Tucker Carlson | Media Matters for America

Tucker Carlson

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  • After Charlottesville attack, anti-LGBTQ hate groups attack media outlets for accurately calling them hate groups

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In response to the violent August 12 white nationalist and neo-Nazi protests that occurred in Charlottesville, VA, a number of regional and national media outlets published pieces that informed their readers about regional and national hate groups from various extremist ideologies. Anti-LGBTQ hate groups and their allies in right-wing media responded to these stories by attacking the media outlets that published them, some of which have since deleted their stories.

  • Why is Tucker Carlson so reluctant to condemn white supremacists?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    White supremacists and neo-Nazis marched on Charlottesville, VA, last weekend. Support for the town’s statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was their rallying point, though the underlying rationale was a toxic mixture of racism and anti-Semitism. The protesters were met by a coalition of progressives, religious leaders, and the antifa movement; violence erupted, and Heather Heyer was killed when an alleged neo-Nazi crashed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. Since then, journalists and activists have spent hours on cable news discussing the validity of removing Confederate statues from the public square, the appropriateness of President Donald Trump’s response to the tragic incident, and whether “left-wing violence” is a dangerous phenomenon. But the throughline of the coverage has been the fervent, universal denunciation of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis as advocates of a violent, racist ideology that has no place in public life.

    But one curious exception stands out from this trend: Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, one of the most popular cable news programs in the country. Over the past four nights, Tucker Carlson has seemed unusually loath to offer harsh words for the protesters and their ideology, instead focusing his criticism on progressives who responded by seeking to remove more Confederate statues or curtail the speech of extremists. Carlson is a skilled polemicist, but he has devoted no monologues to railing against the bigotry of white supremacy, no analysis of the aims or history of their growing movement. He is a talented debater who uses his program to brutally dispatch guests who lack his skill, but hasn’t brought a neo-Nazi onto his program for the explicit purpose of exposing their hatred.

    Carlson’s hesitancy to offer a fervent condemnation of the protesters and his preference for using the issue to criticize the left mirrors Trump’s reaction. And like that of the president, Carlson’s rise has been applauded by the very same racists who marched on Charlottesville. White supremacists love Carlson because he uses his program to push issues they care about -- namely condemnations of immigrants and Muslims and the promotion of “European culture” -- to a massive audience. As neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin of the website Daily Stormer put it, “Tucker Carlson is literally our greatest ally.” (The website urged its readers to attend the Charlottesville rally in order to “end Jewish influence in America.”)

    To be clear, it’s not that Carlson has refused to criticize white supremacists altogether this week, it’s just that his criticisms are brief, perfunctory statements he uses to set up his attacks on the left. He’ll say he doesn’t like that white supremacists put “race at the center of their worldview,” before accusing the left of having a similar obsession with race. He will agree with a guest that KKK rhetoric is “awful” and “hateful,” using that admission to set up a critique of arguments for restricting “hate speech.” He will clear his throat by saying of white nationalist groups, “I’m not a part of them and don’t like them” before ripping the left for curtailing their speech. And that’s about as far as Carlson has been willing to go over the past four days. Such reticence to employ harsh language is unusual for Carlson; over the same period, for example, he’s described Google as “authoritarian” and “un-American,” and accused progressive activists of engaging in the “textbook definition of racism.”

    Carlson doesn’t seem to view the weekend’s violent eruption as the result of a racist ideology. Instead, he had described the events as “chaos” featuring a “lunatic hell-bent” on murder who was inadvertently aided politicians who wouldn’t let law enforcement do their jobs. “What country was this?” he asked on his first program after the protests. “Where were the authorities? What happened to the police? Is this America?” Carlson had a very different take after the terrorist attack Thursday in Barcelona, Spain. He quickly blamed “radical Islam” and increased Muslim immigration. “If your population changes, your society is going to change for good and bad, probably, but this is one of the downsides,” he said, adding that Western European leaders who refuse to “draw that obvious conclusion” are “paralyzed by guilt and self-hatred.”

