Despite years of MAGA cred, Tucker Carlson was quickly thrown overboard by Cult 45 after he dared to point out that Trump attorney Sidney Powell had no evidence, refused to offer evidence for her outlandish claims that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. So why did he do it? I have some theories. UPDATED.
First, I’ll recount what happened.
Carlson cast doubt on Powell, not Giuliani
On Thursday night, Carlson uncharacteristically called out Powell while bending over backward to give the “stolen election” nonsense undeserved credibility. Carlson’s show aired after Giuliani’s bonkers press conference, where Powell also appeared and said the election was stolen via “massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba and likely China.”
CARLSON: Rudy Giuliani began by saying the Democrats stole the election by means of coordinated fraud in a number of states. Giuliani did not conclusively prove that, as every newsreader on television promptly informed you. But he did raise legitimate questions and in some cases, he pointed to what appeared to be real wrongdoing. At one point, Giuliani held up an affidavit … alleging fraud in [Detroit’s] polling places.
Is any of that provable? Is it true? Well, we should find out, and not because Michigan is a swing state. Voter fraud is a direct attack on our democracy.
But the media don't want to know. They're not interested. If you watched the coverage after the press conference today, you saw credentialed reporters, some of whom we know and like, actually, refuse even to acknowledge it.
Carlson has just been given an expanded role at Fox as a “reporter,” but he seems to think it’s other reporters and other news outlets’ job to investigate Giuliani’s claims. Until then, they should be considered legit, apparently. “Giuliani says that this affidavit from Detroit has been made public, but they can't be bothered to check,” Carlson sneered. He never said he if he had even tried.
Ditto for Giuliani’s claims about Pennsylvania:
CARLSON: He said dozens of Republican voting inspectors in Pennsylvania weren't allowed near mail-in ballots and have signed affidavits saying so. That's another concrete, checkable claim.
After legitimizing Giuliani and his voter fraud claims – without doing any of the checking Carlson demanded of others – he got to Powell:
CARLSON: For more than a week, Powell has been all over conservative media with the following story: This election was stolen by a collection of international leftists who manipulated vote-tabulating software in order to flip millions of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The other day on television, Powell said of Trump that when the fraud is finally uncovered, "I think we'll find he had at least 80 million votes." In other words, rigged software stole about seven million votes in this election.
On Sunday night, we texted her after watching one of her segments. What Powell was describing would amount to the single greatest crime in American history. Millions of votes stolen in a day, democracy destroyed, the end of our centuries-old system of self-government. Not a small thing.
Now, to be perfectly clear, we did not dismiss any of it. We don't dismiss anything anymore, particularly when it's related to technology. We've talked to too many Silicon Valley whistleblowers and we've seen too much. …
The louder the Yale political science department and the staff of The Atlantic magazine scream "conspiracy theory," the more interested we tend to be. That's usually a sign you're over the target. A lot of people with impressive-sounding credentials in this country are frauds, they have no idea what they're doing. They're children posing as authorities. And when they're caught, they lie and then they blame you for it. We see that every day. It's the central theme of our show and will continue to be.
That's a long way of saying we took Sidney Powell seriously, we’ve no intention of fighting with her. We've always respected her. We simply wanted to see the details. How could you not want to see them? So, we invited Sidney Powell on the show. We would have given her the whole hour. We would have given her the entire week, actually, and listened quietly the whole time at rapt attention. That’s a big story.
But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of requests, polite requests. Not a page. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her. When we checked with others around the Trump campaign, people in positions of authority, they also told us Powell has never given them any evidence either, nor did she provide any today at the press conference.
Powell did say that electronic voting is dangerous. She’s right, we’re with her there, but she never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one.
Why are we telling you this? We're telling you this because it's true, and in the end, that's all that matters. The truth is our only hope, it’s our best defense. It's how we're different from them: We care what's true and we know you care, too. ...
Maybe Sidney Powell will come forward soon with details on exactly how this happened and precisely who did it. Maybe she will. We are certainly hopeful that she will. What happened with the vote counting this month and at the polling places in Detroit and the polling places in Philadelphia and so much else actually matters. It matters no matter who you voted for.
Carlson didn't say where he saw Powell last Sunday but she appeared on Fox's own Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo that day. Bartiromo did none of the checking Carlson assailed other media outlets for not doing.
Why did Carlson go after Powell?
So, what’s going on here? Well, it could be that Carlson was just ticked off by Powell not giving him the respect he felt due him. Or it could be he thought her too crazy for Dear Leader and deliberately set about sabotaging her. Or, it could be that Carlson is looking to position himself as a truth teller willing to buck Trump/GOP orthodoxy. You know, a new image to go with his new, post-exaggerator role at Fox.
Or maybe the Murdochs and Carlson are positioning him as the Megyn Kelly of the Biden era, i.e. "independent" Tucker calls balls and strikes (but almost all strikes).
It could also be all of the above.
Carlson deemed a MAGA traitor
Whatever the reason, MAGA World swiftly turned on Carlson. Jeremy Peters wrote for The New York Times:
The response was immediate, and hostile. The president’s allies in conservative media and their legions of devoted Trump fans quickly closed ranks behind Ms. Powell and her case on behalf of the president, accusing the Fox host of betrayal.
