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)

Tucker Carlson can handle any question. Just try him.

That’s what the Erik Wemple Blog did on Nov. 20 in what turned into a tortuous exchange regarding Carlson’s show, his history at the Daily Caller, environmental regulations, the alt-right and President Trump. The insult-laden session afforded a chance to question Carlson on a number of stories for which this blog hadn’t succeeded in fetching comment from the high-profile Fox News anchor.

For instance: The Daily Caller, a conservative news site founded by Carlson in 2010, hired freelancer Chuck Ross as a reporter in 2014. Prior to his accession, Ross had penned a number of vile racist tracts on the Internet. So we asked Carlson:

Wemple: Did you ever read Chuck Ross’s writings before you hired him at the Daily Caller?

Carlson: No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Wemple: Well, I asked you this, too, a few weeks ago. I wrote about Chuck Ross. He had these racist writings —

Carlson: Yeah, but it wasn’t in the paper.

Wemple: — in the blog, in his blog, and then he was hired at the Daily Caller when you were there. Did you ever read any of that? Did those writings serve as a qualification for him in any way?

Carlson: Yeah, I mean, I think you know as well as I that a) I don’t supervise the Daily Caller or have any role in his management whatsoever and haven’t in over a year, per my contract here at Fox. So I had no role in the response to those blog posts that he apparently wrote. I have no knowledge beyond what you just said. My understanding is that all of those were unearthed later, and I think that you would know that, too. And so your question isn’t so much a question; it’s an attempt to tar me once again —

Wemple: No, it’s an actual question.

Carlson: — with views I don’t hold. So why don’t we just skip the middleman here and get right to it? Why don’t you ask me a series of actual questions about what I think or don’t think and I’ll tell you? Would that be easier? Because you’re trying to suggest that I’m a secret racist who like, is friends with David Duke, or, he likes me, therefore it’s my fault somehow. Or someone I once hired — who by the way is an excellent reporter — wrote awful things on an anonymous blog post years ago. And that, as you put it, might have been a qualification for me hiring him? You know what I mean?

Wemple: Well, he went straight from writing white supremacy posts to going to full-time employment at the Daily Caller.

Carlson: I think it kind of goes without saying that I didn’t know anything about that. Maybe it doesn’t go without saying. Let me just say: I had no idea that Chuck Ross had written anything like that. Chuck Ross is a totally straight and excellent reporter — or was when he worked for me.

Wemple: Right. Well that’s all I wanted to know, whether you knew about it.

Carlson: I guess what bothers me is, you’re again trying to use something that I knew nothing about to try and tar me. And I’m inviting you, for the fourth time, to ask me direct questions about what I think. You’re looking for witches, and I’m telling you, if I’m practicing witchcraft, I’ll admit it. So why don’t you just ask me? Pick five topics and I’ll answer the question as honestly as I possibly can. Wouldn’t that just be easier? Instead of going through this whole like childish, “Someone who worked for you once wrote something naughty online — did you know?” It’s like, I don’t know, why you just ask me what I think?

Wemple: Well, because as a news manager, I think it’s a relevant question, because you were responsible for hiring this person. And generally when you hire someone in journalism, you look at their clips.

Carlson: I’m really glad I hired him. He’s a fantastic reporter. I don’t stand by every opinion he’s ever had, and to the extent I saw in news coverage in the last month or whatever, the things he wrote, it’s kind of horrifying.

And I think the Daily Caller said they thought it was horrifying, too, which it kind of was, but it doesn’t — I mean, I’ve also hired people who have committed adultery. You know what I mean? And, like, spanked their kids too hard at Walmart, and done other bad things, or had drinking problems. And I don’t agree with any of those things. I dislike all of them. It doesn’t define them as people. People are very complicated and they do bad things, then they get better and they change their mind, and you know what I mean? This is real life. This is not some pretend thing where you’re the sum total of the dumbest thing you ever wrote on the Internet. I hope that’s not the world you live in.

Another issue: When Carlson was faced with findings from Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy about over-coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails, Carlson blasted the organization: “These independent studies are done by political hacks posing as journalists. The Shorenstein Center? I mean, let’s be — I am a journalist. I sort of know the people who work there.” Weeks later, Carlson was approvingly citing a Shorenstein Center study that found highly critical coverage of Trump. So we asked about that, too:

Wemple: Earlier this year, you bashed the Shorenstein Center for being a hive of left-wing-ism. And then a few weeks later when they came out with a study saying Trump had been tarred with negative coverage, you’re like, “Hey! The Shorenstein Center. Look at this study.” So it looked like a double standard operating there. You also said that you knew the Shorenstein people and you knew that they were liberals. Who do you know there, and why did you have two different positions on the Shorenstein Center?

Carlson: Well let me just say, and you were in journalism at one time I know, I can’t reveal my confidential sources, Mr. Wemple. You know that. Okay? So if you want to get that from me, you’re going to have to meet me in the underground parking garage somewhere and put a flower pot in the window.

Do you know what you mean? Like, this is, we’re going to have to go double-secret probation.

Wemple: So you don’t want to answer that one either? Okay.

Carlson: Am I going to reveal my confidential sources to a WashingtonPost.com blogger? No.

Before Carlson took a prime-time slot at Fox News a year ago, he edited the Daily Caller, a capacity in which he sat in the center of an outrage involving Amy Spitalnick, who was at the time a spokeswoman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. She had emailed the Daily Caller in pursuit of a correction to one of its stories. Through some unexplained act, Carlson’s brother, Buckley Carlson, was included in the back-and-forth. He rendered his judgment of Spitalnick and hit “reply all,” sending this highly redacted message to her:

Great response. Whiny little self-righteous b[––––]. “Appalling?”
And with such an ironic name, too… Spitalnick? Ironic because you just know she has extreme d[–––]-fright; no chance has this girl ever had a pearl necklace. Spoogeneck? I don’t think so. More like [unspeakable].

And so the questions for Carlson:

Wemple: Have you ever apologized to Amy Spitalnick over the email thing, and do you think that would be an appropriate thing to do?

Carlson: To whom?

Wemple: Amy Spitalnick. The New York —

Carlson: Who is that?

