Last week on his prime-time Fox News show, Tucker Carlson suggested a wild and completely baseless conspiracy theory: that the FBI was involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
He did what he always does. With that bewildered look on his face and his up-and-down voice, he added one and one and then tried to convince viewers that the real answer might actually be three.
“Strangely, some of the key people who participated on Jan. 6 have not been charged,” Carlson said. “Look at the document. The government calls those people unindicted co-conspirators. What does that mean? Well, it means that in potentially every single case, they were FBI operatives.”
Speaking about two unnamed organizers, Carlson said, “The government knows who they are, but the government has not charged them. Why is that? You know why: They were almost certainly working for the FBI. So, FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to government documents.”
That’s classic Carlson, saying things like “potentially” and “you know why” and “almost certainly.” And he was getting all this from a story written by a former Trump administration official for a conservative website called Revolver.
But as CNN’s Brian Stelter said on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” “(Carlson) said it as fact. He said there are documents to prove it.”
Of course, there’s nothing to this, as The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out in his column last week. And The New York Times’ Linda Qiu wrote, “legal experts said this speculation was illogical and far-fetched.”
Stelter blasted Carlson and Fox News on his show Sunday and had every right. Yes, it’s true that CNN is a competitor of Fox News and that Stelter recently wrote a book about Fox News. Still, Stelter was spot on Sunday in calling out Carlson and the network that allows Carlson to say what he says.
Stelter said, “Presumably he asked questions of the FBI and of prosecutors and sources. So I asked Fox PR executives, did anyone vet Tucker’s reporting? Did the Fox newsroom go through his reporting? Why haven’t they followed up on it since? Carlson alleged these explosive stories, claiming this is an incredible bombshell. Where is the Fox newsroom? Why isn’t ‘Special Report with Bret Baier’ covering this story every day? Why isn’t ‘Fox News Sunday’ with Chris Wallace covering this incredible claim right now?”
And we know it’s because, as Stelter said, Carlson is “out there on his own.”
Carlson’s show is that of an opinionist, TV’s version of a columnist. However, that doesn’t mean he can say whatever he wants and then argue that he’s just asking questions or stating an opinion. He has more responsibility than that, especially when his viewers — which include powerful lawmakers — take what he says seriously. Even if he is floating opinions, they need to be rooted in fact.
David Zurawik, media columnist for The Baltimore Sun, told Stelter, “I have said that Fox News is crooked and rotten from top to bottom. … It is a propaganda operation. It is not a journalistic enterprise.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta went even further last week on the air, saying, “Now, you may recall, I recently described Fox News as the ‘Bull—- Factory’ in honor of its steady stream of bogus segments aimed at ginning up your outrage. But Tucker has really outdone himself this week. So I’ve decided to award Tucker with the distinction of Bull—- Factory Employee of the Month.”
Bartiromo lashes out
Speaking of Fox News, once-respected-journalist-turned-Trump-apologist Maria Bartiromo lashed out on “Sunday Morning Futures” at those who have criticized her. In particular, Bartiromo was all fired up about the Jan. 6 insurrection. During an interview with Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, Baritiromo seemed to have an issue with anyone calling Jan. 6 an “armed insurrection,” among other things she calls “lies.”
She then took on her critics, saying, “I am so incredibly proud of this team on ‘Sunday Morning Futures’ and of working alongside you. We have been telling every story. We’ve been on the right side of it for seven years going. I’ve been trashed every day along the way.”
Then she yelled, “Keep trashing me! I’ll keep telling the truth.”
The 2022 duPont-Columbia Awards cycle is now open for submissions. The duPont Awards honor outstanding local and national audio and video journalism. Submit your best work done from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. Visit www.duPont.org for more information and to submit.
Most interesting interview
Katie Hill was a Democratic Congresswoman from California who resigned in October 2019 after she admitted to a sexual relationship with a staffer. Her resignation also followed a series of leaked nude photos of Hill.
During an interview with Alayna Treene aired on Sunday’s “Axios on HBO,” Hill said she thinks she could have survived the scandal without resigning, and that she would consider another run from Congress.
Hill pointed out others who have, so far, continued to serve despite sexual misconduct allegations — such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. Hill said, “You really wonder how much of it was the pressure I put on myself because I was a woman, and because I’d been an advocate for the #MeToo movement, and how much of it was sexism and … the public shaming aspect of it, the revenge-porn aspect of it.”