“How quickly we turn on our own,” said Bo Snerdley, [Rush] Limbaugh’s producer, in a Twitter post that was indicative of the backlash against Mr. Carlson. “Where is the ‘evidence’ the election was fair?”
Carlson doubles down against Powell
Friday night, Carlson addressed the outcry. He did his best to persuade Trumpers he’s going after Powell because he’s on Dear Leader’s side.
CARLSON: Well, last night in a segment about voter fraud and investigations into it, we told you about Sidney Powell, the former Federal prosecutor, and her claim that roughly seven million votes were secretly changed on Election Night by vote rigged vote counting software.
In the last 24 hours since we did that, we've heard from a lot of people about that segment, including people in the White House and people close to the president.
Like us, they have concluded that this election was not fair. Like us, they are willing to believe any explanation for what happened. Like us, they have not seen a single piece of evidence showing that software changed votes.
It doesn't mean it didn't happen. It might have happened. It means they haven't seen any evidence that it happened. And by they, we are including other members of Donald Trump's own legal team. They have not seen Powell's evidence either, no testimony from employees inside the software companies, no damning internal documents, no copies of the software itself. So, that's where we are.
Sidney Powell came on Fox this morning and suggested we may not have to wait much longer. I fully expect, she says, that we will be able to prove all of it in a court within the next two weeks.
Well, as far as we're concerned, that is great news.
If Sidney Powell can prove the technology companies switched millions of votes and stole a presidential election, she will have almost single handedly uncovered the greatest crime in the history of this country, and no one will be more grateful for that than us.
Powell out two days later
Today, Powell was cut from the legal team after several other Republicans publicly complained about her and after she publicly attacked Carlson on Fox. Never mind that on Thursday, Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis called Powell part of an “elite strike force team on behalf of the president and the campaign to make sure that our constitution is protected."
According to The Washington Post, Trump “disliked the coverage Powell was receiving from Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others and that several allies had reached out to say she had gone too far. The [sources] also said she fought with Giuliani and others in recent days."
Whatever Carlson’s motives, the two things we do know are that a) he almost certainly hasn’t changed his stripes, just like he didn’t after attacking John Bolton, Trump’s then-national security adviser (who was also ousted soon thereafter) and b) there’s no reason to praise Carlson for doing a small part of his job in a way we should be able to take for granted. As CNN’s Oliver Darcy put it, “Injecting a dose of reality into one's coverage shouldn't be cause for praise.”
But there’s something else important at play here. Darcy wrote on Friday, while Powell was still part of the “elite strike force team”:
This is all to say we are at a place — a bad place — where some Trump supporters will not believe any info that runs contrary to the Trump narrative, even if it's Tucker Carlson delivering it. Dare to dissent from the Trump camp — even politely and regarding a deranged conspiracy theory — and even someone like Carlson will be attacked and called a traitor. As I've pointed out before: Carlson and the other hosts and personalities on his network are responsible for this culture on the right, perhaps never imagining that it would come back to bite them. But now to some extent it is, even though this isn't likely to hurt Carlson in the long run...
Team Trump siding with Carlson over Powell may calm the attacks on Carlson. But whether that happens or not, it doesn’t change the nature of the “bad place” the country is in with disinformation. At this point, there's no reason to expect Carlson will help the situation.
You can watch Carlson’s comments about Powell below, from the November 19 and November 20, 2020 Tucker Carlson Tonight.
I saw Dershowitz on Newsmax on Monday doing exactly what Anonymous said, both giving credence to voter fraud and also saying it wasn’t enough to change the election results.
In other words, Dershowitz wants it both ways. He wants to maintain his conservative, Trumper cred and TV bookings (plus, you never know, another Supreme Court seat could open up before Trump leaves) and maintain enough independence to convince himself he hasn’t sold his soul.
Occasionally Carlson takes a break from crap chucking (which Fox lawyers admitted to in court) to carry out the tricky assignment of stepping over wet paint when Fox sees they have painted themselves into a corner on big stuff. We remember Carlson’s gently shifting the Fox line on the seriousness of the pandemic, and now he appears to be the first on Fox prime time to admit that evidence of machine-based vote stealing may well be there but is not, if you want to nitpick about it, technically visible yet.
Alan Dershowitz’s recent interview with Bartiromo implicitly both disagreed and agreed with Carlson. Dershowitz said that non-machine-based, “retail” voter fraud—the kind Carlson finds evidence for—was not enough to change the election result, even though to Carlson it was enough to warrant calling the election “unfair”. Dershowitz then tried to give the audience some hope by noting that the voting machine tampering theory is legally sound and could affect enough votes to get Trump to the promised land. But that’s just the theory that Tucker says has yet to be backed up with evidence. As a footnote to his interview, Dershowitz also copped to the lack of evidence for the machine fraud, softening the blow with the thought that he wasn’t saying the evidence wasn’t there, just that he hadn’t seen it yet.
Carlson and Dershowitz passed up the perfect opportunity to apply Carl Sagan’s slogan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Instead, they treated Fox viewers as gingerly as though they were slightly repositioning a box of pet scorpions, but Carlson (and probably Dershowitz) is still getting some stings.