Wemple: — Bill de Blasio spokeswoman that you sent an email to that called her some awful things, “spoogeneck,” other things.

Carlson: I never sent an email that called her that.

Wemple: I think that what happened was you were conferring with your brother about her and through you, an email got sent to her, saying some really nasty things.

Carlson: Was that email from me? You’re the journalist here, Mr. Wemple, check your facts. I didn’t ever write anything.

Wemple: The email is from, the email resulted from a Daily Caller interaction and you were the head of the Daily Caller. So I just wondered if you thought.

Carlson: Well my brother didn’t work at the Daily Caller. And I copied him on it and he replied all.

Wemple: Right.

Carlson: And he wrote something unflattering about her.

Wemple: Right.

Carlson: So where, but where is the part where I apologize in this?

Wemple: Well, because obviously he was somehow, somehow included in this correspondence, and it was part of the official, an official interaction between the spokesperson for Bill de Blasio and the Daily Caller.

Carlson: No, I don’t think it was official. I think he hit reply-all by accident.

Wemple: Right. But it came through an interaction that you guys had at the Daily Caller with a Bill de Blasio spokesperson.

Carlson: So you want me to apologize for something that my brother did? Do you believe in collective guilt? Is that what you’re saying?

Wemple: I was asking if you thought it was appropriate that this woman had an editorial interaction —

Carlson: I’m confused by the question. I mean I’m sorry, you know —

Wemple: That’s fine —

Carlson: — by the way, I think she’s probably a pretty tough woman. You probably imagine her as something less than that. But I think she probably can handle it.

Wemple: Is that what it is, that is that she can handle it? So she gets called a “spoogeneck” because she can handle it?

Carlson: To put a fine point on it, I didn’t write anything to her that I would need to apologize for. I mean, if her feelings were hurt, obviously I feel bad about it, but I don’t, I’m sort of missing the point. So my brother — just to be totally clear on the facts of it — my brother responded reply-all by accident or unintentionally.

Wemple: Why was your brother in on the email to begin with?

Carlson: Oh, now you’re getting to methods and sources now, Mr. Wemple, I can’t reveal that as a journalist. But let me say that he responded unintentionally and wrote something nasty about her. So, you know, I felt bad about that.

He certainly got attacked and I had all kinds of people — probably you, I would think — jumping up and down about how I needed to disavow my brother or something.

Wemple: I don’t think I said that, I just thought it would be appropriate to make amends with her.

Carlson: To make amends? But I would say this, you and the other hyena, your ridiculous website, wanted me to, as I remember it — and correct me if I’m wrong — but like felt that I should be punished for something my brother did, or I should disavow my brother or I should somehow address it. And I’ll just say: He’s my brother.

Wemple: He’s infallible!

Carlson: I’m never going to criticize my brother in public, ever. Like, ever. I would never do that despite, you know, how it might please you. I’m never going to do that.

But thanks for asking.

And when we asked Carlson how he felt about the fact that former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke had expressed support for his program, Carlson cackled: “HA HA HA HA HA HA! It’s so stupid! It was like, when you went into journalism, I bet you never thought you’d find yourself in a place where you ask fake questions like that. And I bet your younger self would have hated your current self.”

There’s much, much more to this interview, and a transcript — all 8,000 words-plus of it — is laid out below. Thanks to Carlson for his availability.

 

 

This transcript has been edited for clarity and readability.

Erik Wemple: First of all, thank you so much for making yourself available and for—

Tucker Carlson: Oh, it’s absolutely my pleasure.

Wemple: Thanks.

Carlson: So are we, is this being taped?

Wemple: Yes.

Carlson: Great.

Wemple: You know as I mentioned in the email, to—

Carlson: Wait, can I ask you a question, as long as we’re rolling? They said when I called that it was The Washington Post. Do you work, you for sure work at The Washington Post?

Wemple: Yeah—

Carlson: Because I was just thinking this morning, I’ve never seen you in the paper.

Wemple: Okay. I, you know, I asked to interview you, so.

Carlson: Okay. I’m just trying to get this, like, before we get going, I just want to make sure.

Wemple: I mean, you’ve represented to your own viewers I work at The Washington Post so, I’ll trust you.

Carlson: I know — which is kind of weird, I was like, I’ve never seen him in the paper. It’s just kind of weird, but whatever.

Wemple: Okay. Thank you. Well, again, I appreciate your willingness to hop on the phone.

Carlson: Oh, absolutely.

Wemple: Early on when you, your time in primetime, you were on with “The Five” talking about sort of how you were going to roll with the show, and Eric Bolling credited you with taking on some sort of low-profile folks, generally liberals, and eviscerating them. Was that part of the plan or did you just sort of stumble into that? Was that something that you architected out? And can you talk—

Carlson: Let me just stop you right there and say I don’t think “architect” is a verb. [Erik Wemple Blog: It is] And I don’t think, since you’re a writer, I should allow you to pretend that it is. It’s a noun. And so I just want to make sure we have the terms correct.

Second, I didn’t plan that.

I don’t think I’ve ever eviscerated anybody. I don’t ever want to hurt people or cause them pain or anything like that. I’m interested in debating ideas. And just for the record, if you’re suggesting that I want to beat up on college kids or something, I’ll just be totally honest with you and say that is not my preference. I would much rather debate members of Congress or people making policy. You know, I always want to debate the most legitimate possible spokesman for whatever idea it is that we’re debating. And the truth, and this is as honest as I can be, is it’s very hard to book people sometimes. And so you wind up with you know people who aren’t making the policies and that’s—but that that’s never been my preference.

Wemple: So when you get like an AU student on there — remember you talked about Gary Cohn and how they were protesting Gary Cohn and so on and so forth.

Carlson: Well that was, I mean, that was, look, what I always want to do is get someone in the middle of the story. You know, who’s actually involved in whatever it is we’re talking about. We do use pundits, a couple of them, but in general I try not to. I really would rather talk to someone who’s involved in the story directly and, in that case, you know, it was a protest at AU. But I mean, I’ve had very few interviews with college students that I found satisfying.

Wemple: Okay. Do you find that—I mean, you have [Democratic Rep. Eric] Swalwell on there, you get you get some congressmen on from time to time.

