The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Tucker Carlson rules Fox News

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson is gaslighting viewers about protests against racism and police brutality, but the movement's basic truths are undeniable. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Salwan Georges/TWP, Michael S. Williamson TWP/The Washington Post)
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Lachlan Murdoch last month sent a memo to his colleagues at Fox Corp. asserting that “The Fox culture embraces and fosters diversity and inclusion.” Murdoch is the executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corp., the company that oversees Fox News. A different man, however, decides how Fox News resonates with the American public. That man is Tucker Carlson, the wealthy and highly privileged anchor of the network’s 8 p.m. hour. On this week’s shows, Carlson has taken to attacking Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who is attracting attention as a potential running mate for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Carlson sought to kill this buzz with a contrived line of attack. On Sunday, Duckworth appeared on CNN with Dana Bash, who asked the senator whether statues of folks such as George Washington should fall. “Well, let me just say that we should start off by having a national dialogue on it at some point,” said Duckworth on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But, right now, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. And our . . . one of our ally . . . one of our . . . countries that are opposed to us, Russia, has put a bounty on American troops’ head.”

Typical politician answer, right?

Wrong! Carlson found a scandal in there, as he made clear on Monday night:

So what to make of all of this? Well, it’s long been considered out of bounds to question a person’s patriotism. It’s a very strong charge, and we try not ever to make it. But in the face of all of this, the conclusion can’t be avoided. These people actually hate America. There’s no longer a question about that. And yet, paradoxically, at the same time, they desperately want to control America more than anything, and that leads to the most basic of all questions. Can you really lead a country that you hate?

Boldface added to highlight a lie. Carlson has been saying for a long time that Democrats hate the United States. We’ve documented a few of those instances here.

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Following the show, Duckworth tweeted:

That tweet gave Carlson just enough of a foothold for more hate on Tuesday night, tethered to the question of Washington statues. “George Washington was a genuinely great man. But to morons like Tammy Duckworth, Washington is just some old white guy who needs to be erased,” said Carlson. “Let’s tear down his statues, rename our capital city Sharpton or Mandela and let the revolution continue.”

He then proceeded to complain that Duckworth wouldn’t debate him on the air — after he accused her of hating the country.

Not content to limit the calumny to one female Democratic politician, Carlson piled on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who recently said, “As long as our economy and political systems prioritize profit without considering who is profiting, who is being shut out, we will perpetuate this inequality,” said Omar. “So we cannot stop at [the] criminal justice system. We must begin the work of dismantling the whole system of oppression, wherever we find it.”

What an atrocity! Carlson had had it:

The problem is, there are many of us here who do like this country. We live here. We don't want to destroy it. We have every right to fight to preserve our nation and our heritage and our culture.
And when vandals like Tammy Duckworth and Ilhan Omar tell us that we’re not allowed to question their patriotism, even as they scream about how horrible America is, we have every right to laugh in their faces — and we should.

But hold on a second. With that talk about profit and equality, Omar sounded quite a bit like a certain Fox News host. “The people in charge are free to pursue policies that are disconnected from the public good but that have, not coincidentally, made them richer, more powerful, and much more self-satisfied,” wrote Carlson in his book “Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution.” Another passage: “The rich now reside on the other side of a rope line from everyone else. They stand in their own queues at the airport, sleep on their own restricted floors in hotels. They watch sporting events from skyboxes, while everyone else sits in the stands. They go to different schools. They eat different food. They ski on private mountains, with people very much like themselves.”

So what problem does Carlson have with Omar, or Duckworth? A chyron from Tuesday night’s show may help with an explanation:

Both politicians featured in Carlson’s beatdown are women of color — Duckworth, who is Thai American, and Omar, who was born in Somalia. As was noted by the HuffPost and by Twitter users, the message in the chyron above echoes the 14-word white supremacist slogan, "we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” That hateful spirit surely informed yet another segment by Carlson from a year ago, also against Omar: “Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country. A system designed to strengthen America is, instead, undermining it. Some of the very people we try hardest to help have come to hate us passionately.”

We’ve asked Fox News to comment on this latest round of racism and division. We also asked Fox Corp., Lachlan Murdoch’s roost, to weigh in on the matter. How does questioning the patriotism of two politicians of color square with Murdoch’s message of diversity and inclusion? So far, no response.

In much the same way that racism worked for presidential candidate Donald Trump, it’s working for Carlson. The host recently notched a record 4.331 million viewers in the second quarter of this year. Questioning the patriotism of Democrats; preaching the politics of white grievance; and propagating false and misleading reports has quite a constituency.

And who’ll speak out against it? Where’s Murdoch, Mr. Inclusion and Diversity? Where are the folks on the so-called news side of Fox News? Does Bret Baier, for example, believe that Duckworth hates the United States? Does Chris Wallace regard Duckworth and Omar as vandals? Or do they all feel powerless against a prime-time host with huge ratings?

Read more from Erik Wemple:

Kayleigh McEnany Watch: Neutrality on the Confederate flag

Fox News apologizes for ‘error’ of removing Trump from photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell

Trump drops bombshell: ‘These are numbers’

Fox News fires Ed Henry following sexual misconduct complaint

The recklessness of Tucker Carlson