ADL's Jonathan Greenblatt: The Murdochs, Fox's board, and Fox's advertisers enable Tucker Carlson to push white nationalist conspiracy theories

Greenblatt: “The question is really from Fox management to the Fox board to Fox shareholders: How can they countenance their network being used to mainstream the most violent and toxic ideas?”

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Citation From the April 11, 2021, edition of CNN's Reliable Sources

BRIAN STELTER (HOST): Trump is not really the leader of this anymore. Tucker Carlson is -- from downplaying the pro-Trump ride of January six to mainstreaming a white supremacist conspiracy theory. And I know Tucker has been here before. I mean, remember that time when he said white supremacy was a hoax?

But his comments this week on Thursday were another new low as he identified the so-called white replacement theory by name. This is something that's fringe, often on racist websites, but he played it out for his viewers to hear. And it's been played a lot. I know the Fox segment has been replayed repeatedly, so I'm not going to air it here. But Tucker knew exactly what he was doing. Look at the quote. He even predicted that people would be disturbed by his argument, which made him all the more delighted to make the argument anyway.

He said Democrats are trying to, quote, replace current voters with, quote, more obedient voters from the Third World. You know exactly what he was talking about. Of course, then he said he wasn't talking about white replacement theory, but that's like saying you're not eating an apple while you're taking a big bite out of a Granny Smith.

Tucker's defense is that he was talking about voting rights, but ironically, he spoke against the rights of a majority of voters just a couple of days earlier when he downplayed the insurrection, that attempt to overturn the lawful election. And he acted like the rioters were on a field trip. He bashed the government and said the rioters were being prosecuted for expressing their political opinions in public when they are actually being charged from everything for everything from unauthorized entry to assaults to conspiracy. And the feds, Sullivan tracked down the bombing suspect and everyone's forgetting that there were other uprisings in other cities that day in state capitals, there was literally a bloody insurrection three months ago and the so-called law and order conservative channel folks are trying to make you think it was a picnic. Good thing I brought apples.

This is the Trumpian war on truth that is still raging, it's raging because guys like Rupert Murdoch and his son, Lachlan Murdoch encourage it. It's raging because men like Paul Ryan sit silently on the Fox Corporation board of directors. Murdoch knows better. Ryan knows better. They know Tucker is cynically preying on his audience's fears, their fears of being replaced, fears of a changing, growing America. But the show goes on, the profits go on, they act like Tucker's invincible, they seem to think that he's the boss when in fact they are the bosses.

But some people are speaking out while the Murdochs stay silent, while Fox is not commenting on Carlson's behavior, some people are speaking out, including my first guest here today. With me for an exclusive interview is Jonathan Greenblatt. He's the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Thank you so much for coming on.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT: Thank you for having me, Brian.

STELTER: You penned a letter to Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott on Friday saying Carlson's been race-baiting for years and it's time for him to go. Have you heard back from Fox yet? What has Fox said back to you since Friday?

GREENBLATT: Well, look, it's Sunday morning, we were closed yesterday for Shabbat and we sent this out Friday afternoon, so we haven't heard anything yet. But I'll tell you why, if we step back, this is so problematic. And as you pointed out, Tucker Carlson has a history of sanitizing stereotypes and of spreading this kind of poison.

But what he did on Thursday night really was indeed, as you put it, a new low. The great replacement theory, as it's known, is this toxic idea that there are a cabal of Jews plotting to overrun the country with immigrants, Muslims, Black people, et cetera, and commit what they call white genocide. It is literally, Brian, a staple of white supremacist and extremist ideology. And so when Tucker Carlson literally introduces it to his four and a half million viewers, he's serving as a gateway to one of the most damaging and dangerous conspiracy theories out there.

And when I say that again, let me be clear. This has real consequences from twenty seventeen, the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville where this phrase was invoked. Remember, Jews will not replace us. And then Heather Heyer was mowed down and murdered, to the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue in twenty eighteen where 11 worshipers were killed, to the shooting the following year in Christchurch, where fifty-one people were killed -- Muslim worshipers, to the murders in El Paso, where twenty-some-odd Latino people were killed. Again and again and again, it is the replacement theory that's been invoked by these extremist murderers.