Carlson: We do, and I’m grateful that they will come on, for sure.

Wemple: Do you get turned down by a lot of people up there?

Carlson: We get turned down by a lot of people. Yeah. And there’s been an effort online, you know, to boycott the show among progressive guests. I don’t know how successful that’s been. But certainly, people have sent me tweets from various people saying don’t go on that show, and I just think that’s a shame. I mean, there’s certainly been times when I’ve been, you know, mean or have gone too far, I mean, I do it five hours a week, there are bound to be those times. But I can promise you I don’t want to be that way, I don’t want to eviscerate anybody, I just want to hear what people have to say and counter arguments that I think are wrong. It’s as simple as that.

Wemple: Yeah. You know, one of the things that I have noticed watching your show over the course of the year or so, is that you do frequently point out to viewers what you, Tucker Carlson, are not. You commonly say, you know, in the course of an argument or debate that you’re not defending Trump or you’re not defending Paul Manafort, you’re not defending Steve Bannon, you’re not defending the federal response to Puerto Rico. Why do you find yourself saying what you’re not defending so often?

Carlson: Well, let me say what I am, which is uncomfortable by how closely you’re watching our show. I’m not going to call you a stalker, but that’s kind of the vibe I’m getting a little bit, if I can be honest. I don’t know why—I mean, I’m not especially self-aware. I wasn’t aware, for example, that I did that. I mean, I usually say what I really think. I don’t hide my views, I don’t think. I try not to hide them. Why would I? I have an opinion show. I can have any view I want, so.

Wemple: Right. You know, but I have noticed that trend. You’ve done it many, many times and it seems as though—

Carlson: How many times would you say?

Wemple: Well, over the last year on a Nexis search, it comes up 47, but those aren’t all of your iterations.

Carlson: Why do you say that?

Wemple: What do you mean why do I say that?

Carlson: So you literally counted the number of times I said that?

Wemple: Yes. Because I notice that you—

Carlson: Put yourself in my position — would you feel a little bit uncomfortable with that, that there was like a grown man doing Nexis searches on your speech patterns?

Wemple: Not if is was—

Carlson: You know what I mean? And be honest now. Would that make you a little bit uncomfortable?

Wemple: Well, not from the perspective that you are the leading anchor on Fox News, which is the leading cable news network.

Carlson: Well, I don’t know if I’m the leading anchor anywhere but—

Wemple: I mean, you are the 8 o’clock. That is what Bill O’Reilly called the table-setter position.

Carlson: I don’t know about that, but, look, I don’t really know how to respond to — I’m not really sure I understand what your question is. I think you’ve revealed a lot about how you spend your free time, which is interesting, but I don’t really know what your question is, what is your question?

Wemple: Well, what it seems to me is that you, the pattern that I’ve observed — and feel free, I don’t need to tell you to feel free, you will do it naturally — but you get people on and you talk to them about something that’s sort of in the news and you attack either something that they’ve written or something that they’ve said that is critical of Trump or the Trump universe and you bore in on one little thing and you nail them and you pound them. I’m not saying you enjoy it because you told me you didn’t enjoy it. So I’m not attributing enjoyment to it.

Carlson: Well, I pound them—

Wemple: Let me finish. Let me finish, and then you can go. And then you say, as you pound them into smithereens, you say, “And I’m not defending Donald Trump, I’m just hammering you.” So it looks a little deflective, but I’m interested to hear your defense.

Carlson: Well let me say, again, without a specific and, you know, you pose as a journalist, you know the rules, but without a specific example, I’m not exactly sure I can respond with any deal of specificity.

But let me say generally that we don’t talk about Trump, or I try not to talk about Trump very much at all, both because I think Trump is over-covered, but also because I think a lot of the debates that we’re having, the meaningful ones, aren’t about Trump at all. I don’t think the Trump election was about Trump at all. And I think there are much bigger questions out there, and I don’t have the answers to all of them. But I think it’s missing the point if everything is about: Did Trump lie? Okay, sure. But that’s not — I don’t know and I’m not that interested. There are lots of other people who are paid to be interested in those questions. I’m interested in what’s happening to the country and what the debates are just beneath the surface, and I don’t always get to those and sometimes I do a bad job of illuminating them or whatever, but that is definitely my goal. And so what I don’t want is to have an endless debate about Trump because I just don’t find it that interesting. I really don’t. As compared to like, whatever happened to the U.S. economy which has sustained this powerful middle class for 100 years and it no longer does and who’s benefiting from that exactly? You know what I mean? It’s not really about immigration, it’s not about Trump.

Wemple: I know, but when you slam people or when you, as I say, you reduce them to smithereens and they are the Trump opposition—

Carlson: Hold on, slow down. I don’t buy the premise of your statement, which, let me just say, is characteristically stupid. I’m not pounding anybody. I’m not reducing anyone to smithereens. I’m trying to debate the points that people make, and if you think that I’m making an unfair point — maybe I am. I certainly have been unfair before and I regret it. But in general I really try not to be unfair, and I try to assess people on the basis of what they say. I try not to do a lot of these gotcha things, or “10 years ago you said this but now you say that” — it’s like, who cares? People change their views. I have changed mine dramatically. In other words, if if you think I’m engaging in some sort of unfair debate style, call me out for it.

Wemple: Well I think it’s an interesting debate style and it is unique among the cable news hosts.

Carlson: I don’t think my debate style is interesting or unique at all. I really don’t. I think it’s very conventional. I am a very conventional person. I am not super smart. I don’t have super high debate skills.

Wemple: You always talk about your middling intellect, and I’m not buying it. But okay.

Carlson: No, I’m not being falsely self-deprecating. I’m being totally sincere. Like, I don’t have some sort of brilliant and complex worldview that I’m hiding or something, at all.

I just, I’m asking really simple questions about what people believe and the implications of what they believe. And I don’t know why more people aren’t doing it. And moreover, I don’t know why so many purported journalists, including so many at The Washington Post, see their job as enforcing the orthodoxy of the moment, rather than do what they’re supposed to do, which is to ask honest questions about what’s happening. And instead, it’s an endless series of “I can’t believe you said that.” Or, “That’s not allowed, you’re not allowed to think that.” Really? Since when did journalists become enforcers of orthodoxy? It’s baffling to me.

