It turns out that while Tucker Carlson endangers reporters’ lives with his attacks on the air, he sucks up to the media off the air - and that makes him even more dangerous.
Tucker Carlson’s media hypocrisy
A revealing article by The New York Times’ Ben Smith calls Carlson “the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about Donald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself).” Smith based this description on conversations with 16 other journalists (all on background), three of whom described Carlson as “a great source.” Smith also made it clear he has had repeated off-the-record conversations with Carlson, too.
Carlson, who described himself as an “extraordinarily loaded” trust fund baby before he earned millions more making himself Lachlan Murdoch’s pet race-baiting hate-mongering “populist,” uses his position as savvily as he propagandizes on the air. But the result is not just good press for himself, it's outright danger to others, which he intentionally causes.
The Times downplays source Carlson’s threat to journalism
Mr. Carlson’s comfortable place inside Washington media, many of the reporters who cover him say, has taken the edge off some of the coverage. It has also served as a kind of insurance policy, they say, protecting him from the marginalization that ended the Fox career of his predecessor, Glenn Beck, who also drew a huge audience with shadowy theories of elite conspiracy.
Smith comes close to demonstrating that very point when he described Carlson’s deliberate endangerment of journalists as “setting off waves of harassment.”
Mr. Carlson’s other defense against bad publicity, of course, is his willingness to use his platform as a weapon, and to attack individual reporters, setting off waves of harassment,” When a freelance writer and photographer for The Times began working on an article about his studio in rural Maine last year, Mr. Carlson pre-emptively attacked the two by name on the air and characterized one as a political activist, which Erik Wemple of The Washington Post called a “stunning fabrication.” The planned article, a light feature that was nowhere close to publication, became impossible to report, after threats and a menacing incident at the photographer’s house, according to The Times’s media editor, Jim Windolf.
In fact, Carlson posted the home address of the journalist, Murray Carpenter, on the air, as The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple noted. Smith's description of ensuing “threats and a menacing incident at the photographer’s house,” is a bit of an understatement. Here’s how Wemple reported what happened:
In an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog, [photographer Tristan] Spinski alleged that about an hour after the Carlson accusations, someone attempted to break into his Maine home while he and his wife were present. “It was like a booming sound, someone trying to get in,” says Spinski. “Our doors up until that segment aired had actually been unlocked.… When the segment aired, everything got locked and I’m glad it did because within an hour somebody was here.… We sort of put ourselves in the safest place we could away from the windows and called police and waited it out.”
Carpenter said he had received thousands of emails stemming from Carlson’s Monday night monologue, most of which were some mix of abusive, threatening and hateful. Family members, he said, have received direct threats as well. Though no one has shown up at his doorstep, Carpenter notified local police about the harassment.
Smith’s reporting is not incorrect or false – and he makes a good point about the Times pulling its article after these incidents. But it glosses over the menace Carlson poses to the same people he’d probably suck up to if it served his purposes. There’s not much difference between Carlson’s ruthless intolerance of journalism and journalists he doesn’t like and, that of say, Vladimir Putin. And it just so happens Putin seems to be a guy Carlson approves of.
Given Carlson’s sway and influence over Fox and the GOP, the problem with his behavior goes way beyond hypocrisy.
Carlson hides his disdain for Trump
If you’re a long-time reader, you may have caught me theorizing that Carlson is not really a Trump fan, he just looks makes himself look like one. For example, in February, 2020, I wrote: “I have long suspected that Carlson is not the biggest Trumper and that his bigotry, while genuine, is played up to appeal to Trump fans without having to actually cheerlead the way others at Fox do.”
Smith pretty much confirms my suspicions:
“I’ve known Tucker Carlson for 20 years,” [Vanity Fair writer Joe] Hagan wrote in an introduction to the interview, calling the Fox host “one of the most intelligent and reliably savage observers of Washington — even more so off camera.” He also hinted at the substance of Mr. Carlson’s less guarded observations: “A canny TV diplomat, he won’t say Trump is terrified, weak, politically doomed, in deep denial and surrounded by toadies and mediocrities.”
As former NewsHounds writer Headly Westerfield (aka Aunty Em) says on Twitter, Tucker Carlson is the most dangerous man on TV. That is every bit as important as his deceit.
(Carlson image via screen grab)