Amid wave of right-wing vigilantism, Tucker Carlson hosts guest with ties to domestic terrorist group

Amid a national wave of right-wing vigilantism that has cost anti-police brutality demonstrators their lives, Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson hosted Dov Hikind, a former New York State Assembly member with ties to a right-wing domestic terror group. Hikind and Carlson smeared Joe Biden as supporting anti-Semitism for meeting with the father of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 23. Right-wing figures have been circulating social media posts that were supposedly made by Blake’s father.

During the September 3 segment, Carlson characterized Biden’s visit to the grieving father as “giving moral authority to someone like Jacob Blake Sr.” Hikind responded by calling it “pathetic” and said “people in my community asked me is there a future in America” for Jews because Democrats “are endangering this country.” He also attacked Muslim and Jewish members of Congress Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

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Citation From the September 3, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

Hikind is not new to Fox News -- he’s appeared on the network at least three times since 2017. The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), a nonprofit group whose goal is to inform journalists about issues affecting Palestinians and Palestinian Americans, has an explainer on Hikind’s ties to racism, right-wing violence, and extremism, some of which has been summarized and expanded below:

  • Hikind was a member of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a violent anti-Arab extremist group with ties to decades of right-wing terrorism, including an international incident in 1994 when a JDL member “massacred 29 Palestinian Muslims kneeling in prayer at a mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron.” The FBI describes the JDL as a “violent extremist Jewish organization” and a “right-wing terrorist group.”
  • According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the JDL was founded as “part of the white backlash surrounding the New York City teachers' union strikes of 1968”, and its activities included sending squads of JDL members to “patrol” parts of the city that were “predominantly Jewish areas, which ultimately led to an ethnic polarization of neighborhoods.”
  • An article from The New York Times described Hikind as an “important leader” of the JDL during the 1970s, a time when the group was responsible for “bombing Russian targets in New York to publicize the plight of Soviet Jews. Although Mr. Hikind and his former league associates say he was never directly involved in the violence, by his own count arrested five times in demonstrations, including once for chaining himself to the gate of the Soviet Union's United Nations Mission.” The SPLC points out that many Jews in Moscow were opposed to the violence being wrought on their behalf by the JDL.
  • Hikind was an ally to Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the JDL who also founded the Israeli Kach party, which according to the IMEU “advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories.”
  • The New York TImes described Hikind as an “intimate” friend of Kahane who spoke at his funeral, saying it “gave legitimacy to many of the ideas for which Rabbi Kahane stood.”
  • While serving in the New York State Assembly, Hikind wore blackface to a Purim party in 2013. When his offensive costume was reported in the press, Hikind responded by writing a blog that characterized criticism as “political correctness to the absurd.”
  • In 2017, Hikind spoke at an event hosted by anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller alongside white supremacist Milo Yiannopolos and attended by Gavin McInnes, founder of the violent far-right street gang the Proud Boys.

In 2017, HuffPost reported on Hikind's involvement with the JDL and published his response to questions from reporter Christopher Mathias in full. Mathias summarized Hikind's response:

Because there has been little public accounting of Hikind’s role in the organization, HuffPost sent the assemblyman a detailed list of questions this week about his relationship to the JDL. In response, Hikind gave HuffPost an exclusive statement ― a full copy of which can be read at the bottom of this article ― in which he states that he “couldn’t recall with greater fondness” his time with the group.

“Over 43 years ago, I was very proud to be part of the Jewish Defense League,” Hikind wrote.

Although Hikind claims his role in the JDL was “non-violent,” his statement did not address specific HuffPost questions regarding whether he once called for the assassination of pro-Palestinian Arab-Americans; whether he was a close friend of a man convicted of carrying out 20 bombings in New York and Washington, D.C.; or regarding why the FBI suspected him in plotting six bombings of Arab targets across the U.S.

He did not answer a question regarding whether he had knowledge of, or involvement in, other JDL plots that involved violence or were otherwise illegal. He also did not deny that in 1976 he tossed a smoke bomb into the Ugandan mission at the United Nations in New York, saying in his statement that he did a “few pranks” at the Ugandan mission, “for which I was never charged.”

Fox News has been awash with support for violent right-wing vigilantism. In recent days, Carlson has defended the right-wing vigilante who shot and killed two protesters in Kenosha, and even hosted his lawyer for a sympathetic interview. As my colleague Matt Gertz describes it, this trend in the network’s coverage is as “horrifying as it was inevitable.” 

Hosting Hikind, who has historic ties to right-wing terrorism, is yet another way Carlson and Fox News work to legitimize right-wing vigilantism.