Last Friday afternoon, Lauren Duca, a writer for Teen Vogue, joked about her upcoming appearance on the Fox News program “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
After a prolonged segment in which Carlson sought out petty disagreements with Duca; belittled her for her role in Teen Vogue; and condescended to her with a suggestion to stay away from political writing, Duca’s Twitter mood changed.
And as the Associated Press reported Tuesday, Duca’s appearance on the program led to a rape threat on Christmas Day plus a great deal of other online unpleasantness. Some of the threats appear on Duca’s Twitter account, though Post decency standards prohibit their republication in this space.
For those who missed the segment on Carlson’s program, here’s a brief rundown: The initial discussion centered the hectoring sustained by Ivanka Trump from a Hillary Clinton supporter last week on an airplane; though Duca and Carlson agreed that people shouldn’t be berated while engaged in air travel, Carlson aggressively sought areas of disagreement with Duca; he ripped her for a tweet in which she claimed that Ivanka Trump bore “sinister complicity in aiding the most aggressively anti-woman candidate of our time”; Duca responded by backing up that assertion, noting that “it’s sinister for a daughter to capitalize on the power of feminism and uniting women and empowering women while supporting a candidate who is the most anti-woman candidate this country has seen in decades.” That’s a plain-language argument — nothing at all tortuous or complicated about it. Yet Carlson attempted to put down Duca by somehow claiming it was gibberish. “What does that even mean? Like what are — I mean, what — he’s anti- — she is anti-woman because … ”
Another such attempt surfaced later in the showdown. Carlson read an excerpt from a Duca story: “The road ahead is a treacherous one. There are unprecedented amounts of ugliness to untangle, from deciding whether a president can be an admitted sexual predator to figuring out how to stop him from threatening the sovereignty of an entire religion,” noted Carlson in reading the excerpt. Again, sufficiently straightforward — Trump has advocated banning entry of Muslims into the United States. Asked in the primary campaign by CNN’s Chris Cuomo about his statements regarding Muslim hatred toward the United States, Trump said, “You look at the mosques and you go to various places and you look at what’s going on there and it’s virtually 100 percent.” Such evidence notwithstanding, Carlson mocked Duca for her conclusions regarding to the threats against Muslim “sovereignty.” “What does it mean to threaten the sovereignty of religion? What does that even mean?” asked Carlson, as if this were some grand leap of logic.
Flailing on the merits, the host attempted some not-so-sly insults. “You wrote this piece in Teen Vogue, which I guess you write for,” he said, dissing the whole idea that someone could place compelling journalism in such an outlet. That comment comes from the same man who claims, on his show, to serve as the “sworn enemy of lying and pomposity, smugness and groupthink.” Exhibiting maximum smugness, Carlson tried to cast as unserious Duca’s work on Trump by citing other headlines of hers on Teen Vogue. “I also read ‘Liam Payne Is ‘100% Certain’ One Direction Will [Reunite],’ ‘Ariana Grande Rocked the Most Epic Thigh-high Boots at Jingle Ball‘ and ‘Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian Just Went Through the Messiest Breakup of 2016.’ ”
Mr. Anti-Smug exited with this advice, “You should stick to the thigh-high boots. You are better at that. Lauren, thanks for joining us.” And Duca ended by saying something that didn’t come through on the audio, but it looked like this: “You’re a sexist pig.”
So: Lauren Duca should stick to writing about soft issues, such as pop culture and fashion, just like the staffers who once filled the “women’s pages” of the country’s newspapers. A more demeaning and sexist instruction would be hard to conceive. Yet it’s the brand of programming that Fox News invited as it signed up Carlson to move into its prime-time lineup. During his years running the Daily Caller, Carlson had displayed a similar, sneering contempt for women. Earlier this month, the Erik Wemple Blog asked fellow Fox News prime-time star Megyn Kelly whether she was concerned about Carlson’s history, and she replied in part, “I have known him for a long time, and what I’ve seen of him is a man who’s respectful and kind and loving.”
That’s not the man that Duca saw.