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Opinion Tucker Carlson wonders: How did we get so divided?

Tucker Carlson speaks at the 2017 Business Insider Ignition: Future of Media conference in New York. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

It’s not hard to find instances in which Fox News host Tucker Carlson insults people:

  • “You’re a hack,” Carlson told an American Civil Liberties Union official this month.
  • “I see you as a political hack,” Carlson told the Erik Wemple Blog in February 2017.
  • “You should stick to the thigh-high boots. You are better at that,” said Carlson in December 2016 to Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca, scolding her for writing about politics instead of fashion.
  • “I’m just saying you’re not taking a huge risk in doing this other than discrediting yourself and embarrassing yourself,” Carlson told a New Mexico businessman in November 2016.
  • “There are career opportunities open to people people as dumb as Max Boot. I just don’t think running our foreign policy should be one of them,” said Carlson on the Jamie Weinstein podcast, referring to a columnist at The Post. “I feel sorry for Max Boot. … I think Max Boot wakes up every morning and realizes, ‘I’m a charlatan.'”
  • “He’s just such a pompous little guy,” said Carlson of CNN’s Brian Stelter, also on the Jamie Weinstein podcast.

There are many other such instances in the Tucker Carlson archive. Just watch his show, read his transcripts, listen to his speaking engagements. Insulting, demeaning and condescending to liberals is the animating principle of his highly rated show and lucrative career. Dissing people is the industry of Tucker Carlson.

And this same fellow managed to issue this tweet on Thursday night:

For more insight into this dynamic, Carlson might consider examining his own career. He started out as a newspaper and magazine writer, having written a number of very good pieces during a stint at the Weekly Standard and piercing profiles in glossy magazines. Dashing, glib and extremely well read, he gradually made the transition to television, with stops at CNN — where he worked on the ill-fated “Crossfire” — and MSNBC.

From show to show and segment to segment, Carlson proved himself an agile polemical warrior, disarming his opponents now with a simple question, later with a abstruse historical reference. It wasn’t until he landed in the Fox News nighttime lineup in November 2016, however, that he flowered as a vector for division and nastiness in American politics. In addition to sneering at his guests, his great innovation has been to serve as the slithery anti-anti-Trump — a go-to guy for dismembering the president’s most ardent critics. In this genius role, Carlson snipes and snipes at their argument, all the while insisting that he’s “not defending” President Trump and his allies.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson says liberals and the media are obsessed with racism. But media critic Erik Wemple says it is Carlson who is obsessed. (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Viewers love it, as “Tucker Carlson Tonight” consistently ranks among the top cable-news shows.

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Yet the true measure of Carlson’s divisiveness is the adoration he has scored among white nationalists in the United States. They’ve recognized that Carlson quite effectively divides the country just the way they want it divided. The host has scoffed at the notion that he courts these types. “HA HA HA HA HA HA!” he responded nearly a year ago to a question about David Duke’s approval of his work. “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.”

Bolding inserted to highlight an instance of possible projection by the Fox News host.