“So what can we learn from this?” he continued. “It’s not enough to call it a tragedy. Imagine for a second getting a call and learning that was your daughter. The last time you spoke to her, she was heading to Washington for a political rally. Now she’s dead. You’ll never talk to her again. Seriously, imagine that. If you have children, it will put you in the right frame of mind.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if Carlson lamented all deaths at the hands of law enforcement as he did on Wednesday night? “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” though, cannot boast such evenhandedness.
It was Wednesday, May 27, 2020, when Carlson first had the opportunity to address the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. How did he do that? This is how: “Good evening and welcome to ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’ We’ll have the latest on those riots in Minneapolis last night. And yes, they were in fact riots no matter what they’re telling you on the other channels. That’s a fact, and we have the tape.”
The program went on to do precisely that: cover the riots. Lost in the protest porn was precisely the sort of material that Carlson provided on the Trump supporter who died in the Capitol. There was no detailed mention of the incomprehensible way in which Floyd died. No mention of the way he cried for “momma.” No mention that Floyd, too, had dreams and loved ones, as The Post reported in an exhaustive series on his life.
That’s not all, though. Anyone who contrasted Carlson’s reaction to the Floyd protests with his reaction to Wednesday’s invasion of the Capitol has got to wonder how he juggles the incompatibility. In his ever-so-earnest discussion of the MAGA election riot, Carlson made sure to condemn the violence. “We have a duty to oppose all of this,” he said. Good, hard-edged stuff. Yet there’s always a “but” when guys like Carlson and Sean Hannity “condemn” right-wing America. And as always, Carlson did it with his trademark cleverness: “When thousands of your countrymen storm the Capitol building, you don’t have to like it, but if you don’t bother to pause and learn a single thing from it … then you’re a fool.”
Boldface inserted to highlight conjunctional pivot. The gist here is that, yeah, these White folks may have gotten a little out of hand, but they kind of have a case! At another point in the proceedings, Carlson said, “They’re, like, kind of solid Americans and they’re deeply frustrated. And I wonder if people in Washington — where I spent most of my life — understand why and really understand and empathize with their frustration? Sincere question.”
Had Carlson applied the same thinking to the Black Lives Matter movement, he would have condemned the violence associated with some of the protests following Floyd’s death, while acknowledging that the movement stemmed from serious concerns about how police have treated Black people. Instead, we got this:
- “The indiscriminate use of violence by mobs is a threat to every American of all colors and backgrounds and political beliefs. Democracy cannot exist when people are rioting. Rioting is a form of tyranny. The strong and the violent oppress the weak and the unarmed. It is oppression.” (May 27)
- “What we do know is that riots are now acceptable because racism is a national emergency. That’s the new standard. Okay. So now that we’re in a state of national emergency, the question is, what is not acceptable? What’s not okay? Anything?” (May 28)
- “The rioters in Minneapolis and in other places act as if they’re allowed to loot and burn and in fact, they are allowed. No one stops them. The authorities don’t arrest them. Instead, they pander to them, flatter them, desperately try to win their love.” (May 29)
- “America went insane over the weekend. … This was without precedent in the modern era, a small group of highly aggressive, emotionally charged activists took over our culture. They forced the entire country to obey their will. It all happened so fast and with such ferocity that virtually no one resisted it.” (June 8)
Boldface added in that final quote to highlight the versatility of this language — it could well be applied to current events with the smallest of edits: “A small group of highly aggressive, emotionally charged activists took over our national legislature.”
Layered on top of Carlson’s commentary was a big lie that infuses Fox News coverage of the post-election chaos. As he discussed the motivations of the rioters, he cited their faltering faith in the system: “Democracy is a pressure relief valve. As long as people sincerely believe they can change things by voting, they stay calm. … But the opposite is also true. If people begin to believe that their democracy is fraudulent, if they conclude that voting is a charade, the system is rigged and it is run in secret by a small group of powerful, dishonest people who are acting in their own interests, then God knows what could happen.”
People have indeed begun to conclude that their democracy is fraudulent. Those conclusions, of course, have a provenance: They come from President Trump, who tweets and pronounces false claims about the election all the time. And just as powerfully, they come from Fox News and other conservative media outlets such as Newsmax and One America News. Over the past two months, Fox News host Hannity — No. 1 in 2020 cable-news rankings — has forked over his program to the promotion of Trump’s lies about the Nov. 3 election. Other Fox anchors — Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro — have also helped misinform viewers about the integrity of the election.
They’re all responsible in varying degrees for the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. At one point in Wednesday night’s show, Carlson expressed wonder at the curious fact that some of the insurrectionists were “older people.” Yeah, just like the Fox News demographic.
Instead of acknowledging this hard truth, Carlson laid the violence at the feet of the “people with all of the power” who have “decided to clamp down so harshly on the population.” Right — these Trumpers have been oppressed by the president’s deregulatory state.
To top it all off, Carlson indulged a guest who claimed that “the rumor is that even possibly antifa insurrectionists possibly could have infiltrated some of these movements and maybe instigated some of this.” Carlson allowed that stray bit of speculation to go unmolested. Why interrupt someone who’s heaping blame on the left?