The astonishing declaration was just more of the same from Powell, who also represents former national security adviser Michael Flynn and has been spinning scary and baseless theories about voter fraud in the aftermath of President Trump’s electoral defeat. Central to her campaign is the idea that, somehow, corrupt vote-switching strategies from the 2013 presidential election in Venezuela had surfaced in the Biden-Trump contest.
Fact-checkers and others have blasted Powell’s nonsense, which blends into a bare-knuckled attempt by Trump to use his powers to overturn the Nov. 3 elections. On Thursday night, an unexpected voice joined the chorus: “Sidney Powell has been saying similar things for days,” said Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “On Sunday night, we texted her after watching one of her segments. What Powell was describing would amount to the single greatest crime in American history. Millions of votes stolen in a day. Democracy destroyed. The end of our centuries-old system of self-government, not a small thing.”
“Tucker Carlson Tonight” didn’t summarily dismiss Powell’s allegations; it wanted the evidence. Here’s what happened next: “We invited Sidney Powell on the show. We would have given her the whole hour. We would have given her the entire week actually and listened quietly the whole time at rapt attention. That’s a big story,” said Carlson. “But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of requests, polite requests, not a page. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her.”
In a Friday interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo, Powell insisted that she’d sent an affidavit to Carlson and denied his report that she became angry. That said, she did claim that “he was very insulting, demanding, and rude, and I told him not to contact me again, in those terms,” Powell told Bartiromo. And on his Friday night program, Carlson noted that Powell had claimed earlier in the day that the Trump team would be able to “prove all of it in court within the next two weeks.” Carlson approved: “If Sidney Powell can prove the technology companies switched millions of votes and stole a presidential election, she will have almost single-handedly uncovered the greatest crime in the history of this country, and no one will be more grateful for that than us,” said Carlson.
People took note of all this activity. Launched just after Trump’s November 2016 presidential victory, Carlson’s prime-time Fox News show capitalized in the most devious ways on the loyalties of the MAGA crowd. Night after night, Carlson situated himself not as a carbon copy of Sean Hannity’s rah-rah propaganda sessions. His raucous program was, rather, the place where conservatives could go for their helping of anti-anti-Trump material. On this platform, Democrats “hate” America; liberals — not Trump! — are bent on destroying great American institutions; and someone is going to “come for you.”
How could the anchor of such a show diss someone like Powell, who was speaking out to keep the president in power? That’s what some Twitter users wanted to know:
What ungrateful souls! Don’t they appreciate the way that Carlson gave a pass to Trump for all his lying? Don’t they appreciate the way that Carlson deflected attention away from the damning substance of the impeachment proceedings against Trump? Or the way he attacked the Black Lives Matter protests and excused the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen accused of killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wis.? Or his minimizing of Trump’s mendacity and corruption during the Mueller investigation? Or his hyping of the “unmasking” non-scandal that supposedly targeted the Trump administration? Or all the times he personally counseled the president in moments of crisis? Or his assistance to Team Trump in spreading suspicion about voter fraud?
There’s no claim here that Carlson is facing a sweeping conservative uproar. Now and again, he bucks Trumpian orthodoxy and attracts a lot of attention, whether by praising the economic vision of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), calling on Trump to stick to a hard-line immigration stance or warning the Trump campaign that they couldn’t win the race by calling Joe Biden senile.
But seriously, MAGA community: This fellow has done way too much for your cause to abandon him over a silly little outburst. Keep in mind that Carlson is trying to hold together a vast community of viewers, a sliver of which believes he’s an honest broker who keeps everyone honest. In case you missed that dynamic, Carlson was careful to emphasize it in the segment: “Why are we telling you this? We’re telling you this, because it’s true,” said the host. “And in the end, that’s all that matters — the truth. It’s our only hope. It’s our best defense. And it is how we are different from them. We care what’s true, and we know you care, too. That’s why we told you.”
Boldface added to highlight those scary people — the ones who’ll come for you.