Hill admits it would “take a lot” for her to run again, and that she is happier now not being in Congress. She also took responsibility for having a sexual relationship with a staffer, saying, “Would I ever do it again? No, absolutely not. I let those boundaries blur, and that shouldn’t have happened. Was it the right thing to do? No.”
Important essay of the day
Kat O’Brien, a former baseball writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and New York’s Newsday, has a powerful essay in The New York Times: “I Am Breaking My Silence About the Baseball Player Who Raped Me.”
O’Brien writes, “I choose not to name him because it would only open me up to the possibility of having dirt thrown on my reputation; even all these years later and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, a former professional athlete wields considerable power. I hope I can help bring about systemic change rather than seek unlikely-to-come justice for one horrible act.”
O’Brien details the horrific events of what happened when she was 22 and how they impacted her life after that, including to this day.
It’s a must-read.
A legend retires
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune has written her farewell column: “Not so long ago — 29 years — I started writing a column. This will be the last. Thank you.”
As Chicago media writer Robert Feder noted, Schmich is just the latest columnist to leave the Tribune in recent days, a list that includes John Kass, Eric Zorn, Heidi Stevens and Steve Chapman.
Schmich won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for commentary and helped write the Brenda Starr comic strip from 1985 to 2010.
In her farewell column, Schmich wrote, “I’ve never written a column that I didn’t wish was better, including this one. But I’ve done it as well as I knew how, never forgetting, even when I cursed the constant deadlines or felt bad that I couldn’t answer all the emails, that there was nothing better than being granted this education and this connection with the world, with all of you.”
A Philly special
Maybe the best thing about being a sportswriter for more than 30 years was getting to meet many of my colleagues while covering events over the years. That’s my way of saying sportswriters are good people. Among those at the top of that list is The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Les Bowen. In a column for the Inquirer, Bowen announced he accepted a buyout and is retiring.
Bowen arrived in Philadelphia 38 years ago after working at The Charlotte Observer. I met him on the hockey beat when he was covering the Philadelphia Flyers, but he then went on to cover the Philadelphia Eagles for two decades. He started off at The Daily News and then wrote for the Inquirer after the papers merged.
It was a pleasure getting to know Bowen — a classy and professional journalist and a heck of a nice guy.
In his column — which you should read because it is way more than a farewell column — Bowen writes, “For me, sportswriting has always been as much about the writing as about the sports. That perspective is becoming rare in the biz. So much of what seems to be in vogue today is foreign terrain to me, and I don’t like that feeling, because I never wanted to write like ‘an old guy.’ Way back when I started out, sports was attractive because it encouraged a certain writerly style, more so than news reporting. You were granted freedom to have a voice, to be whimsical, or sarcastic. I might have tested the limits of that freedom a time or two. Thanks for indulging me.”
Policing in America
One of the things NBC News has done in the post-Trump news cycle is to take a particular topic and highlight it for a week of coverage. This week, NBC News will focus on the state of policing, with special coverage on the “Today” show, the “NBC Nightly News,” MSNBC, NBCNews.com and NBC News Now.
In addition, “The Future of the Force,” will also be on a special “Dateline” this Friday at 10 p.m. Eastern and Trymaine Lee’s “Into America” podcast will report on Black officers trying to reform the system from the inside.
- CNN’s Katelyn Polantz with “How CNN obtained the dramatic videos of the US Capitol riot.”
- “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show” — the show that will replace Rush Limbaugh on Premiere Networks — debuts today at noon Eastern.
- For The New York Times, Katharine Q. Seelye with “When the Local Paper Shrank, These Journalists Started an Alternative.”
- For Politico Magazine, Derek Robertson with “How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party.”
- The Washington Post’s Jon Swaine and Emma Brown with a must-read investigation: “‘Italygate’ election conspiracy theory was pushed by two firms led by woman who also falsely claimed $30 million mansion was hers.”
- ABC News correspondent Will Reeve, on assignment in Alaska for “Good Morning America,” reflects on his memories of his late father, actor Christopher Reeve.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at email@example.com.
More resources for journalists
- Covering COVID-19 with Al Tompkins (Daily Briefing) — Poynter
- Writers Without Editors: How to Edit Your Own Writing (Seminar) — July 5-23
- Save the date! Poynter’s Bowtie Ball is Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Details to come.
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.