Yes, Tucker Carlson did the right thing in blasting Sen. Richard Burr over his shady coronavirus stock sales, but that neither negates nor minimizes Carlson’s racist exploitation of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In case you missed it, Carlson demanded Burr explain or resign and go to jail after a report that he had inside knowledge of how bad the coronavirus pandemic would be, assured the public otherwise, then dumped about a million dollars worth of stock, much of it in the now-struggling hospitality sector, shortly before the market crashed.
In my post about that, I expressed my own skepticism about Carlson’s sudden, selective concern for Burr’s corruption while overlooking Trump’s. Since then, a terrific post by Media Matters’ Madeline Peltz confirms my suspicions. It also explains how Carlson’s seemingly valiant condemnation of Republican Burr is actually self-serving and low-risk.
First, some background: Carlson has been attacking Burr for a while. Second, as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee during its investigation into the Trump campaign, Burr issued a subpoena for Donald Trump Jr. Additionally, Burr -- who, it bears repeating, subpoenaed the president’s son -- isn’t exactly a powerhouse in today’s Republican Party. He announced in 2016 that he wouldn’t seek reelection, and his vacant Senate seat would be filled by another Republican.
With this fuller picture in mind, it’s clear that Carlson, who has the president’s ear on the spread of COVID-19 and many other issues of great consequence, has little to risk and much to gain in going after Burr. In a world in which a mismatched consortium of MAGA media grifters are jockeying to influence the president’s response to a global pandemic, it’s not hard to see how Carlson finds himself in a much more powerful position than a sitting U.S. senator.
Peltz also notes that while Carlson was something of a lone voice in alerting viewers to the dangers of the coronavirus outbreak, he merely swapped out attacks on Democrats for his customary white nationalism.
Unlike many of his Fox colleagues, Carlson never downplayed COVID-19 as an anti-Trump conspiracy by Democrats and the media. But that doesn’t capture the full picture of how he’s been covering this crisis, because he’s been pushing racist talking points and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the virus for weeks.
Petlz's most important takeaway, in my view, is that Carlson is "cultivating legitimacy and authority closer to centers of power in order to turn around and push his far-right nationalist agenda."
I'll add that Carlson’s ethnic scapegoating also conveniently distracts from Trump’s epic failures in handling the coronavirus pandemic - which also serves those same purposes.
So, yes, we give Carlson props for calling out Burr. But we will never forget who and what Carlson is and neither should anyone else.
(Carlson image via screen grab)