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Schumer calls on Murdochs, Fox to curb broadcasting of racist theory

The Democratic leader took aim at Fox host Tucker Carlson for promoting ‘replacement’ theory echoed by Buffalo shooter

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, center, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), left, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and state Attorney General Letitia James, visit the scene of a Tops grocery store shooting in Buffalo on Tuesday. (Matt Rourke/AP)
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Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter Tuesday asking the owners of Fox News to curb any on-air language reminiscent of the racist “replacement theory” that was advanced by the man accused of killing 10 people in Buffalo in a white supremacy-inspired massacre.

“For years, these types of beliefs have existed at the fringes of American life,” Schumer wrote in the letter, which his office shared with reporters. “However, this pernicious theory, which has no basis in fact, has been injected into the mainstream thanks in large part to a dangerous level of amplification by your network and its anchors.”

Schumer also cited mass shootings in Pittsburgh and El Paso by gunmen who said they were motivated by anger over what they perceived as an immigrant “invasion” and noted that Fox commentators such as Tucker Carlson have promoted the idea that immigration is a Democratic conspiracy to “replace” the U.S.-born electorate. A recent New York Times analysis found that Carlson has referenced variations of the “replacement” idea in more than 400 episodes since 2016.

“I urge you to take into consideration the very real impacts of the dangerous rhetoric being broadcast on your network on a nightly basis,” Schumer wrote.

The letter was addressed to Fox Corp. chair Rupert Murdoch, Fox Corp. chief executive Lachlan Murdoch and top Fox News executives Suzanne Scott and Jay Wallace. Carlson was copied on the letter, as well.

A Fox News spokeswoman responded Tuesday by noting comments Carlson made on his nightly show Monday decrying the Buffalo shooter as immoral and racist and calling him a “mental patient.” Carlson also said the nation should work toward a “colorblind meritocracy.” (The alleged shooter wrote that he was radicalized by material he read on the Internet. There is no indication that he watched Carlson’s program.)

In the days since the shooting Saturday, Schumer has singled out Fox News in public comments. “If organizations like Fox News truly want to condemn this weekend’s violence, they need to stop spreading ideas like replacement theory on their shows,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor Monday.

In his own floor speech Monday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) blamed Carlson for introducing “racist terminology into America’s conversation,” such as the phrase “legacy Americans,” which Durbin said suggests that immigrants are lesser citizens than those born in the United States. “The phrase was first used on white supremacist forums and websites,” Durbin said. “Tucker Carlson is right at home with it.”

Fox brass have bristled in recent years over the growing criticism of Carlson’s rhetoric. When Anti-Defamation League chief executive Jonathan A. Greenblatt wrote to the network last year calling for Carlson to be fired because of what he called a “full-on embrace of the white supremacist replacement theory” and “open-ended endorsement of white supremacist ideology,” Lachlan Murdoch insisted that Carlson has “decried and rejected replacement theory.”

“Tucker Carlson programming embraces diversity of thought and presents various points of view in an industry where contrarian thought and the search for truth are often ignored,” senior executive producer Justin Wells said late last month in response to the Times’s three-part series on the host.

On his show Monday night, Carlson seemed to put distance between his own past comments about immigration and the language used by the shooting suspect in a document posted online, calling the suspect’s words “crazy” and “not recognizably left-wing or right-wing.” Carlson also pushed back on what he said was a crackdown on hate speech. “It’s speech that our leaders hate,” Carlson told viewers. “So because a mentally ill teenager murdered strangers, you cannot be allowed to express your political views out loud. … Saturday’s massacre gives them a pretext, a justification.”

In his letter, Schumer offered praise for the editorial board of the Murdoch-controlled Wall Street Journal for writing on Sunday that “politicians and media figures have an obligation to condemn … such conspiratorial notions as ‘white replacement theory,' ” though he wrote that “words of condemnation are hardly enough.”

“To this end, I implore you to immediately cease all dissemination of false white nationalist, far-right conspiracy theories on your network,” the senator wrote.

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