Ascertaining the low point of Tucker Carlson’s run as editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller could well be placed in a multiple-choice context. Was it when he:
A) Presided over a story falsely claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency was seeking to boost its workforce by 230,000 employees to enforce greenhouse gas rules?
B) Dozed on the set of “Fox & Friends Weekend,” of which he is a co-host?
C) Stood by a Daily Caller story alleging that Sen. Robert Menendez had cavorted with prostitutes, even after the story was exposed as a fraud?
D) Outed himself as a propagator of journalistic censorship?
Item D is a new development. On Monday, now-former Daily Caller columnist Mickey Kaus posted a critical piece about how Fox News had staked out a pro-amnesty position on the immigration debate. The Erik Wemple Blog rifled through the story and shrugged. Later, we clicked on it again and found that the link went to the Daily Caller’s homepage. We asked Kaus what happened and got no reply.
Telling: The Kaus piece, as it turned out, had been scrubbed from the site by Daily Caller management. When Kaus sought an explanation from Carlson, he received these words: “Can’t trash Fox on the site. Sorry. I work there.” As mentioned before, Carlson works the morning shift on weekends at Fox News. Carlson didn’t return e-mails from the Erik Wemple Blog seeking comment on the matter.
Carlson told Politico’s Dylan Byers: “Mickey is a great guy, and one of the few truly independent thinkers anywhere. I’m sorry to see him go.”
Daily Caller columnist Matt Lewis, however, didn’t hesitate to speak up for his workplace: “The intellectual freedom in this newsroom is unparalleled,” he wrote in a statement to the Erik Wemple Blog. “If anything, there’s a libertarian ethos where dissent is encouraged. Even when powerful people have complained about my stuff, I can’t remember ever having a post spiked or weakened in four years. How many writers can say that?”
To his credit, Carlson did not attempt to attribute the article’s killing to some bogus editorial consideration. “He gets points for being honest about what it’s about,” Kaus said in an extensive conversation Tuesday night with the Erik Wemple Blog. Kaus had far-reaching independence at the Daily Caller, posting straight to the site when he completed his pieces. He received a penny per pageview, a clickbait incentive program that once netted him $4,000 to $5,000 per month; in recent months, he says, he’d been raking in around $1,000 per. The subject of Kaus’s journalistic affection — as his Twitter followers well know — is immigration, on which he is hard-liner.
The Carlson carve-out for negative Fox News coverage was too much for Kaus, who formerly wrote for Slate and Newsweek. He bailed on his contract and now plans to take his blog elsewhere. The way Kaus tells it, Carlson has attempted to keep him on board while also hanging on to his policy regarding his other employer: “Look, I don’t see how I can not have this rule. I’m employed by Fox, it’s the only way I can handle it, I would like you to stay on,” says Kaus, summing up Carlson’s approach.
In deference to the Daily Caller, Kaus managed to publish his stuff for four years without serious incident. By his own account, he sustained minor hassling from an editor after publishing these two pieces from 2013, both of which strike the same theme as his Monday post: Fox News’ allegedly pro-amnesty position. “Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly have now fallen in line behind World Citizen Rupert Murdoch’s support of ‘sweeping, generous immigration reform,’ including a ‘path to citizenship,’ Kaus wrote on Jan. 21, 2013. Those stories sit unmolested by the iron broom of Carlsonian Daily Caller censorship. After he posted one of them, Kaus heard from an editor on staff: “That puts Tucker in an awkward position,” said the editor, in Kaus’s recollection. Kaus recommended that Carlson himself address the matter with him; he didn’t.
There’s no evidence that Fox News itself ever asked Carlson to impose his no-negative-news policy on the Daily Caller newsroom. No matter, according to Kaus — that demonstrates its power. “I think they sort of have a monopoly on the careers of ambitious journalists on the right. If Fox shuts you out, you have deep trouble becoming a star,” he says.
This monopoly shows up on DailyCaller.com. A site search turns up a great deal of material, including:
- A recent post under the headline “A Defensive Marie Harf Snarks At Fox News During Clinton Email Press Briefing [VIDEO].”
- A piece by Ginni Thomas titled, “What Made This Fox News Star Leave The Career She Loved?” The piece concludes with this line: “We haven’t seen the last of Molly Henneberg though, as even Fox can’t seem to let go of her as they have graciously offered to make her a freelance reporter, which thrills her and those of us who appreciate her impressive life choices.”
- A December story headlined: “Fox News Reigns As Ratings King For 13th Straight Year, CNN Posts All-Time Lows”
- An October post that documented criticism of Fox News by President Obama. “Obama’s decision to attack Fox, known for its tough coverage of the president, is his latest attempt to rally Democratic voters in the run-up to the November midterms,” reads one line.
- October headline: “Fox News Lands Interview With SEAL Who Killed Osama Bin Laden.” *”Happy Birthday, Fox News! See The Folks Who Made It Great [SLIDESHOW]“
Good to see that Carlson’s directives at the Daily Caller are heeded.
Certainly Kaus’s scrubbed piece would have counterprogrammed the pieces above. Now that Kaus has reposted the story to KausFile.com, everyone can see just what so angered Carlson. It’s probably these lines:
Fox is supposed to be the feisty opposition network. You’d think it would wage a rousing campaign against Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which are surely wildly unpopular among its viewers, both because of their ends (de facto legalizing of illegals) and their means (presidential overreach).
The main significance of Fox’s immigration tamp-down, though, was as a precedent — a dry run for how [Rupert] Murdoch’s network might ease the way for a legislative amnesty down the road (especially if, as is quite possible, the courts void Obama’s executive actions). If Fox gets away with it this time, there will be no opposition news network next time either.
But certainly not these:
Here is a list of the lead story each day on Megyn Kelly’s “Kelly File” show from January 14 (the day the House sent the Senate a DHS bill with a “rider” blocking Obama’s amnesty) until March 3, the day the House finally caved and passed a “clean” DHS bill.
Again, this material isn’t much different from the 2013 pieces that Kaus managed to sneak by the Daily Caller censors. It’s obsessive and opinionated and, unlike most criticisms of Fox News, doesn’t come from a liberal standpoint. And since it’s a well-worn polemic from a persistent voice on immigration, it wasn’t making a lot of waves on the Internet, at least not outside the Daily Caller’s offices.
By disappearing the piece, Carlson: 1) elevates a forgettable post; 2) makes a show of his loyalty to the network; 3) ensures that other Daily Caller writers won’t attempt criticism of Fox News; 4) suppresses a much-needed public debate about the lead story each night on “The Kelly File” and 5) adds some buffoonery to the “Fox & Friends” franchise, as if it can absorb any more.