Wemple: The thing that I would say—

Carlson: Do you notice this at all, or is it just me?

Wemple: You know, I would have to go back and replay the tape and look at the record. But I just wanted, this is what appears to me, is that when you get a lot of guests on — it’s not all of them — you get people who have written the critique of the Trump administration. And, as I say, you zero in on something and you attack them for that. And then along the way you say you’re not defending Manafort, you’re not defending Bannon, you’re not defending Trump—

Carlson: But I’m not — first of all, let me just say, I’m not attacking anybody.

Wemple: Can I finish?

[crosstalk]

Carlson: I don’t buy the premise of what you’re saying. Well, let me just you said that the first three times.

Wemple: But I haven’t had. You’ve never allowed me to finish the thought.

Carlson: My apologies, my apologies. Go ahead.

Wemple: So what I’m saying is that when you slam the resistance, you’re doing the anti-anti-Trump, that’s the argument that I’m making.

Carlson: You know I actually picked that up, believe it or not, from what you had said three previous times. And I guess what I’m saying is, you’re looking at this through a tiny and narrow lens. It’s not all about Trump. Now I know, at your paper, everything is about Trump and like there’s some prize in store for the reporter who catches him in the 10,000th lie or something. I mean, that’s how you guys see the world. That’s fine. I’m not — you know, go crazy — but I’m not interested in that.

Wemple: Are you conceding that he’s told 10,000 lies?

Carlson: No, I’m just saying like it’s, this is why I stopped reading The Washington Post, which I read my whole life from the age of 15 until last year.

Wemple: Well, you just said you look for me in the paper and don’t find me.

Carlson: But I never remember seeing you in the paper, are you in the paper? You say you work at The Washington Post but — I’m not being mean, I’ve literally never seen your name in the paper.

Wemple: I am.

Carlson: How does that work? How do you work there? How do you write for the paper if you’re not in the paper?

Wemple: I am in the paper every once in a while. It does not necessarily surprise me, I’m happy to answer that. You’ve been very helpful.

Carlson: No I’m not — I’m sincere. If I say I’m an anchor on Fox News but they don’t put me on TV — not really an anchor on Fox. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t really, so when are you in the paper exactly? Can you email me so I can find it?

Wemple: When were you in the Daily Caller paper?

Carlson: I wasn’t, I was the editor.

Wemple: We have a digital dimension here, too, and lots of our — we have a whole tier of people who do not appear on the—

Carlson: Oh, you’re on the Internet.

Wemple: Yes.

Carlson: I think there should be some kind of caveat. I think it’s a little bit misleading for you to run around being like, “I work for The Washington Post,” when you’re, like, an Internet guy. You know what I mean?

Wemple: Yeah, but my paychecks come from there, so I guess I’m sort of duty-bound to say that that’s where I’m employed.

Carlson: I know, but it’s not really honest. I mean, if you’re not really writing for the paper, you know what I mean? Will you ever get promoted to the paper, do you think?

Wemple: I do write in the paper occasionally.

Carlson: How often would you say you’re in the paper?

Wemple: I can send you those clips. Anyway, onto the next thing. You know, last week as an example, I just wanted to sort of ask you about, the critics of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” were saying, “Oh you spent less than a minute on the Roy Moore news, 46 seconds”—

Carlson: [laughter] That’s my favorite!

[crosstalk]

Carlson: That’s funny.

Wemple: What’s your philosophy about being on what is regarded as news of the day? Must you be on—

Carlson: Regarded by whom?

Wemple: That’s why I’m asking.

Carlson: Yeah, I mean, being part of our job is to figure out what’s important. I mean, that’s what we do, and I’m sure that the guys over at Vox or the digital blogging staff at The Washington Post or whatever feels like they get to be our assignment editors, but they don’t. And if you want to work here, we can talk about it, but that’s kind of our call. I’m not in charge of Fox News, I’m not in charge of anything other than one hour on Fox News. And part of what they hired me for was to figure out what I think is important. And so that’s what I try to do and that doesn’t always overlap precisely with what you think is important or what guys over at Slate thinks is important, but that’s okay. That’s called diversity. I mean, that’s all right, I think. It’s not like everybody has to have the same opinion — oh wait, that is the position that you’re taking and that you so often take in your blog. That like it’s something immoral about people who’ve got a different view, or they’re doing the bidding of dark forces. Maybe I just disagree and think something else is more important. That’s honestly what the explanation is, believe it or not.

Wemple: Would you concede though that in general that when big negative news stories about Trump hit the public or hit the Internet that you generally do not take those head-on?

Carlson: No, I wouldn’t concede that at all. Every day there’s a big negative story about Trump, from what I can tell.

Do I see my job as adding to the sum total of Trump news? No. I think you’ve got that covered, you and your other blogger friends over there at the washingtonpost.com or whatever. It’s like, that’s pretty well covered. I’d like to add something slightly different. Does that make me a Trump lackey? I don’t think I am a Trump lackey. I could give you a thousand examples, I could give you a number of examples, including recent ones, where I disagree pretty strongly with whatever policy position the White House is taking and have said.

But that’s kind of not the point. The point is, I’ve got an hour. I think there’s a lot of stuff that is under-covered. I think one of the tragedies of Trump, pro and con Trump, is that he kind of sucks up all the oxygen and there’s no room for anything else. And I think it’s sort of nice to have an hour where you can talk about issues of importance that aren’t necessarily about Trump the man.

I really think that. But I must say, just to restate, I find it hilarious that there are people out there who are mad about our story selection or think that they somehow are in charge of what we ought to put on the air every night. It’s like, what? There’s one show out of all shows that is doing something different, and you’re mad about it? I mean, if you’ve come to that conclusion, it’s time to reassess your own assumptions. Because is the world you’re looking for one where everybody has the same view and is doing the same story? Do you really want that? I guess people really do want that. It’s really frustrating to them that somebody is thinking for himself out there. I mean, I know it is.

