Democracy Dies in Darkness

Erik Wemple | Opinion

Face it, Tucker Carlson: Your anti-diversity segment was racist

By Erik Wemple

September 10, 2018 at 1:26 PM

Tucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” poses for photos last year in a Fox News Channel studio in New York. (Richard Drew/AP)

Back when Bill O’Reilly held down the pivotal 8 p.m. prime-time slot at Fox News, he’d occasionally make racist or otherwise offensive statements. When a backlash materialized, he’d commonly cite “left-wing zealots” or some such movement. After he was ousted over a sexual-harassment crisis, he blamed an “organized left-wing cabal.”

Tucker Carlson, who now occupies this vital real estate in conservative media, has learned from O’Reilly. On Friday night, Carlson appealed to the white nationalists in his audience with a riff about the dubiousness of diversity. He played clips of three Democratic politicians praising diversity, yielding this riff by Carlson himself:

How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?

Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question.

And if diversity is our strength, why is it okay for the rest of us to surrender one of our central rights, freedom of speech, to just a handful of tech monopolies? And by the way, if your ideas are so obviously true, why does anyone who question them need to be shamed, silenced and fired?

People didn’t appreciate Carlson’s comments. Which is to say, Twitter mauled him. Our favorite:

The outrage was so voluminous and convincing that Carlson felt compelled to respond over the weekend, starting with an O’Reilly-style credit to his detractors’ formidable resources:

The very idea that people from different backgrounds can’t embrace common values or, like, speak to each other in a common language, is self-refuting.

If the counter-tweets don’t sufficiently make the point, consider that study after study after study after study has endorsed the value of diversity in organizations. But why should Carlson believe such studies, when he can consider a more immediate authority: his own employer. In its 2017 annual report, Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox essentially answers Carlson’s question about diversity:

Diversity and Inclusion
The Company appreciates the importance of valuing and serving a diverse marketplace. Different backgrounds and characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, gender, disability, culture and sexual orientation, bring innovative viewpoints and merit to the creation of our content and products.

So there! Here’s another excerpt from the annual report, suggesting that Carlson really has a beef with his bosses:

We work every day to nurture our appetite for change, and guard against our own incumbency while building an organization for the future, with the right structure and leadership and a culture that celebrates the huge swath of diversity that is 21CF.

More:

We also continued efforts to champion new and unique voices in our industry through programs like the Fox Inclusion Writers, Directors, and Filmmakers Labs, because we know that an exchange of diverse perspectives will drive creative innovation and inspire authentic stories that resonate.

Yet more:

In Fiscal 2017, the Company installed a new global Chief Human Resources Officer at 21st Century Fox and a new head of Human Resources at Fox News. Each is authorized to take all necessary steps to ensure our commitment to a diverse, inclusive and welcoming work environment is supported across the entire company.

Settled law, as they say. We’ve asked Fox News if it, too, believes in the values espoused in 21st Century Fox’s annual report. We are awaiting a response.

Viewers of Carlson’s program couldn’t have been surprised that he has doubts about diversity. Speaking about a British man busted for possession of child pornography, Carlson quipped in June, “It’s a good thing he merely victimized children and didn’t dare question diversity. Then he’d be in real trouble.” In May, he roared, “Our elites are always telling you how progressive they are. They tout their commitment to diversity. They fret about global warming. They’re up for any new bathroom rule you can think of as long as it sounds modern. They’re classic cool moms basically, eager to show off their open minds.” And back in February 2017, the Erik Wemple Blog pointed out to Carlson that we’d written a story about The Post’s struggles with diversity in its upper ranks. Carlson scoffed at the very issue: “These are real stories, not about diversity in your newsroom,” he said.

Watch more!
Fox News host Tucker Carlson appears to use the same deflection tactic when arguing with guests on his show, as Post media critic Erik Wemple points out. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

At least Carlson lives his principles. He sticks up for white people all the time on his program, in ways that just so happen to appeal to racists. As for the diversity on the staff of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” we’ve asked Fox News for a rundown. We are awaiting a response.

Finally, the suggestion that people from different backgrounds cannot easily share values and speak to one another sounds a lot like something one of those wacky Fox News guests would say on air. Policing such outbursts has been one of the priorities of recently elevated Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, though this time the malefactor is a table-setting prime-time host. We’ve asked Fox News whether Scott shares Carlson’s lack of confidence in diversity. We are awaiting a response.

For his part, Carlson has said, “I’m not a racist. I hate racism.”


Erik Wemple, The Washington Post's media critic, focuses on the cable-news industry. Before joining The Post, he ran a short-lived and much publicized local online news operation, and for eight years served as editor of Washington City Paper.

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Erik Wemple | Opinion

Face it, Tucker Carlson: Your anti-diversity segment was racist

By Erik Wemple

September 10, 2018 at 1:26 PM

Tucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” poses for photos last year in a Fox News Channel studio in New York. (Richard Drew/AP)

Back when Bill O’Reilly held down the pivotal 8 p.m. prime-time slot at Fox News, he’d occasionally make racist or otherwise offensive statements. When a backlash materialized, he’d commonly cite “left-wing zealots” or some such movement. After he was ousted over a sexual-harassment crisis, he blamed an “organized left-wing cabal.”

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