    Meanwhile, the Fox host has devoted substantial time on each night this week to what he apparently considers a far greater threat: efforts by liberal activists to tear down historical statues. Carlson has devoted little attention to the fact that the Charlottesville protesters rallied in support of the Lee statue. But he has painted the activist movement rising in the wake of that atrocity as ignorant of history and ideologically committed to abolishing our collective understanding of the past. And he’s warned those activists are dangerous, claiming that “if a crowd of people with strong political views can destroy a statue, why can't they set your house on fire? I mean, in other words, why doesn't this stuff accelerate into something really dangerous? Why wouldn't it?” That is more concern than he has demonstrated about the white supremacists with “strong political views” who already have blood on their hands.

    On Wednesday he championed the free speech rights of white supremacists, warning against “the prospect of big companies using their power to enforce ideological conformity” by refusing them access to their platforms. He even said his guest’s contention that the protesters were “camping about with tiki torches like the right did and rambling on about Jews” because their speech rights had been denied was “exactly right.”

    It would be easy to write off Carlson’s lack of interest and explain it away, except for the fact that Tucker is a star among the very collection of deplorables he has been so uninterested in criticizing.

    Yes, the issues of who is publicly venerated by our society and whether speech rights are absolute are complex, important ones on which people of good faith may disagree.

    Yes, Carlson could argue that the virulence of white supremacist ideology should go without saying, or that many other shows are already providing that service and he wanted to do something different.

    But surely a program that found several minutes this week to berate Weekly Standard editor at large Bill Kristol could also manage to find some time to more forcefully condemn neo-Nazis in the wake of the weekend’s events.

    Carlson has the biggest platform on cable news. More than three million people tune in to his show every night. Some of them are prominent white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It seems unlikely that Carlson is unaware of this fact. If he wanted to, he could use his power to confront and condemn their behavior, in a longshot even attempt to use his rhetorical skills to move them away from racism. Instead, he followed up a violent white nationalist conflagration with days of programming that they must have loved.

  • Thanks to Fox's Tucker Carlson, pro-Trump Reddit is discovering anti-abortion extremism

    Fox News' Carlson has been hosting more anti-abortion extremists -- and members of a pro-Trump Reddit forum are taking notice 

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson had a night off on August 7, but that didn’t stop him from airing yet another interview with anti-choice extremist and spreading misinformation about Planned Parenthood. And Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” forum, where “alt-right” members supporting President Donald Trump congregate, is starting to take notice.

    During the August 7 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, guest host Laura Ingraham -- who has her own history of spreading misinformation about abortion -- aired a pre-taped interview in which Carlson hosted anti-choice activist Abby Johnson. Although posts about abortion don’t usually gain much traction in “r/The_Donald”, the August 7 segment sparked an unusual amount of interest from users.

    Since moving into a coveted primetime spot in the Fox News lineup, Carlson has seemingly made a habit of hosting anti-abortion activists and packaging their misinformation around the theme of “censorship.” Within the anti-abortion movement, alleging censorship has become a popular tactic, in which an anti-abortion group or outlet alleges it has been persecuted in order to rally followers and raise funds. Although Carlson positions his program to appeal to right-wing and “alt-right” extremists, as Media Matters noted in July, he has taken particular pains to manufacture outrage on behalf of anti-abortion guests by alleging that their misinformation has been censored by another outlet.

    In the pre-taped August 7 interview, Johnson expanded beyond the typical right-wing media attacks on Planned Parenthood that often allege the organization is not an essential health care provider. Johnson additionally argued that Planned Parenthood not only had so-called “abortion quotas” -- a claim that has been soundly debunked -- but also attempted to provide patients with birth control “with a high human error rate” so they would later schedule abortions, another falsehood that is most often repeated by only the most extreme anti-abortion activists.