Wemple: Well, sometimes it’s a question of proportion, right? Like with respect to the Rockville rape case, you did really long segments when those allegations were afloat. But when they dropped the case, you had just a really quick summation of it. So there was, what I found the imbalance on that particular subject. You didn’t devote as much attention to the almost the exoneration of those immigrants as you did to—

Carlson: Oh, were they exonerated?

Wemple: Well, the charges were dropped.

Carlson: Oh, I don’t think they were exonerated, actually, and I thought you’re the news guy who works for The Washington Post. No, they were absolutely not exonerated, and they had sex with her in the bathroom, and—

Wemple: Oh, do you know that?

Carlson: —they were here illegally. And I’m against that. I mean, are you for that?

Wemple: Well, I mean you stated on air that people in the hallway could hear her screams, and that was never part of the evidence in the case.

Carlson: No, I didn’t state on the air. I said that that’s what the police were saying.

Wemple: No, the police did not say that the screams were audible. They just said that she had alleged that she had screamed but not that anybody else had heard them.

Carlson: Oh, she had alleged. Then my mistake, I’m maybe misremembering that. So I guess I took her word, and I guess I. Okay. You’ve got me at a disadvantage because that the details are a little foggy, but I’ll tell you one thing that’s crystal clear is that they were not exonerated. I think it’s a little strange of you to say that. Why would you say that?

Wemple: I mean, the charges were dropped and the prosecutor said there was no basis for them.

Carlson: So, you don’t think that did anything bad happened, is that what you’re saying?

Wemple: The charges that they raped this girl were found not to have any merit.

Carlson: No, that’s, no no no. The prosecutor declined to press charges. That’s different.

Wemple: All I’m saying is that when they were in the process, when they were charged, this was a huge story on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Carlson: Yeah, because they were charged with rape.

Wemple: Right. But when the charges were dropped, they became a small story. And I just wanted to see if you could address that. Why not give the charges being dropped as much consideration as the story itself, the earlier parts?

Carlson: Did I not note that they were dropped?

Wemple: As I said, you made a very quick little—

Carlson: How long should that reference have been, would you say?

Wemple: I don’t know. Why not go back and interview the lawyer the way you did when the charges originally—?

Carlson: I’m more than happy to interview the prosecutor to find out exactly why they declined to press charges—

Wemple: Well, why didn’t you? I guess that’s the question.

Carlson: —and what actually happened. Because they wouldn’t come on. That’s why. Because I continue to think — I thought then and I think now — that you ought not to be having, especially if you’re a legal adult, which I think both of them were, that you shouldn’t be doing what they did. Two men should not be having sex with an underage girl in the bathroom at a public school. I’m sorry if you think they were “exonerated.” I mean, I don’t know. I don’t really know what your question is, exactly.

Wemple: Well my question is—

Carlson: I guess more to the point—

Wemple: —that when they looked like rapists, you were—

Carlson: What’s your implication? So you think we should have done more on that, exactly? How much? What we have said exactly?

Wemple: I don’t know, go back and interview — you’re the programmer, you’re the TV guy.

Carlson: No, it sounds like you’re the programmer. So what should I have done? Why don’t you email me you know questions I should have asked. I mean I don’t know what you’re—

Wemple: Why don’t you bring the defense lawyer back on and say, you know, what happened here? How do you feel about this? What do you feel about the furor in the community? And so on and so forth. I’m sure he would have enjoyed that.

Carlson: He would have enjoyed that? I’m not sure that my position would change. I think, here you have a girl who said she was raped. Okay, so they say that the prosecutor doesn’t want to press charges. All right. I mean, I guess I’m in the position of kind of thinking that her view on this is meaningful. But I’m not a prosecutor so I’m sure there are all kinds of mitigating details I mean, again, and it’s possible that there are things that I don’t know about. That’s usually the case. But for the third time, I think what happened is wrong. I don’t think that you should have adult men having sex with a teenage girl in the bathroom in the men’s room at a high school. I don’t. What do you think of that? Are you cool with that?

Wemple: No, I’m not cool with that but I also think—

Carlson: Oh okay, so I’m like some kind of bigot or something for not like, what is exactly your point?

[crosstalk]

Wemple: The point is that when you were, when these charges were pending, when the trial was, when the charges—

Carlson: Please don’t say the same thing again, just tell me what the point is of your statements, what’s your editorial comment?

Wemple: That if you had watched “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” you would have concluded that these people were guilty. And I laid this all out, if you look at the transcripts.

Carlson: I think they were guilty. I still think that—

Wemple: Oh, you think they’re guilty of rape?

Carlson: No, I think they’re guilty. I don’t know, that’s a legal—

Wemple: What do you mean you don’t know? What do you mean you don’t know you? You basically, on your program, had them—

Carlson: Well, I think they had been arrested at that point, and so—

Wemple: Yeah. Which is a charge and nothing proven, as you know. You wrote a book on criminal justice.

Carlson: Right, and when when the prosecutor declined to press charges, I announced that on the air. I’m not sure I have much more to add to this—

Wemple: That’s fine, we can move on.

Carlson: —other than, I think what they did was wrong. And I think that if it was my child, I would be really upset, whether or not rape charges were filed or not. And that’s okay to say that. I don’t feel out of bounds saying that. You, I guess because they were illegal immigrants involved and they’re in a protected class, then you get all wound up and I’m being mean or I’m a racist or something because I’m against that, but you know I don’t care where they’re from.

Wemple: I never said that. I never said that.

Carlson: But that’s the implication, of course, because you’re a hardened partisan, as you know, and you’re making a point. I get it. I’m just responding as honestly as I possibly can. I don’t like that, and I’m allowed to say that I don’t like that. And if it happened to my daughter, I’d be really upset about it.

Wemple: But there is a difference between—

Carlson: That’s where we are.

Wemple: Okay, that’s fine. You hunt, you’re a dedicated outdoorsman. That’s pretty well documented.

Carlson: [laughter] That’s pretty well documented, huh! Am I gonna be charged for it? What does that mean? [laughter]

Wemple: You like to go out and hunt and so on and so forth. I just wonder — in one interview you say you’d like to be remembered as an outdoorsman. Does that color how you view climate change or like proposals to open up the ANWR — the [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] — to oil and gas development, and stories like that. Just wondering if that colors or tinges how you view those things.

