a Media Matters video that shows how closely Carlson’s rhetoric aligns with that of white supremacists like American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor (a point extremists have made as well), with users asking, “Where’s the lie?” and calling the video a “red-pill compilation” (the phrase “red-pilling,” a reference to the movie The Matrix, is far-right shorthand for radicalizing).

    The leaked chats clearly show the admiration that some of the Discord server users have for Carlson. They include users praising the Fox host, claiming that he’s the sole reason they tune in to cable, and calling him “a lone voice of reason in the media.” Borrowing language from anonymous message board 4chan, white supremacists call Carlson “our guy” (users of 4chan have anointed white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) with the same title -- and they call far-right actress Roseanne Barr “our girl”).

    The chats show many users praising Carlson for his subtlety in delivering extremist talking points as a strategic way of remaining on the airwaves, explicitly crediting Carlson with “normalizing 80% of [Identity Evropa’s] talking points,” and pointing out that figures like Carlson and Nazi sympathizer Ann Coulter “know exactly what they’re doing” to “nudge people further to the right.” It is clear is that Carlson’s fearmongering about changing demographics comes across to these extremists as an explicitly white supremacist talking point.

    Members of Identity Evropa praise the Fox host for “doing divine work” that has “done more for” white supremacists than they “could ever hope to” do, while crediting Carlson’s rhetoric with moving the Overton Window, a measure of what’s considered acceptable public discourse, closer to extremism. In fact, they suggest staying within the limits of Carlson’s rhetoric to be effective with mainstream conservatives, calling it “the edge of the acceptable” and claiming that “acceptable … moves toward us daily.”

    The messages also show that white supremacists consider Carlson to be an effective mouthpiece for their messages and pet narratives. They view him as an essential part of the informational “food chain” that funnels their interests to President Donald Trump, who they believe is “being exposed” to their issues through Carlson’s show. And they’re not wrong about that. Last year, a segment on Carlson’s show pushing a white nationalist narrative about South African farmers inspired a presidential tweet, exciting white supremacists around the globe. A leaked chat message shows that members of Identity Evropa actively organized an online campaign to boost Carlson’s South Africa segment using sock accounts -- online accounts with false identities -- and turn the segment into a tool for recruiting on social media.

    Because they deem Carlson’s show to be a valuable platform for the white supremacist movement, some chats show users rallying to get Carlson’s eyes on stories they consider important, or discussing getting their leader, Patrick Casey, on Tucker Carlson Tonight. But to these white supremacists, Carlson is more than a useful mouthpiece, and his show is more than a valuable platform. They look at him as a thought leader and an influential thinker. A user of Identity Evropa’s Discord server promoted Carlson’s Twitter account as one of numerous “serious accounts comprising of European and American Identitarian and reactionary thought leaders.” Another user suggested Carlson’s latest book Ship of Fools as a blueprint for the group’s actions.

    Additionally, Carlson’s Fox show provides his audience with a reason to build communities centered around extremism. The Identity Evropa chats show a user promoting a Carlson-themed Facebook group that was also promoted by The Daily Shoah or TDS, a fascist podcast whose hosts also admire Carlson.

    The leaked chats show that Identity Evropa’s conversations about Carlson are often centered around positively discussing segments of his Fox show -- such as pushing a segment in which Carlson elevated white nationalist outlet VDare as “laying the groundwork for a White Identity politics apologetics” -- and promoting links to his Twitter videos and YouTube clips, creating an incentive for Fox News to continue profiting from extremism.

    Identity Evropa’s conversations about Carlson also reflect a degree of sycophancy that includes wishful thinking about a joint Carlson-Coulter appearance at the group’s national conference and active fantasizing about having Carlson in a presidential ticket.