    Pro-Trump Reddit users don’t often engage with topics related to abortion. For example, during Republicans’ unsuccessful attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a post on “r/The_Donald” about a provision of the repeal bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood generated only two comments. Similarly, a new smear video from the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) that was posted to “r/The_Donald” yielded only one comment; and a post promoting a Facebook Live event of another anti-abortion group (Students for Life of America) received zero comments. On other occasions, however, threads about Planned Parenthood on “r/The_Donald” did generate a greater number of comments, but even these topped out at around 200 replies.   

    In contrast, a post concerning the August 7 segment of Carlson’s show generated upwards of 700 comments from pro-Trump Reddit users on “r/The_Donald.” Most notably, a number of users described the segment as a “red pill” moment for them -- a pop culture term referring to an experience that supposedly shows reality to an individual -- or as evidence of so-called “censorship” and responded by making threats against Planned Parenthood employees.

    One poster wrote that “this may be the biggest redpill any of us have ever swallowed,” while another said that it was good because “we need a kick in the ass like this.” A third poster argued, “I've always said that abortion is the biggest red pill you can take. Glad to see [“r/The_Donald”] is taking it.”

    In another example, a user described the segment as “my final red pill on abortion.”

    Beyond expressing general outrage about what are, in reality, inaccurate allegations against Planned Parenthood, some users went a step further and posted threatening statements against the organization’s staff and board members. One poster wrote, “DEFUND THEN (sic) BURN THE BUILDINGS DOWN,” garnering a response from another user that someone should “salt the earth once the flames have died down.”

    Others argued that Planned Parenthood staff should “be imprisoned for life for first degree murder,” that “these demons are not of this earth” and that “every single person on the board of [Planned Parenthood] needs to be strung by the neck.”

    In instances where individuals didn’t call for attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics or staff, they seemingly endorsed acts of anti-choice violence committed by others. As one user wrote, “I used to think the people that attacked these clinics were nuts, but WOW.” Another wrote that they would “be okay if vigilantes started burning these places down in the night.”

    After white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallied in Charlottesville, VA -- leaving one person dead and many injured -- the threat posed by radicalized online communities cannot be understated. Although Carlson may not be the originator of the anti-choice misinformation he spreads, he is specially packaging it for an audience rife with misogyny and primed for violence. And if pro-Trump Reddit’s reaction to Carlson’s segment with Johnson is any indication, these online communities are starting to take notice.

  • How Fox News has used violent gang MS-13 to demonize immigrants

    Hosts and guests routinely use Suffolk County’s MS-13 problem as a justification for Trump’s anti-immigration policies

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In the months leading up to President Donald Trump’s July 28 remarks in Suffolk County, New York, where he spoke about “America’s weak border and immigration enforcement,” Fox News repeatedly reported on Long Island’s MS-13 problem, falsely attributing the gang’s growth to immigration policies and an influx of unaccompanied minors to the area. But law enforcement officials and experts agree that the key to fighting MS-13 and impeding its recruitment efforts is integrating newly arrived immigrants into the community, something that Suffolk County has historically failed to do.

  • Trump’s embattled attorney general once again retreats to his safe space on Tucker Carlson Tonight

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions will appear on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight as President Donald Trump continues to criticize Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election. Given host Tucker Carlson’s frequent fanboying and staunch defenses of Sessions in the past, the beleaguered attorney general  will most likely enjoy a fawning, sophomoric interview during his appearance on the show.

    Sessions’ planned appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight is not the first time he has used the friendly platform to address controversies surrounding his role in the administration. During Sessions’ confirmation process for his current job, Roll Call’s Jonathan Allen highlighted the former Alabama senator’s racist past, writing in a November 15 column that Sessions was “unfit for the Cabinet” and a “partially reconstructed baiter of minorities.” In response, Carlson went to bat for Sessions; he invited  Allen on to his November 18 broadcast and lambasted his article as “one of the most unfair things I’ve ever read.” Carlson also accused Allen of “smearing” Sessions by "download[ing] some talking points from the DNC” and said Allen had impugned Sessions with “slur[s]” and “pure talking points.”