Carlson: Well, yeah, on a bunch of different levels, it definitely does. I’m not John Muir, but I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors and I continue to, as much as I can. Hunting and fishing, mostly fly fishing. Yeah, it definitely colors my view in many ways. Let me just put it this way: I was writing a chapter of a book on this recently. I’ve just become convinced that the environmental movement has traded kind of concrete concerns about the actual environment, the outdoors, for totally theoretical concerns that are part of a broader intersectional agenda. So, for example, one of the reasons that the United States has so much great hunting and fishing land is because there are not many — only 330 million people basically. And from the Atlantic to the Pacific, crowded countries degrade their environments. I travel a lot, I know that to be true, so I don’t understand when groups like the Sierra Club start staking out positions against borders and for more immigration. I think it’s insane. And, in general, I think, things like polluting rivers and sending out red particles into the air or acid rain or littering or tangible environmental degradation drives me freaking crazy.

I definitely have some concerns about mining in Canada because I think that’s a pretty quick way to wreck a fishery and to pollute the water.

I feel like maybe what the environmental movement is missing is more people who actually go outside, and it’s very noticeable when you talk to them. I mean, these are people who can’t name three fish species; they don’t know the difference between a deciduous and a conifer tree. They don’t really know that much about the outdoors. And it makes me nervous. And so the people who I listen to are the members of the environmental movement who are actually familiar with the environment, if you see what I mean.

Wemple: Right. So would you ever consider doing a segment on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” about, like, rollback of environmental regulations, or does that not — you don’t want to mix your personal—

Carlson: It depends what the regs — see, whenever you get someone who speaks in generalities, like you do, then that’s a sign, to me, of ignorance.

Wemple: Okay, let me go specific—

Carlson: Okay, I’ll give you an example, like the Pebble Mine.

Wemple: No, I’ll give you an example. I believe, earlier this year, and you probably know better than I because you follow this stuff, but there was a rule I believe that was undone about dumping mining — strip mining — waste into streambeds and so on and so forth. I could be wrong about that. I will check it, but I think—

Carlson: Yeah, why don’t you get back to me when you’ve got some details? But let me give you an example of something that I am concerned about, and that’s the Pebble Mine, which is a massive mining project in an area where it’s environmentally sensitive. And that to me, in Alaska, and I don’t know. So there’s this proposal to go after gold and copper and I think iron ore, and there’s a lot of debate about it, it’s in southern Alaska. But a lot of people whose opinions I respect believe that this could have a pretty bad effect on the fisheries there.

It’s on Bristol Bay which is famous for the salmon run — sockeye salmon.

Wemple: I’ve been to Bristol Bay, I worked up there.

Carlson: Yeah, if you’ve been up there, I mean, it’s beautiful. Mining is one of those things that has a real and measurable effect on the environment. If you don’t believe it, go to Butte, Montana, where the open pit copper mine is still a brownfield, so yeah, there are specific, I’m open minded on all that stuff. I’m totally opposed to spoiling the natural environment.

Wemple: Why wouldn’t we see Tucker Carlson take up the cause, though, I mean, you take up other causes on your air, why wouldn’t you just go and say, this is a problem? Or is that not—

Carlson: Because I think it’s on hold. And I would have no problem doing that. And, by the way, if I guess if you’re looking — what’s so interesting to me. Can I just tell you what’s interesting to me? Okay, I will. How the left, people like you, have totally abandoned the core issues on the left — for 100 years were economic issues. You never hear anybody talk about that. It’s always transgender bathrooms or climate change or immigration.

But the truth is, the entire left was rooted in economic questions like, where’s the money going? And, why does an ever-shrinking number of people have control over an ever broadening percentage of the wealth? And you never hear anybody say that. And on those topics, actually, we’ve done show after show after show after show. But because you guys don’t care about that anymore — you know, it’s all about global warming and what, are you being mean to illegal immigrants? Do you ever think to yourself, “My concerns are actually kind of frivolous rich people concerns”? Does that ever occur to you? Because that’s my view.

Wemple: I understand.

Carlson: Do you understand?

Wemple: I try to be very self-critical. Anyway, next.

Carlson: Are you self-critical enough, though? Are you interested at all in any economic matter at all? Like the effect of low-wage immigration on wages, does that even rate on your interest scale, or is that just like—

Wemple: I’m interested in it all. Let me just continue here. This is a quote that I got in February: “I would consider Tucker to be alt-right.” That was David Duke, who I interviewed on February 9.

Carlson: [laughter]

Wemple: What do you say to that? I know that there have been, you know, some people—

Carlson: What do I say to that?

Wemple: I mean, does that make you feel—

Carlson: [laughter] I would say you reveal yourself as a moron even asking me a question like — I mean, I don’t, what do you mean? I’ve never met David Duke. I’ve never read a single word David Duke has written.

Wemple: Did you see the tweets he—

Carlson: I have no idea what alt-right is. I mean, so what you’re trying to do—

Wemple: You really have no idea what alt-right is?

Carlson: I honestly don’t. Why don’t you define it for me? This would be interesting. Why don’t you define your question: What’s alt-right?

Wemple: I mean, I think it’s a euphemism for racists and white nationalists.

Carlson: So are you asking me if I’m racist and white nationalist?

Wemple: No, I’m just saying that David Duke, the reason why I called him was because he had tweeted about you a couple of times.

Carlson: You called David Duke to ask him?

Wemple: Yeah, he was at a Whole Foods getting some things.

Carlson: If your blog was in the paper, I might have seen it.

Wemple: Good, good, good.

Carlson: I mean look, just even asking a question that stupid says a lot about you and nothing about me. If you have a question about what I believe, I’ll gladly answer it. Name an issue, I’ll tell you exactly what I think, on anything.

Wemple: Okay. But the thing is it, it doesn’t concern—

Carlson: David Duke! I mean, are you joking? How old are you? [laughter] What are you a child? I think you’re like, you’re not a recent college graduate, I don’t think? I mean, that’s like a kid question. “David Duke said something nice about you. Will you disavow David Duke?”

HA HA HA HA HA HA! It’s so stupid! It was like, when you went into journalism, I bet you never thought you’d find yourself in a place where you ask fake questions like that. And I bet your younger self would have hated your current self.