So when Tucker Carlson invokes it on his show, when he dismisses it right, it is so dangerous. And I think, as you pointed out, the question is really from Fox management to the Fox board to Fox shareholders: How can they countenance their network being used to mainstream the most violent and toxic ideas?

STELTER: As you say, there is a long history of Carlson's race -- racist comments I was about to say racially charged, but there's no reason to beat around these bushes. Let's put up a straw poll of some examples from the past. Remember, his top writer resigned last year after secretly posting racist and sexist remarks in an online forum. So there's some other examples on screen here. I put these up to make the point that Fox has promoted him. They've elevated him. He's the biggest star on the channel, the highest-rated host. So what do you actually expect Fox to do?

GREENBLATT: Well, look, Father Coughlin got great ratings in the 1930s thirties with anti-Semitic and racist rants until he was taken down. Right. And you know, people like Lou Dobbs on the Fox network or Glenn Beck before him got great ratings with their wild, racist and ugly conspiracy theories.

So what do we want Fox to do? I mean, first and foremost, Tucker has got to go again. I think it is a risk not just to the corporation, it's a risk to our society to promoting these anti-Semitic and racist myths that literally were used by people on January the 6th to try to not just interfere with the election, but to murder lawmakers. I mean, I think we've really crossed a new threshold when a major news network dismisses this or pretends like it isn't important. This has deadly significance.

So number one, Tucker, has got to go. And then I think secondly, Brian, Fox needs to look at their entire primetime lineup and finally ask themselves, can -- does this work? Because at the end of the day, let's acknowledge Fox isn't alone in this. They have advertisers. They have affiliates. Right. There are cable companies who carry their signal. If Fox won't act, it may be time for the advertisers to act. It may be time for, again, the affiliates and the cable companies to act to finally, once and for all say that America is, simply put, no place for hate.

Why is this even a debate anymore, Brian?

STELTER: But you know how this goes. Tucker, just says I'm talking about voting rights and then the Murdochs will say we don't cancel people, they'll say you're trying to engage in cancel culture. That's what I can actually hear them in my ears, because that's exactly what they would say.

GREENBLATT: Well, look, this is not cancel culture, let me be unambiguous about it, there has always been room for fringe ideas in America. That's a function of our First Amendment. And I embrace that. The question is, does Fox -- Fox should take these fringe ideas and put them where they belong on the fringe, not place them in primetime, where they serve as a gateway drug to tens of millions of Americans. Right? To literally conscript them into this conspiracy theory of violent white supremacy. We can't afford to look away any longer, Brian. It's incumbent upon again, from advertisers to the cable companies to the shareholders to say there is just too much risk in his racism and he's got to go.

STELTER: My worry is always my elderly neighbor who is watching Fox morning, noon, and night, who's a great gentleman. But, you know, you think about what millions of people are hearing without realizing that it comes from white nationalists, white supremacist texts. Right? Because they're hearing their friends say it. Tucker is their friend. They trust him. They love him.


STELTER: And that's where this is scary. That's where this is dangerous. But I'm at the viewpoint now where I think the Murdochs have given up. They think Tucker's in charge. You know, someone needs to remind the Murdochs they pay Tucker. Tucker's their employee. They're allowed to sanction him. They're allowed to, you know, give him some guidance. But it doesn't seem to ever happen. There's a lack of leadership that is emphasized by the fact that Lachlan Murdoch is basically living in Sydney, Australia, now, what does that 15 time zones away from Fox News headquarters in New York. So you were giving them the benefit of the doubt, saying, well, it's only Sunday. They haven't replied yet, but I think they've had plenty of time to reply to your letter if they were going to.

GREENBLATT: Well, I got yeah, I mean, look, it's -- there's a reason why people like Richard Spencer or David Duke, you know, praise Tucker Carlson because indeed he's taken their talking points and literally used his prime time platform to mainstream them for millions of Americans. So, as you put it, there are questions, where are the Murdochs? Where is the where's the rest of the board at Fox? Again, where are the shareholders? The institutional investors -- right? -- who have large positions in the company, need to ask themselves, can they really continue to ignore this kind of intolerance?

Anti-Semitism and racism has consequences. January 6th made this abundantly clear. The body count is high enough, is high enough, Brian, that finally, we've got to take a stand.

STELTER: Jonathan Greenblatt, thank you for coming on, please let us know if you do hear back from Fox News.