The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Tucker Carlson was ‘embarrassed’ after a fiery exchange with the ACLU. But he’s not sorry.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson appears to use the same deflection tactic when attacking guests he disagrees with, as Post media critic Erik Wemple points out. (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)
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“ACLU caves to liberal lunacy,” read the banner blasted across the screen. With that, Tucker Carlson laid into an American Civil Liberties Union official and the group’s recent $1 million ad campaign calling for swing-vote senators to oppose Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

The advertisement likened Kavanaugh to other powerful men who denied accusations of sexual misconduct, including Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. In attacking the ACLU’s attack ad on his Fox News show, Carlson — who lamented only the Cosby comparison, yelling that “twinning them together is by definition guilt by association” — ridiculed his guest from the civil liberties group.

He raised his voice at the ACLU’s national political director, Faiz Shakir, cutting him off and calling him a “hack."

“I care about the principles that make the country we’re living in, which you once defended and now you urinate on,” Carlson scolded during his Thursday night program.

He flailed his hands, pointing at Shakir and shouting him down.

“Let me just remind you what you believe, because I think I know more about your organization than you do,” Carlson yelled.

“Why do you still exist?” he demanded, then dismissed any and all response from Shakir.

Then, it was over: Carlson switched gears and introduced radio host Tammy Bruce to discuss conservative women who are enraged at how the “left has tried to fire up women against Brett Kavanaugh.”

But at the end of his show, Carlson offered an on-air acknowledgment that he “lost [his] temper” during the ACLU segment.

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Shakir told The Washington Post on Friday that sitting in Carlson’s hot seat felt like a “Kavanaugh hearing redux.”

Carlson, he said, “got progressively louder and angrier to ‘win’ with his tribe but not actually have a genuine conversation on the merit. It was an escalation of anger that was unjustified. Anything I said in the segment he interrupted.”

For his part, Carlson said in a statement to The Post on Friday that “for a hundred years, the ACLU defended free speech without reservation. Now they’ve decided that some people don’t have the right to express their opinions. That’s scary and infuriating and I said so.”

The ACLU, which rarely wades into debates over Supreme Court nominees, announced its opposition to Kavanaugh late in the process.

As The Post’s Kristine Phillips reported, the ACLU spent more than $1 million on television advertisements to oppose his nomination. The campaign, announced Monday, was “another sign that the ACLU, which describes itself as a nonpartisan organization, has energized its advocacy efforts in the Trump era. Two days earlier, the group’s national board voted to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination — something it has done only three other times in the past century.”

“It’s an extraordinary circumstance,” Shakir said Friday, explaining that it was the sexual assault allegations against the federal judge that drove the organization to take a public position. “The manner in which Kavanaugh handled it led us to have great doubts about his integrity. The ad was trying to help elucidate how we arrived at where we are.”

He agreed to appear on Carlson’s show to defend the group’s position but barely got a chance to speak.

“I cannot think of any other organization who crosses over political divides to defend people on the ‘other side,’ " Shakir said Friday, adding: “To say [the ad] is partisan rather than principled is totally off base.”

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