Carlson was widely criticized on Sunday following a report from the progressive nonprofit Media Matters for America that compiled and transcribed more than a dozen instances of the host appearing on the “Bubba the Love Sponge Show,” a popular radio program broadcast from Tampa. In the segments, Carlson suggested underage marriage is not as serious as forcible child rape, called rape shield laws “totally unfair” and once said he would “love” a scenario involving young girls sexually experimenting. He also described women as “extremely primitive,” and used words such as “pig” and the c-word.
In a statement emailed to The Washington Post on Sunday, Carlson took a defiant stance.
“Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago,” he said. “Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.”
Warning: The following audio contains explicit language.
Carlson, who was employed by MSNBC before being hired by Fox News in 2009 as a contributor, reportedly spent about an hour a week calling in to the show hosted by “shock jock” Bubba the Love Sponge, born Todd Clem, according to Media Matters. During his appearances, Carlson and the show’s hosts discussed a wide range of cultural and political topics, including sexual abuse.
On at least two separate occasions, Carlson voiced opinions on underage marriage and Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is currently serving a life sentence for child rape.
In September 2006, just months after Jeffs had been added to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, Carlson slammed the criminal charges, calling them “bulls---.”
“Now this guy may be . . . may be a child rapist,” Carlson said. “I’m just telling you that arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her.”
Three years later in another segment on the radio show, Carlson clarified that he was not defending underage marriage but added, “I just don’t think it’s the same thing exactly as pulling a child from a bus stop and sexually assaulting that child.”
Both Bubba the Love Sponge and his co-host immediately pushed back.
“Yeah, it’s — you know what it is? It’s much more planned out and plotted,” said the co-host, who wasn’t identified in the transcripts.
Bubba the Love Sponge chimed in, saying the act should almost be described as premeditated, but Carlson wasn’t swayed.
“The rapist, in this case, has made a lifelong commitment to live and take care of the person, so it is a little different,” he said.
“That’s twisted,” the co-host replied, later calling Carlson’s comment “demented.”
In that same show, Carlson continued to argue on behalf of Jeffs, saying he was in prison “because he’s weird and unpopular and he has a different lifestyle that other people find creepy.”
At the time, as the show’s co-host noted, Jeffs had already been convicted of being an accomplice to rape for his role in arranging a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
“What do you mean an accessory?” Carlson asked when Jeffs’s conviction was brought up. “He’s like got some weird religious cult where he thinks it’s okay to, you know, marry underaged girls, but he didn’t do it. Why wouldn’t the guy who actually did it, who had sex with an underaged girl, he should be the one who’s doing life.”
Carlson went on to say that if he had made the laws, “Michael Vick would have been executed, and Warren Jeffs would be out on the street.” Vick, a former NFL quarterback, was sentenced to 23 months in 2007 for dogfighting.
“I’m not for child rape,” he said. “I’m just saying, if you mistreat dogs like that, we’re going to have to execute you.”
In other segments, Carlson called for the elimination of rape shield laws, which are intended to protect the identities and histories of victims of sex crimes and engaged in a conversation about young girls and their sexual behavior.
On the laws, he said in May 2006: “So if I’m alleging rape, I have the protection of anonymity. I can say whatever I want while hiding behind anonymity, while the person I accused, whether he’s guilty or not, has his life destroyed. That’s totally unfair.”
Then, in an October 2009 show, Bubba the Love Sponge launched into what appeared to be a hypothetical description of the young girls at the boarding school attended by Carlson’s daughter experimenting with each other sexually.
“I ain’t got my mom and dad here telling me that they love me and tuck me in bed,” the radio host said. “So, here’s Trixie, she wants to explore my body a little bit, so hey, let’s go crazy.”
Carlson responded: “If it weren’t my daughter, I would love that scenario.”
Over the years on the show, Carlson also repeatedly spoke about women using language that many found to be offensive. He once said, “I love women, but they’re extremely primitive, they’re basic, they’re not that hard to understand.” In another appearance, he implied that women like being instructed by men to “just be quiet and kind of do what you’re told.”
His criticism of women extended to prominent figures, such as Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, HuffPost’s former editor in chief Arianna Huffington and TV host Alexis Stewart, Martha Stewart’s daughter.
In May 2010, Carlson said he felt sorry for Kagan, then a Supreme Court nominee, who was “never going to be an attractive woman.”
“I feel sorry for unattractive women,” he said, adding that the “problems” with Kagan’s physical appearance were “fundamental.”
He called Huffington “a pig” and used the c-word when discussing Stewart, noting that he wanted to “give her the spanking she so desperately needs."
The audio from Media Matters swiftly went viral. By early Monday, a video shared by the nonprofit to Twitter had been watched more than 2 million times and Carlson was trending with tens of thousands of mentions, many slamming the host as “sexist” and condemning his views.
“Shame on you,” actress and activist Alyssa Milano tweeted, tagging Carlson. “You have daughters."
Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, called Carlson a “complete dirtbag.”
As several people, including The Post’s Erik Wemple, pointed out, this is not the first time Carlson has expressed views widely considered to be “misogynistic.”
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone cited Carlson’s history of making controversial statements on air when explaining why the organization published the audio. As recently as December, Carlson’s show was boycotted by advertisers after he faced widespread backlash for saying immigrants make the United States “poorer and dirtier and more divided.” The host also did not apologize then. On Sunday, Carlson faced renewed boycott calls.
“The reason we released this is precisely because the things you say on your Fox News show echo the misogyny displayed in those clips,” Carusone tweeted. “We were actually helping people better understand just how vile your current Fox News show is by showing what that worldview really looks like.”
Asked for comment on the newly surfaced audio, Fox News referred The Post to Carlson’s statement.
Amid the backlash, some flocked to defend Carlson, including prominent conservatives such as Donald Trump Jr.