By:
April 12, 2021

By now, we all know what Fox News’ Tucker Carlson is.

He is a divider whose goal is to stir up his audience with dangerous rhetoric about race and other extreme right talking points. He spends most of his show stirring the pot then later uses his well-practiced tactics to deny he said what we all know he meant. Or that those rightfully bothered by what he said are blowing it all out of proportion.

“Whaaat did I say? No, no, you misunderstood me. The left is trying to cancel me” is his general disposition after his many frequent controversies.

It would be nice to dismiss him as a gaslighting quack who says outrageous things and who no one takes seriously.

But this, too, is what he is: the host of the most popular prime-time show on cable news television.

He draws several million viewers a night for his 8 p.m. Eastern show on Fox News. With former President Donald Trump banned from social media and the recent death of Rush Limbaugh, Carlson is considered by many to be the voice of conservatives, particularly those who remain upset about the results of the 2020 election.

So he cannot nor should he be dismissed as someone who has no influence or doesn’t matter.

Does he believe all the things he says? The answer really doesn’t matter. He convinces his audience that he believes everything he says. Much of his audience believes what he says.

And that’s what makes him dangerous.

The Anti-Defamation League has called for Carlson to be fired after he brought up on air the white supremacist “replacement” theory — the racist conspiracy theory that says white people are being replaced by immigrants.

During an appearance on “Fox News Primetime,” Carlson said, “I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Carlson then does what he always does, which is to tell critics that he’s not actually saying what you think he’s saying.

“I mean, everyone’s making a racial issue out of it,” Carlson said. “Oh, the, you know, white replacement? No, no, this is a voting rights question.”

In a letter to Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, the ADL wrote, “Make no mistake: this is dangerous stuff. The ‘great replacement theory’ is a classic white supremacist trope that undergirds the modern white supremacist movement in America.”

It also wrote, “In short, this is not legitimate political discourse. It is dangerous race-baiting, extreme rhetoric. And yet, unfortunately, it is the culmination of a pattern of increasingly divisive rhetoric used by Carlson over the past few years.”

The letter went to cite several examples of Carlson’s dangerous on-air comments. The ADL concluded by writing, “It was shocking to hear this kind of open-ended endorsement of white supremacist ideology from an anchor and commentator on your network. At ADL, we believe in dialogue and giving people a chance to redeem themselves, but Carlson’s full-on embrace of the white supremacist replacement theory on yesterday’s show and his repeated allusions to racist themes in past segments are a bridge too far. Given his long record of race-baiting, we believe it is time for Carlson to go.”

During an appearance on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN, Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of The Anti-Defamation League, told host Brian Stelter, “What he did (last week) was a new low. … It is literally a staple of white supremacist and extremist ideology. And so when Tucker Carlson literally introduces it to his four-and-a-half million viewers, he’s serving as a gateway to one of the most damaging and dangerous conspiracy theories out there.”

Greenblatt pointed to several horrific violent episodes — such as deadly shootings at the Pittsburgh synagogue and in El Paso, Texas, and at the Christchurch mosque — where the replacement theory was invoked by the murderers.

It’s now gone well beyond what Carlson says, but that Fox News allows it.

We all know what he is. Fox News knows, too. And they do nothing about it.

Media stories

There were a few notable stories about newspapers over the weekend that are worth your time.

The most buzz came from The New York Times’ Edmund Lee, who wrote, “Inside the Fight for the Future of The Wall Street Journal.” In his piece, Lee examines the brewing rivalry between Journal publisher Almar Latour and editor Matt Murray.

Lee wrote, “The two men have never gotten along, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Or as an executive who knows both well put it, ‘They hate each other.’ The digital strategy report has only heightened the strain in their relationship — and, with it, the direction of the crown jewel in the Murdoch news empire. Their longstanding professional rivalry comes down to both personality and approach. Mr. Murray is more deliberative, while Mr. Latour is quick to act. But the core of their friction is still a mystery, according to people familiar with them.”

There is also a struggle within the news organization about its coverage. Lee wrote, “Now a special innovation team and a group of nearly 300 newsroom employees are pushing for drastic changes at the paper, which has been part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire since 2007. They say The Journal, often Mr. Murdoch’s first read of the day, must move away from subjects of interest to established business leaders and widen its scope if it wants to succeed in the years to come. The Journal of the future, they say, must pay more attention to social media trends and cover racial disparities in health care, for example, as aggressively as it pursues corporate mergers.”

Lee has a lot more details about the Journal’s internal struggles. It’s a fascinating read full of well-reported specifics.

The other two stories are The New York Times’ Nicholas Kulish with “Why Buy a Yacht When You Can Buy a Newspaper?” And The Wall Street Journal’s Lukas I. Alpert with “Alden Clashes With Billionaire Over Future of Tribune — and of Local News.”

