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Opinion In attacking Ocasio-Cortez, Tucker Carlson maxes out on hypocrisy

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during a rally on Jan. 26, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
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In early November 2018, a crew of lefty protesters showed up at the D.C. home of Fox News host Tucker Carlson to denounce his hateful rhetoric on air. Though he wasn’t home at the time, Carlson told an interviewer that it was a terror-filled event, referring to his wife’s experience: “She had been in the kitchen alone getting ready to go to dinner and she heard pounding on the front door and screaming. … Someone started throwing himself against the front door and actually cracked the front door,” Carlson said.

That last part was false. The door was just fine.

Every falsehood eventually comes back to haunt Carlson, a fellow who pontificates every night on the country’s affairs. Now is the time for the cracked-door thing.

On Wednesday night’s edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the host took aim at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) over her recounting of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. “I can tell you that I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die,” Ocasio-Cortez said a week after the riot. “I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive.” In a Instagram Live chat on Monday, she talked about hearing a voice while she was taking refuge in her office’s bathroom. “Where is she? Where is she?” someone was yelling, according to the congresswoman. “And this was the moment where I thought everything was over.”

It was actually a Capitol Police officer who directed her to another building, and Ocasio-Cortez eventually hunkered down in the office of Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) for hours. “These folks who tell us to move on, that it is not a big deal, that we should forget what’s happened, or even telling us to apologize — these are the same tactics of abusers. And I’m a survivor of sexual assault, and I haven’t told many people that in my life. But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

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On Twitter, she noted that her story “isn’t the only story, nor is it the central story of what happened on Jan 6th,” she wrote. “It is just one story of many of those whose lives were endangered at the Capitol by the lies, threats, and violence fanned by the cowardice of people who chose personal gain above democracy.”

Carlson chose to game out how frightened Ocasio-Cortez should have been:

There she is, again, defender of the common man yammering on about the only subject she really cares about — herself. Wallowing around in Lake Me like it’s interesting to anyone, but her — narcissism on parade, the perfect symbol of a culture dying from self-involvement.
We said that before and we have laughed as we did. But actually, it’s not funny. People will believe this crap, some already do. Anyone who was physically present at the Capitol that day knows it’s ridiculous. There were no rioters in Sandy Cortez’s hallway. Trump voters weren’t trying to kill her; neither were other U.S. senators.

Boldface inserted to highlight a suggestion: Carlson might consider that, beyond various rioters’ threats of violence against Democrats as a whole, one member of the mob specifically tweeted, “Assassinate AOC.”

In attacking Ocasio-Cortez, Carlson is following a charade that has worked wonders for his ratings: Whenever there’s an outrage associated with former President Donald Trump, issue a sincere-sounding denunciation; pause for a night or so; then attack the left for allegedly overreacting to that outrage. Ridicule Democrats for their inability to appreciate proportionality and skewer their overheated liberal sensibilities while insisting, “I’m not defending Trump,” as Carlson did the night after the Capitol riot.

What happened on Jan. 6 challenged a founding principle of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Way back in May 2017, after Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) body-slammed a reporter, Carlson argued, “America does face a threat of political violence. It does not come, by and large, from baby boomer evangelicals in Montana. Nor does it come from President Trump, whatever his flaws. The threat today comes from the progressive left and its growing enthusiasm for force as a political tool.” As this blog noted, that bogus conclusion has looked even worse since last August, after Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of two people at the Kenosha, Wis., protests.

Then came the Capitol riot, an example of right-wing violence committed by people who believed a lie peddled on Fox News’s own airwaves. Wiggling out of this factual bind has required all of Carlson’s resourcefulness. It was inevitable, then, that the host would seek to deflect the attention of his viewers to Ocasio-Cortez, hypocrisy notwithstanding. Not that he’ll pay any price, however: His audience loves his snark about “Sandy Cortez.”

The U.S. is more politically polarized than ever. The Post’s Kate Woodsome asks experts what drives political sectarianism — and what we can do about it. (Video: Kate Woodsome, Danielle Kunitz, Joy Yi/The Washington Post)

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