They’re freshly “unearthed.” They’re setting Twitter aflame. They’re alarming. They’re offensive. They’re unforgivable.
Oh, and there’s one other thing about the misogynistic comments made by Tucker Carlson years ago on a radio show: They’re in character. Because Carlson, the table-setting host of Fox News’s 8 p.m. hour, has long established himself as insensitive to women, sexist, misogynist — the whole putrid scale of scorn.
On Sunday, Madeline Peltz of Media Matters for America surfaced a bunch of comments that Carlson made when he called in to the radio show hosted by Bubba the Love Sponge between 2006 and 2011. After the radio host talked about girls at Carlson’s daughter’s boarding school engaging in sexual experimentation with one another, Carlson said, “If it weren’t my daughter I would love that scenario”; he slimed Arianna Huffington, calling her a “pig”; he referred to Alexis Stewart, the daughter of Martha Stewart, with the c-word; he said, “If [Hillary Clinton] could castrate you, she would.” And many more.
The commentary sounds as if the person saying it doesn’t fear accountability. You know — pick up the phone, spout some misogyny on a radio show and then proceed with your day. That’s just how fluid and glib Carlson sounds in the radio recordings.
And we know from the published record that the Tucker Carlson on the audiotapes is the real Tucker Carlson. There’s a lot more where they came from, in other words. Fox News, too, knew all about it — or, at the least, should have.
Weeks ago, the Erik Wemple Blog reported out a story wherein Carlson nearly a decade ago referred to then-Salon Editor in Chief Joan Walsh with the c-word. Ethan Strauss, an intern at Salon, was entrusted with recruiting Carlson to write a piece on then-President Barack Obama. In Strauss’s account, he established a rapport by talking with Carlson about their common roots in Southern California. When the topic shifted back to Salon, that’s when Carlson let loose. “He says at one point that Joan Walsh is such a c---, she’s such a c---.” He also said, in Strauss’s recollection, that Walsh needed to “get f---ed.” See this podcast for Strauss’s version of events.
The Erik Wemple Blog asked Fox News about these comments. We never received a response.
The point, though, is that Fox News was on notice about this incident, and many, many more. They were on the notice about the time when Carlson was working as the top editor of the Daily Caller, that he and his brother teamed up to heap misogynistic scorn on the spokeswoman of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; they were on notice about the many times that the Daily Caller, under Carlson’s guidance, published sexist stories and blog posts; they were on notice when Carlson heaped sexist condescension on Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca; they were on notice when Carlson talked about how wonderful it must have been for a 15-year-old boy whose teacher performed a lap dance on him.
On Sunday night, Fox News issued a statement attributed to Carlson himself: “Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago. 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.”
Brazen stuff from one of the least accountable people in the country’s ruling class. Instead of reckoning with the offensive comments, Carlson seeks to parlay the underlying controversy into better ratings. In doing so, he is following the lead of Fox News’s founder, the late Roger Ailes. Over the years, Fox News has built its audience in scandalous increments: A host or contributor says something dumb or distasteful; liberal America screams its denunciations; Fox News benefits from the conservative counter-reaction to the backlash.
We’ve asked Fox News if it has any statement regarding Carlson’s behavior. It is, after all, Carlson’s employer.