    On March 2, when numerous Democratic lawmakers were calling for Sessions’ resignation in response to reports that he had met with the Russian ambassador and lied about it under oath, Sessions retreated to his safe space on Carlson’s show in an effort to defuse the firestorm. Carlson’s softball interview with Sessions included questions such as, “Do you see this as a witch hunt?”

    Carlson is once again coming to Sessions’ defense, but this time around, the people aiming for Sessions are doing so from inside the White House. In a July 19 interview with The New York Times, Trump went after his own attorney general, saying, “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.” The attacks haven’t ceased, with the president repeatedly tweeting out criticism of Sessions.

    Carlson, in a somewhat surprising split from agreeing with everything Trump does, leapt to Sessions’ defense and devoted a segment of his July 20 show to vouch for Sessions’ perceived value to the Trump administration. Carlson maintained that Sessions “has been the rare person in the entire executive branch making actual progress implementing the agenda his boss ran on, because he's the rare person who believes in it,” and warned that Trump should “lay off Jeff Sessions.” 

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Sessions was worried about what an unsecured border and mass immigration would do to America, even though the biggest effects from those wouldn't be seen until decades after he was long gone from this earth. So, he jumped in and accepted Trump’s offer to become attorney general. He didn't do it to get rich, and certainly not to become more popular. He instantly became less. You’ll remember that many of his former colleagues in the Senate slandered him as a bigot during his confirmation hearings. As attorney general, Sessions has been the rare person in the entire executive branch making actual progress implementing the agenda his boss ran on, because he's the rare person who believes in it. In an administration brimming with opportunists and ideological saboteurs, people who literally couldn’t be less interested in what voters think, Sessions has never lost sight of the lessons of the last election. He’s gone after sanctuary cities, he’s enforced immigration laws, he’s ended the Obama administration's attacks on local police departments, and a lot more. He’s likely the most effective member of the Trump cabinet.

    In return, the president attacked him in the failing New York Times. That’s not just criticism. It's an insult. It's also a worrisome sign that the president may be forgetting who is on his side. Goldman Sachs did not elect Donald Trump. America’s long-ignored middle class did. Trump voters may find his tweets about the media amusing, and well-deserved because, obviously, they are, but they’re not the point of this exercise. The point is to shine some light on the broad middle of this country, on the millions of normal people who are hurting and who could badly use an ally in power for the first time in a long time. Now the hope is that what happened yesterday was just a stress-related aberration, the political equivalent of yelling at your kids when you had a bad day at the office. If so, it will be not be hard to fix this. Going forward, just pay a little less attention to The New York Times, pay a little more to Matt Drudge. And for God’s sake, lay off Jeff Sessions. He is your friend. One of the very few you have in Washington.

    There are many similarities between Carlson and Sessions. They both regularly villainize immigrants, and like Sessions, Carlson is beloved by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Tonight’s interview will most likely be nothing more than a public relations stunt for Sessions.

  • Tucker Carlson fails to ask Pence about his opposition to transgender military service

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The July 26 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight featured a pre-taped interview with Vice President Mike Pence. Notably absent from the interview was any reference to Pence’s opposition to trans military service, service President Donald Trump has just banned. 

    Pence has been reportedly working behind the scenes to ensure the reversal of the Obama administration’s repeal of the transgender ban, but it failed to pass muster in Congress. Carlson skirted the issue, focusing on the GOP’s struggling health care bill during the interview rather than asking Pence about the new policy implementation and its potential impact. Outside of his interview with Pence, Carlson did mention the policy, erroneously stating that the ban was due to prohibitive costs and a negative impact on military readiness, ignoring years of research and policy analysis conducted prior to the Department of Defense’s decision to repeal the ban in 2016.