Wemple: Yeah. Well, my older self hated my younger self, too. So there’s a mutual war going on.

Carlson: Yeah, but not enough. Not enough.

Wemple: But, hold on, look, so it doesn’t concern you at all the people like David Duke and some other people in the alt-right—

Carlson: That’s just a McCarthyite question. So you find someone — look, let’s be adults, if you don’t mind. Why don’t you, if you’re trying to root out unapproved thinking on my side, if you want to trap me in some kind of naughty worldview, why don’t you just ask me what I think and I’ll tell you? How does that sound?

Wemple: Okay, thanks. One of the things I wrote about, and I don’t think I got a response from you on this one, was—

Carlson: Wait, are you giving up on the alt-right thing?

Wemple: I’m not giving up. You’ve answered the question. You know, you think it’s a dumb question.

Carlson: Well how did I answer the question? I didn’t answer any question.

Wemple: You said it was a dumb question. I’ll leave it at that.

Carlson: But I mean if you want to know if I’m “alt-right,” why don’t you ask me what I think on a bunch of different topics? Because you haven’t even bothered.

Wemple: Look, I know what you’re not. I know what you’re not, and that’s good enough for me.

Carlson: No, but that’s not true. Look, alt-right is one of those terms that has no inherent meaning. It’s like people who are bad, I guess. But you don’t know what it means. I don’t know what it means. It’s like disreputable people who are racist, I guess. You’re just using it to try and tar me with David Duke.

Wemple: No. Well, I’m just saying that he [was] quoted in support of your programming, and I wanted to see what you had to say about that. Okay? And there we are.

Earlier this year, you bashed the Shorenstein Center for being a hive of left-wing-ism. And then a few weeks later when they came out with a study saying Trump had been tarred with negative coverage, you’re like, “Hey! The Shorenstein Center. Look at this study.” So it looked like a double standard operating there. You also said that you knew the Shorenstein people and you knew that they were liberals. Who do you know there, and why did you have two different positions on the Shorenstein Center?

Carlson: Well let me just say, and you were in journalism at one time I know, I can’t reveal my confidential sources, Mr. Wemple. You know that. Okay? So if you want to get that from me, you’re going to have to meet me in the underground parking garage somewhere and put a flower pot in the window.

Do you know what you mean? Like, this is, we’re going to have to go double-secret probation.

Wemple: So you don’t want to answer that one either? Okay.

Carlson: Am I going to reveal my confidential sources to a WashingtonPost.com blogger? No.

Wemple: Okay. And the last thing that I wanted to ask you about, the last couple of things: Did you ever read Chuck Ross’s writings before you hired him at the Daily Caller?

Carlson: No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Wemple: Well, I asked you this, too, a few weeks ago. I wrote about Chuck Ross. He had these racist writings—

Carlson: Yeah, but it wasn’t in the paper.

Wemple: —in the blog, in his blog, and then he was hired at the Daily Caller when you were there. Did you ever read any of that? Did those writings serve as a qualification for him in any way?

Carlson: Yeah, I mean, I think you know as well as I that a) I don’t supervise the Daily Caller or have any role in his management whatsoever and haven’t in over a year, per my contract here at Fox. So I had no role in the response to those blog posts that he apparently wrote. I have no knowledge beyond what you just said. My understanding is that all of those were unearthed later, and I think that you would know that, too. And so your question isn’t so much a question; it’s an attempt to tar me once again—

Wemple: No, it’s an actual question.

Carlson: —with views I don’t hold. So why don’t we just skip the middleman here and get right to it? Why don’t you ask me a series of actual questions about what I think or don’t think and I’ll tell you? Would that be easier? Because you’re trying to suggest that I’m a secret racist who like, is friends with David Duke, or, he likes me, therefore it’s my fault somehow. Or someone I once hired — who by the way is an excellent reporter — wrote awful things on an anonymous blog post years ago. And that, as you put it, might have been a qualification for me hiring him? You know what I mean?

Wemple: Well, he went straight from writing white supremacy posts to going to full-time employment at the Daily Caller.

Carlson: I think it kind of goes without saying that I didn’t know anything about that. Maybe it doesn’t go without saying. Let me just say: I had no idea that Chuck Ross had written anything like that. Chuck Ross is a totally straight and excellent reporter — or was when he worked for me.

Wemple: Right. Well that’s all I wanted to know, whether you knew about it.

Carlson: I guess what bothers me is, you’re again trying to use something that I knew nothing about to try and tar me. And I’m inviting you, for the fourth time, to ask me direct questions about what I think. You’re looking for witches, and I’m telling you, if I’m practicing witchcraft, I’ll admit it. So why don’t you just ask me? Pick five topics and I’ll answer the question as honestly as I possibly can. Wouldn’t that just be easier? Instead of going through this whole like childish, “Someone who worked for you once wrote something naughty online — did you know?” It’s like, I don’t know, why you just ask me what I think?

Wemple: Well, because as a news manager, I think it’s a relevant question, because you were responsible for hiring this person. And generally when you hire someone in journalism, you look at their clips.

Carlson: I’m really glad I hired him. He’s a fantastic reporter. I don’t stand by every opinion he’s ever had, and to the extent I saw in news coverage in the last month or whatever, the things he wrote, it’s kind of horrifying.

And I think the Daily Caller said they thought it was horrifying, too, which it kind of was, but it doesn’t — I mean, I’ve also hired people who have committed adultery. You know what I mean? And, like, spanked their kids too hard at Walmart, and done other bad things, or had drinking problems. And I don’t agree with any of those things. I dislike all of them. It doesn’t define them as people. People are very complicated and they do bad things, then they get better and they change their mind, and you know what I mean? This is real life. This is not some pretend thing where you’re the sum total of the dumbest thing you ever wrote on the Internet. I hope that’s not the world you live in.

I mean, your wife, for example, once threw dog feces on a store owner. That doesn’t define your family or your wife. You know what I mean? That’s just like one thing that she did. But it doesn’t — that’s not the whole Erik and Stephanie Wemple story. That’s just one part of it.

You know what I mean? So let’s stop pretending otherwise.

