Media critic

Tucker Carlson had a few options after Media Matters for America on Sunday published a bunch of decade-old misogynistic remarks that he’d made on a radio show hosted by “Bubba the Love Sponge.” He could have apologized, but that would mean caving to Media Matters, an organization with which Fox News is engaged in mortal, perpetual battle. He could have ignored it all, but that would have meant forgoing a chance to grow his audience.

So he chose Door No. 3: Use the crisis to falsely frame yourself as a champion of dissent. It’s a natural fit for Carlson, who commonly uses his 8 p.m. perch on Fox News to sell himself as a rogue Washingtonian out to expose the ruling class. So why not just extend that persona for the moments when you come under well-deserved attack? That’s what he did on his Monday night program.

Here at the Erik Wemple Blog, we thought it might be helpful to juxtapose Carlson’s chest-beating pronouncements about his stand in favor of free speech and righteous defiance alongside the speech that he’s actually defending. Let’s have a look:

Self-righteous pronouncement in favor of free speech:

It’s really not that much you can do to respond ... it’s pointless to try to explain how the words were spoken in jest or taken out of context, or in any case bear no resemblance to what you actually think or would want for the country.

Speech that he’s actually defending:

She just does seem a little c---y.

Self-righteous pronouncement in favor of free speech:

One side is deadly serious. They believe that politics is war. They are not interested in abstractions or principles, rules or traditions. They seek power and they claim to win it with whatever it takes. If that includes getting you fired or silencing you, or threatening your family at home, or throwing you in prison, okay. They know what their goal is. If you are in the way, they will crush you.

Speech that he’s actually defending:

Oh my God, she’s a pig. [in reference to Arianna Huffington]

Self-righteous pronouncement in favor of free speech

The left’s main goal, in case you haven’t noticed, is controlling what you think. In order to do that, they have to control the information that you receive.

Speech that he’s actually defending:

Underage marriage isn’t “the same thing exactly as pulling a child from a bus stop and sexually assaulting that child. ... The rapist in this case has made a lifelong commitment to live and take care of the person so it is a little different.”

Self-righteous pronouncement in favor of free speech:

One of the only places left in the United States where independent thoughts are allowed is right here. The opinion hours on this network. Just a few hours in a sea of television programming, it’s not much relatively speaking. For the left, it’s unacceptable. They demand total conformity.

Speech that he’s actually defending:

Somehow the rest of us have been bullied into pretending that Oprah’s great, that she doesn’t hate the penis, that she’s not anti-man.

Self-righteous pronouncement in favor of free speech:

The point of this show has never been us, but now it’s obvious to everybody. There is no pretending that it is not happening, it is happening and so going forward, we’ll be covering their efforts to make us be quiet.

Speech that he’s actually defending:

No, it’s just absolutely fundamental -- physically, the problems with [Elena Kagan] are fundamental. She’s never going to be an attractive woman.

Self-righteous pronouncement in favor of free speech:

You’ve got one channel that disagrees with all the other channels. You have an island of dissent in the middle of the sea of sameness, and that’s too much for them, and I wonder if we’ve been lying to ourselves about the extent to which they would like to shut this channel down.

Speech that he’s actually defending:

If you’re talking to a feminist, and she’s given you, “Well, men really need to be more sensitive,” [say] no, actually, men don’t need to be more sensitive. You just need to be quiet and kind of do what you’re told.

Self-righteous pronouncement in favor of free speech:

Why would they want to stop all dissent? What’s the point of that?

Speech that he’s actually defending:

There’s no Canadian woman that you’d want to pay to sleep with.

Precisely. Who are these thought-control freaks who refuse a free-flowing debate about the merits of prostitutes from Canada. Shame on them.

The entire Carlson rant in favor of “dissent,” mind you, was possible only because he declined to clue in his audience as to the hateful things he’d said in those radio chats. He didn’t walk through the list of things that Media Matters had unearthed. Instead of thus informing his viewers, Carlson opted for vague swipes, such as, “It’s really not that much you can do to respond, if not what you can do to respond, it’s pointless to try to explain how the words were spoken in jest or taken out of context, or in any case bear no resemblance to what you actually think or would want for the country,” he said, declining to explain how even a single one of the offending remarks so qualified.

Deprived of specifics, viewers were in no position to judge whether there really was a mob seeking to suppress dissent, or whether there was just a millionaire cable-news host trying to save his career by wrapping himself in the First Amendment.

Perhaps he’ll do a similar maneuver on his next show, considering that just as he was launching into his Monday night defense, Media Matters was dropping another set of Carlson comments from the same radio show — these of the racist and homophobic variety. This batch included quotes such as saying Iraqis are “semiliterate primitive monkeys.” What dissent!

Writing in the National Review, David French expresses his distaste for Carlson’s remarks and for “many” of his ideas. But he faults the lefty outrage machine for ripping into him: “I find his brand of right-wing outrage journalism tiresome and destructive in its own right. But we should respond to his arguments with arguments of our own. We should debate him on the air and in print.”

Okay: The Erik Wemple Blog hereby argues that Iraqis aren’t “semiliterate primitive monkeys.” What a debate!

Read more:

Erik Wemple: Defenders of Tucker Carlson decry ‘hit piece’ by Media Matters

Jennifer Rubin: CNN should thank Media Matters

Erik Wemple: Fox News couldn’t care less that Tucker Carlson is a misogynist

Erik Wemple: Don’t worry, folks: Fox News is ‘addressing’ the matter

Erik Wemple: Media Matters’ ‘Fox Effect’: Fair and balanced?