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Opinion Tucker Carlson whitewashes the racism of his show and his former top writer

Tucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio in New York in March 2017. (Richard Drew/AP)

Tucker Carlson took out the old Fox News playbook on Monday night: When bad news surfaces, attack the people who broke it, and brush aside the unflattering substance.

In a brief segment on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the host said this:

Over the weekend you may have seen stories about a writer on this show called Blake Neff. For years, since he was in college, Blake posted anonymously on an Internet message board for law school students. On Friday, many of those posts became public. Blake was horrified by the story, and he was ashamed. Friday afternoon, he resigned from his job. We want to say a couple of things about this.
First, what Blake wrote anonymously was wrong. We don’t endorse those words. They have no connection to this show. It is wrong to attack people for qualities they cannot control. In this country, we judge people for what they do, not for how they were born. We often say that, because we mean it. We will continue to defend that principle, often alone among national news programs, because it is essential. Nothing is more important.
Blake fell short of that standard and he has paid a very heavy price for it. But we should also point out, to the ghouls now beating their chests in triumph at the destruction of a young man, that self-righteousness also has its costs. We are all human. When we pretend we are holy, we are lying. When we pose as blameless in order to hurt other people, we are committing the gravest sin of all. And we will be punished for it. There’s no question.

Carlson’s comments cap off a turbulent weekend that began with a scoop from CNN’s Oliver Darcy, who reported that the top writer for the program had posted racist, sexist and homophobic remarks on AutoAdmit, a website that traffics in hateful commentary. The writer, Blake Neff, had worked at “Tucker Carlson Tonight” for more than three years. In an interview with the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Neff boasted, “Anything he’s reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me,” and added that “I’ve gotten used to what he likes and what he thinks about.” The magazine noted that Neff and Carlson “see eye to eye on most issues.”

The mind-meld between these two men turned into an issue on account of the revelations in Darcy’s story. In his postings on AutoAdmit, Neff tossed about abhorrent racial stereotypes like indefinite articles. He did so under the cover of a pseudonym, “CharlesXII.” Here’s a passage from Darcy’s story (which we also quoted on Saturday):

Just this week, the writer, Blake Neff, responded to a thread started by another user in 2018 with the subject line, “Would u let a JET BLACK congo n****er do lasik eye surgery on u for 50% off?” Neff wrote, “I wouldn’t get LASIK from an Asian for free, so no.” (The subject line was not censored on the forum.) On June 5, Neff wrote, “Black doods staying inside playing Call of Duty is probably one of the biggest factors keeping crime down.” On June 24, Neff commented, “Honestly given how tired black people always claim to be, maybe the real crisis is their lack of sleep.” On June 26, Neff wrote that the only people who care about changing the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins are “white libs and their university-'educated' pets.”

There’s no way to spin such hatred, so Fox News didn’t try. It accepted Neff’s resignation, then waited nearly a day before calling his postings “horrendous and deeply offensive racist, sexist and homophobic.” That condemnation came in a note to colleagues from CEO Suzanne Scott and President/Executive Editor Jay Wallace: “FOX News Media strongly condemns this horrific racist, misogynistic and homophobic behavior. Neff’s abhorrent conduct on this forum was never divulged to the show or the network until Friday, at which point we swiftly accepted his resignation. Make no mistake, actions such as his cannot and will not be tolerated at any time in any part of our work force.”

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)

The statement left unaddressed a couple of things: First, the fact that this “abhorrent conduct” wasn’t divulged to Fox News has no bearing on the fundamentals of the situation, which are that the top writer for “Tucker Carlson Tonight” expressed racist, sexist and homophobic remarks galore on a website — and he fed the same spirit into the scripts of the program, as the Erik Wemple Blog has noted. Second, when Carlson himself was busted by Media Matters in 2019 for having made a whole bunch of racist and sexist remarks on a radio show years ago, the network stood by him. Seems there’s one standard for a heretofore anonymous show writer and another for a renowned host who draws record ratings for the company.

As for Carlson’s feeble attempt to wish away the whole matter on Monday night, where to start? Let’s do a full inventory:

1) The short monologue furnished plenty of evidence that Carlson can’t level with his audience. Instead of detailing what Neff had posted on AutoAdmit, Carlson euphemized those postings with all the sophistication of a seasoned Washington operative. To recap: “What Blake wrote anonymously was wrong. We don’t endorse those words. They have no connection to the show. It is wrong to attack people for qualities they cannot control.”

That’s oblique enough that viewers of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” might have come away with the impression that Neff hadn’t written vile racist and sexist commentary in a forum where he was free to express his innermost feelings.

2) As noted above, Neff drafted Carlson’s nightly segments. The notion that, somehow, the innermost thoughts of the show’s top writer have “no connection to the show” is like saying that pizza sauce has no connection to pizza.

3) In what manner was Neff “horrified” by the story? Was he unaware that he had been writing hate tracts on AutoAdmit for years? Or was the horror limited to the inconvenient reality that he’d been outed?

4) The idea that Carlson judges people for what they do, and not how they were born, is amply refuted in the show’s own transcripts. If that were the standard, why, then, has Carlson been such a committed critic of American diversity? Here’s an old Carlson riff on that topic, directed at ruling-class types who extol it:

How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?
Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question.
And if diversity is our strength, why is it okay for the rest of us to surrender one of our central rights, freedom of speech, to just a handful of tech monopolies? And by the way, if your ideas are so obviously true, why does anyone who question them need to be shamed, silenced and fired?

5) Just who are these “ghouls” who are delighting in the “destruction of a young man”? Any examples? Whoever these people may be, we here at the Erik Wemple Blog are pretty confident that they didn’t feed hate into the head of Blake Neff. They didn’t log him in to AutoAdmit. They didn’t type out messages that stereotype African Americans and harass women. They didn’t develop a pseudonym and then plant hints on AutoAdmit that allowed others to divine the true identity of “CharlesXII.”

6) Watch the segment:

The prevailing emotion from Carlson isn’t regret or remorse. It’s anger — anger that he has lost his top writer to a mob of “ghouls.” And what an anger it is: If there’s been one through-line on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” it has been the smearing of CNN. Whenever CNN has a controversy, Carlson highlights whatever breakdowns may have occurred, along with his usual conspiratorial commentary. To lose his top writer over a CNN scoop that had every fact, every allegation buttoned down just so — that had to have disappointed the highly rated host.

In a network of ideologues, Carlson occupies a particularly fuliginous fringe. Even the network’s leaders in Saturday’s note to colleagues characterized Neff’s postings as “deeply offensive racist, sexist and homophobic.” On the other hand, Carlson apparently couldn’t even bring himself to echo those same denunciations. That’s because Carlson has spent his entire career as a Fox News prime-time host — nearly four years — skewering those who call out President Trump for being, well, racist, sexist and other offensive things. Those spotters of hatred are a prime target for Carlson, a lure for viewers. There was no way that he was going to use his own show to call out racism by its name.

We’ve asked Fox News if it stands behind the statement that Carlson gave on Monday night’s show. We’ll update this post with any response.

At the end of his show, Carlson announced that he was headed out on a “long-planned” trout-fishing vacation and pledged to return soon. Once he gets back, he may have to find another writer who shares his fear of diversity and other similar sensibilities. That shouldn’t be too hard, given his own history of cultivating such people.

Read more:

Erik Wemple: Top writer for ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ wrote racist tracts on a website. Surprise!

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