Wemple: Just so you know, that is 100 percent false. That nothing of that sort—

Carlson: Well I think she was arrested? Wasn’t she, wasn’t your wife arrested for throwing dog feces on someone?

Wemple: She was arrested. She was indeed.

Carlson: That was in The Washington Post. I read that.

Wemple: There you go again, assuming that arrest means guilt. Right?

Carlson: But it wasn’t your wife arrested for throwing dog feces on somebody?

Wemple: She was arrested for that offense, and the cop and the accuser … recanted and agreed that it was a false accusation.

Carlson: Well good. Then you’re kind of making my point. No, but you’re making my point right there. I’m saying, look, I don’t think, again, people are the sum total of their worst moment. I thought with the things that I read that Chuck Ross—

Wemple: Well, there was no worst moment.

Carlson: Okay. But you could pick lots of examples. I used to drink too much and be obnoxious. I hope that my tombstone doesn’t say “Guy who drank too much and was obnoxious.” You know, I haven’t had a drink in 15 years. I don’t know.

Wemple: I know, and you said on air that you will not defend alcohol.

Carlson: Well, I kind of secretly hate alcohol, but I try not to be judgmental. You know what I mean?

Wemple: I understand. Yeah. This was when you were talking to some guy about opioids and he was talking about alcohol. And you said, “I will not defend alcohol.”

Carlson: Well, I hate it. But whatever, the point is, I don’t know, the things I read from Chuck Ross were like awful, but they don’t represent anything I know about Chuck or experienced with him. And if I thought that he was some secret racist trying to work out his racist agenda, I mean, I would fire him immediately.

Wemple: All right, but what clips did you read? I mean, come on. What clips of Chuck Ross did you read before hiring him? I mean, don’t you read clips?

Carlson: Well, he wrote for us. That’s how I — again this, was a long time ago, but my memory is that he wrote a bunch of freelance pieces for us that were excellent. He was working. I mean, the interesting thing about Chuck Ross is unlike everybody else in journalism who went to like Hamilton or some rich kid school, he actually worked at—

Wemple: [laughter]

Carlson: —as a, why are you laughing? You didn’t go to Hamilton, did you? Oh, you went to Hamilton? Did you get your little cane? Okay, whatever. He didn’t go to some rich kid school, he worked at an Olive Garden at the mall in in Wichita, Kansas, for like seven years. I mean, that’s not a qualification, but I do appreciate some diversity on my staff.

Wemple: I understand. I understand.

Carlson: Not just all people who went to Choate and Hamilton. You know what I mean? You must know what I mean.

[The Erik Wemple Blog attended Hamilton, but not Choate]

Wemple: I surely do. On that, I think we can agree. One last thing. Have you ever apologized to Amy Spitalnick over the email thing, and do you think that would be an appropriate thing to do?

Carlson: To whom?

Wemple: Amy Spitalnick. The New York—

Carlson: Who is that?

Wemple: —Bill de Blasio spokeswoman that you sent an email to that called her some awful things, “spoogeneck,” other things.

Carlson: I never sent an email that called her that.

Wemple: I think that what happened was you were conferring with your brother about her and through you, an email got sent to her, saying some really nasty things.

Carlson: Was that email from me? You’re the journalist here, Mr. Wemple, check your facts. I didn’t ever write anything.

Wemple: The email is from, the email resulted from a Daily Caller interaction and you were the head of the Daily Caller. So I just wondered if you thought.

Carlson: Well my brother didn’t work at the Daily Caller. And I copied him on it and he replied all.

Wemple: Right.

Carlson: And he wrote something unflattering about her.

Wemple: Right.

Carlson: So where, but where is the part where I apologize in this?

Wemple: Well, because obviously he was somehow, somehow included in this correspondence, and it was part of the official, an official interaction between the spokesperson for Bill de Blasio and the Daily Caller.

Carlson: No, I don’t think it was official. I think he hit reply-all by accident.

Wemple: Right. But it came through an interaction that you guys had at the Daily Caller with a Bill de Blasio spokesperson.

Carlson: So you want me to apologize for something that my brother did? Do you believe in collective guilt? Is that what you’re saying?

Wemple: I was asking if you thought it was appropriate that this woman had an editorial interaction—

Carlson: I’m confused by the question. I mean I’m sorry, you know—

Wemple: That’s fine—

Carlson: —by the way, I think she’s probably a pretty tough woman. You probably imagine her as something less than that. But I think she probably can handle it.

Wemple: Is that what it is, that is that she can handle it? So she gets called a spoogeneck because she can handle it?

Carlson: To put a fine point on it, I didn’t write anything to her that I would need to apologize for. I mean, if her feelings were hurt, obviously I feel bad about it, but I don’t, I’m sort of missing the point. So my brother — just to be totally clear on the facts of it — my brother responded reply-all by accident or unintentionally.

Wemple: Why was your brother in on the email to begin with?

Carlson: Oh, now you’re getting to methods and sources now, Mr. Wemple, I can’t reveal that as a journalist. But let me say that he responded unintentionally and wrote something nasty about her. So, you know, I felt bad about that.

He certainly got attacked and I had all kinds of people — probably you, I would think — jumping up and down about how I needed to disavow my brother or something.

Wemple: I don’t think I said that, I just thought it would be appropriate to make amends with her.

Carlson: To make amends? But I would say this, you and the other hyena, your ridiculous website, wanted me to, as I remember it — and correct me if I’m wrong — but like felt that I should be punished for something my brother did, or I should disavow my brother or I should somehow address it. And I’ll just say: He’s my brother.

Wemple: He’s infallible!

Carlson: I’m never going to criticize my brother in public, ever. Like, ever. I would never do that despite, you know, how it might please you. I’m never going to do that.

But thanks for asking.

Wemple: Well, very, very, very, very sincerely, I thank you so much for your time.

Carlson: Are you kidding? It’s great to talk to you! Call me any time, I’m always around.

And, by the way, thanks for watching the show so carefully. It kind of gives me the creeps, but it’s also flattering.

Wemple: Yup, it should be. Thank you.

Carlson: All right. See ya!

Wemple: You have a good afternoon.

Carlson: You too. Bye.

Wemple: Bye bye.