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Opinion Tucker Carlson: ‘I like immigrants’ (when I’m not bashing them)

Tucker Carlson, the host of Fox News’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” (Richard Drew/AP)

The guy who’ll play up any crime by undocumented immigrants, the guy who’ll play up any culture clash involving immigrant communities on American soil, and the guy who bashes leaders who exhibit reasonableness in negotiating immigration reform declared on his Fox News program Thursday night:

“I like immigrants. I’m sure a lot of these people are great people.”

That was Tucker Carlson to guest Kate Gallego, a candidate for mayor in Phoenix, who highlighted the benefits of immigration in her community.

Now: Compare Carlson’s little concession to the words of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump on June 16, 2015. Speaking of Mexican immigrants, Trump said, “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

To show his love for immigrants, Carlson pressed Gallego on the interplay of immigration and economic growth. After Gallego said, “We don’t have the workforce we need,” Carlson badgered her with snark: “If that’s true, if more illegal immigrants make a place richer, then how many specifically do you think Arizona or Phoenix needs? How many illegals do you need in your city to make it richer? Would more be better? How about 10 million? Would that make it even richer?”

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The host’s affinity for immigrants continued through a discussion of Phoenix economic development. After Gallego said that immigrants helped the tech sector, Carlson asked, “How many big tech companies were started by people from Central and South America? Latin America?” Gallego responded that a Phoenix company, Fortis Networks, was launched by a “gentleman from Panama.” At that point, Carlson could have asked more about the business, how many people it employed, what implications it held for immigration policy.

Instead, glib dismissal: “I bet. I bet he is a great guy and the company is great. But how many big tech companies were started by the immigrants that you are talking about since you brought it up? How many?”

More appreciation for immigrants surfaced in Carlson’s chat with frequent guest and author Mark Steyn, who said this: “In Arizona, a majority of the grade school children now are Hispanic. That means Arizona’s future is as an Hispanic society. That means, in effect, the border has moved north. And the cultural transformation outweighs any economic benefits that that lady was talking about.”

A well-read, career-long Washington pundit with an affection for history, Carlson at this point could have whispered that there was a time when Mexicans in present-day Arizona weren’t immigrants. “The first Mexicans to become part of the United States never crossed any border. Instead, the border crossed them,” notes one history.

For his part, Carlson said, “It’s at the very least bewildering for people who grew up here and that’s real. I don’t think you have to be animated by hate or anything to say maybe I should have some say in how my country evolves.” Perhaps, but hate surely helps.

Carlson is really going for it now. Last week, he ripped President Trump for showing a willingness to accept congressional compromises toward immigration reform. And now, to properly signal his extremism on the immigration question, he cooked up an attack on a commonly accepted American premise. “Diversity is our strength. It will be in our currency before long. Trust me,” said Carlson. “But what exactly does it mean? You may have noticed that nobody ever bothers to explain exactly what it means. And more pressingly, is it true? The less we have in common, the stronger we are? Is a marriage stronger when spouses have radically different beliefs? Are you closer to your kids when you share no common points of reference? Do you speak the same language as your best friend? Could you be best friends if you didn’t?”

More: “These are important questions given that our leaders are radically and permanently changing our country wholly on the basis of their faith that diversity is, in fact, our strength. Maybe we should have talked this through ahead of time. Somehow we didn’t.” This, from the fellow who professes to “like” immigrants. Alt-right fans of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” won’t be switching the channel anytime soon.

Read more from Erik Wemple:

Why Tucker Carlson is (finally) blasting President Trump

‘I can’t reveal my confidential sources, Mr. Wemple’: The Tucker Carlson interview

‘Look, I’m not defending Trump’: An anatomy of Tucker Carlson’s deflective agenda

The hypocrisy of Tucker Carlson’s anti-Mueller campaign