Both stories look at the possible sale of Tribune Publishing, although Kulish’s story also delves into billionaires buying newspapers. The most notable example of that is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post, but there are other examples, too. Red Sox owner John Henry bought The Boston Globe, physician Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times and businessman and sports owner Glen Taylor bought The Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Kulish wrote, “From Utah to Minnesota and from Long Island to the Berkshires, local grandees have decided that a newspaper is an essential part of the civic fabric. Their track records as owners are somewhat mixed, but mixed in this case is better than the alternative.”

Not that billionaires buying newspapers always goes smoothly, but a billionaire owner with cash to burn and a belief in the cause of newspapers is always more preferable than a chain or, especially, a hedge fund such as Alden. And it’s certainly more preferable than a newspaper shutting down altogether.

Boehner rips former colleagues

Former House Speaker John Boehner, right, talks to CBS News’ John Dickerson. (Courtesy: CBS News)

During an interview with John Dickerson for “CBS Sunday Morning,” Republican former Speaker of the House John Boehner accused some members of Congress of being “political terrorists,” taking specific aim at Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

“Oh, yeah, Jim Jordan especially, my colleague from Ohio,” Boehner said. “I just never saw a guy who spent more time tearing things apart — never building anything, never putting anything together.”

And Cruz?

“I don’t beat anybody up, it’s not really my style, except that jerk,” Boehner said. “Perfect symbol, you know, of getting elected, make a lot of noise, draw a lot of attention to yourself, raise a lot of money, which means you’re gonna go make more noise, raise more money.”

Boehner has a new book coming out this week called “On the House: A Washington Memoir.” In an interview with USA Today’s Susan Page, Boehner held Donald Trump partly responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“I don’t think it was just about him showing up at a rally on Jan. 6th,” he told Page. “The comments that were made all summer about the election was going to be stolen from him, all the follow-up noise that occurred after the election — I kept looking for the facts.”

He also told Page, “What struck me, especially after the election, was, here’s all these people loyal to Donald Trump, and he abused them. He stepped all over their loyalty to him by continuing to say things that just weren’t true.”

NBC News looks at American extremism

NBC News has started a weeklong series on American extremism.

Richard Engel had a special report on MSNBC Sunday night looking back at the pivotal moments from the Jan. 6 insurrection. The first episode of the second season of “Meet the Press Reports,” which is available on demand on Peacock, explores how violent domestic extremism has infected American politics and how the Jan. 6 attacks could be just a preview of future violence.

Other programming this week on MSNBC, “Today,” “NBC Nightly News” and other shows: NBC News senior Washington correspondent Hallie Jackson speaks with witnesses of the Capitol siege to examine the impact on mental health; NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny investigates the state of the far right; NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt discusses her experience reporting on the attacks in an essay for Today.com; NBC News Capitol Hill reporter Frank Thorp has a photo essay from Jan. 6 on NBCNews.com and NBC News Now; NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams reports on the ongoing investigations into the siege; and NBC News White House correspondent Carol Lee reports on secret Facebook groups which spread far right ideologies and conspiracies.

The aftereffects

U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn at a campaign rally last November (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Speaking of insurrection and the toll it has taken, South Carolina Democratic Congressman and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday and talked with host Jake Tapper about it.

“It had a tremendous effect on me,” Clyburn said. “And when I saw that Capitol Policeman that I see every day complaining about how many times he was called the N-word by those people who were insurrectionists out there, when I see John Lewis’ photo being torn to pieces and scattered on the floor, that told me everything I needed to know about those insurrectionists. And I would remind anybody who reflects on the 6th of January to think about these issues as well. And all of us know that they’re there to perpetuate — they were there to perpetuate a lie. This president told lies. They reacted to those lies. And, quite frankly, they know full well that they are lies.”

Clyburn also had strong comments about Georgia’s new voting laws, seeing them as the new Jim Crow.

“Yes, I do, no question about it,” he said.

Critically speaking

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema’s latest: “Chicago’s revered dining scene recently lost a key ingredient: Experienced, trustworthy critics.”

Sietsema writes how two influential restaurant critics in Chicago — the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Vettel and Steve Dolinsky, host of the “Hungry Hound” food segment on ABC 7 — are no longer offering their critiques. Vettel retired and Dolinsky and ABC 7 mutually parted ways. Chicago media observer Robert Feder wrote that COVID-related restrictions on restaurants likely played a role in the station not renewing Dolinsky’s contract after 17 years.

Sietsema writes, “Who raves or rants about restaurants in town might seem like small potatoes amid an ongoing pandemic. Yet as diners continue to look to restaurants for comfort and the city is opening up, in-depth reviewing feels paramount. Vettel, a former president of the restaurant awards committee of the James Beard Foundation, goes so far as to say that without a strong voice and sufficient resources to bring its dining scene attention, Chicago risks ‘becoming a flyover city.’”

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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