One of the recurring themes in the amazing and must-read New York Times investigation into Tucker Carlson is how he bullies and mistreats his colleagues. And how management allows him.
Carlson couldn’t handle the truth from correspondent Kristin Fisher
I’m still carefully working through and digesting the multi-part Times investigation. But one thing that jumped out at me as I made my way through Part 2 last night, was how Carlson attacked Fox’s then-White House correspondent, Kristin Fisher, for having fact-checked Rudy Giuliani’s voter fraud falsehoods. The result? Her superiors warned her “to keep her head down.” From Part 2 of the Times’ series
In the [weeks after the 2020 election], Mr. Carlson and other Fox prime-time hosts would pump out a steady stream of attacks on the election results, often drawing on claims of voter fraud from Mr. Trump and his new legal team, led by Rudolph W. Giuliani. Fox’s prime-time guns also aimed inward: When a Fox White House correspondent and occasional Carlson guest, Kristin Fisher, told viewers that much of one rambling Giuliani presentation “was simply not true or has already been thrown out in court,” Mr. Carlson went on the air to attack “credentialed reporters, some of whom we know and like,” who were refusing “even to acknowledge” the already discredited claims. He had not mentioned Ms. Fisher by name, but she was warned by superiors to keep her head down, according to two former employees. She did not reappear on air for several days, and her appearances declined significantly in subsequent weeks. (Ms. Fisher later left for CNN.) Around the network, supervisors repeated an Orwellian mantra: “Respect the audience.”
Don’t forget, Tucker Carlson claims to be “the sworn enemy of lying.” The claim is still near the top of his show’s webpage.
That anecdote reminded me of Carlson's vile behavior when he pushed out anchor Shepard Smith. Smith committed the sin of calling it "repugnant" for an outside guest on Carlson's show to call a mutual Fox colleague, one who had dared to criticize Donald Trump, "a fool." Carlson attacked Smith on the air, management sided with Carlson, and Smith resigned shortly thereafter.
The Times revealed two other instances.
Carlson berated producer Cristina Corbin for tweeting that “white supremacy is real”
From Part 2 of the Times report:
In August 2019, days after a 21-year-old white man killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart to protest what he called the “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” Mr. Carlson declared on the air that white supremacy was largely a “hoax.” Even more advertisers fled; Mr. Carlson embarked on what Fox described as a preplanned vacation. While he was gone, a Fox producer named Cristina Corbin tweeted an indirect rejoinder to the prime-time star. “White supremacy is real, as evidenced by fact,” Ms. Corbin wrote. “Claims that it is a ‘hoax’ do not represent my views.”
She had not mentioned Fox’s star by name, but Mr. Carlson appeared to catch wind of her tweet almost immediately. A few hours later, while still on vacation, he called Ms. Corbin at work from a blocked number, then berated her for airing her disagreement publicly. “Shut your mouth,” he yelled, according to a former Fox executive briefed on the episode. Ms. Corbin did not respond to an email seeking comment for this article; Fox declined to comment, citing confidentiality requirements pertaining to human resources matters.
When Ms. Corbin reported the incident to Fox management, Mr. Carlson denied making such a call, according to the former executive.
Carlson attacked producer Dan Gallo for complaining about bigotry
Also in 2019, Dan Gallo, a producer in Fox’s Los Angeles bureau, complained to HR about the bigoted statements of Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro. Gallo said their rhetoric damaged his credibility as a journalist and his ability to effectively cover stories. He also said it created an unsafe workplace for Muslim colleagues. The HR executives promised to elevate his concerns to Fox News’ president and its chief executive.
From the Times:
A month later, Mr. Carlson landed in Los Angeles for a weeklong West Coast stint. Minutes after arriving in the bureau, he tracked down Mr. Gallo, who was sitting in an office talking to two colleagues. “Are you Dan Gallo?” he interrupted. When Mr. Gallo tried to introduce himself, an indignant Mr. Carlson simply handed him a blue notecard with his cellphone number. The next time Mr. Gallo had a problem with his show, Mr. Carlson said, he should “do the honorable thing” and call. Mr. Gallo offered to talk then and there, he said, but Mr. Carlson wasn’t interested. “I’m busy,” the host said, and walked off.
That night, Mr. Gallo wrote again to the human resources executives, asking who had told Mr. Carlson about his complaint. They promised to talk to Mr. Carlson. But pressed on the leak in a subsequent phone call, [HR executive Kevin] Lord refused to look into the matter. He blamed workplace gossip, and insinuated that Mr. Gallo himself was responsible for the leak. “That was insulting,” Mr. Gallo said. “I stuck to the proper channels and had moved on.” He left Fox that summer, and now works for MSNBC.
It's important for us all to keep speaking out against Carlson’s poison
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple also took note of the Corbin and Gallo anecdotes in the Times’ piece. He wrote, in a column aptly titled, “Tucker Carlson, workplace menace,” that since management is “just fine with the prolific falsehoods and racism he blasts onto American screens each weeknight,” complaints to HR from his colleagues have a better chance of reining him in.
What’s remarkable about the two episodes the Times reported is how far out of his way Carlson went to hassle co-workers. His actions bespeak a prime-time TV blowhard who understands how objectionable his rhetoric has become. As CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out in his book “Hoax,” there are many “invisible” journalists at Fox News who recoil at the hatred and falsehoods broadcast by Carlson, Pirro and other hosts. “Staffers described a TV network that had gone off the rails,” writes Stelter. “Some even said the place that they worked, that they cashed paychecks from, had become dangerous to democracy.”
If there is reason for those staffers to take heart, it lies in the pattern revealed by the Times investigation: Carlson wants to send a signal that you don’t mess with him. He wants people, including his colleagues, to keep quiet. Whatever his reason for fearing dissent, the path forward is clear: They should continue to speak.
Hear, hear. But most employees, especially ones looking to advance their careers in television news, are far from being on an equal footing with Carlson. Rather than rely solely on them, I’d argue that the rest of us have an obligation to speak out and make it clear we reject Carlson’s extremism, too. When Gallo said his professional credibility was damaged by Carlson, he almost certainly meant that people he dealt with professionally let him know what they thought of Carlson.
It's not just colleagues Carlson wants to intimidate and silence, either. While posing as a champion of free speech, Carlson has regularly attacked and deliberately endangered journalists, obsessively smeared Purple Heart recipient Sen. Tammy Duckworth, deliberately endangered Dr. Anthony Fauci and even urged a guest to deliberately endanger the health of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden because she held an event at which COVID vaccines were required.
Speaking out begets speaking out, as Gretchen Carlson can attest. Everyone must do their part.
(Carlson image via screen grab)