O’Reilly’s Replacement: A Look at Tucker Carlson

Bill O'Reilly and Tucker Carlson

With news that Bill O’Reilly is official out at Fox News following the loss of substantial advertising dollars, boycotts, and a new accusation of sexual harassment this week, Fox announced who will lead the network’s opinion mantle going forward: Tucker Carlson. We’ve covered Carlson extensively over the years from his promotion of statutory rape of boys to stumping for the tobacco industry. This is the person Fox put forward as the person best fit to represent their brand. Here’s why that says more than any left-leaning publication could ever argue.

Though he’s best known for his time co-hosting CNN’s now-defunct Crossfire, Carlson made a career for himself at Fox pushing opinions too extreme and ridiculous for other networks.

Misogyny

Perhaps one of the clearest indicators that Fox News saw no problem with Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment of women (other than paying the women to remain silent) is in who they chose to replace him. Carlson has a history of making public, inflammatory remarks about women, women’s rights, and the laws meant to protect people based on their sex and gender identity.

In 2013 Carlson spoke out against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) couching his argument in the progressive push for allowing women equal access to serve in the military fighting on the front lines.

“The administration boasts about sending women to the front lines on the same day Democrats push the Violence Against Women Act,” he wrote on Twitter.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout his time at Fox, Carlson has questioned the medical science behind gender reassignment surgery, denied the existence of the wage gap, and even gone so far as to label women having children out of wedlock as ‘negligent.’

And then there’s the time in 2014 when Carlson defended a woman. The catch? This woman had sex with a minor.

Saying an adult woman having sex with a male minor would be the “greatest thing that ever happened” to any boy, Carlson went on to argue that it’s ‘just different’ for boys. We wrote at the time:

In his response to the incident, Carlson not only exacerbated the misconception of fundamental sex and gender development differences between males and females, but also argued against one of the most basic Western tenets pertaining to age of consent.

Furthermore, sexual statutory laws aren’t based on the presumption of potential enjoyment; rather they’re based on the commonly accepted standards on what we view as having the mental capacity to offer legal consent. That same age (18) is generally accepted for other consent capacities as well such as entering contracts. (Consent seems to be an issue conservatives have particular trouble wrapping their minds around.)

I have to wonder whether Carlson would still be so pro-lap-dance if the teacher was a male and the student was gay. After all, the only portion of the equation that’s changed in the new scenario is the sex of the teacher and the orientation of the student; the teenager is still a male that could potentially view that event as the “greatest thing that ever happened.”

The question of Carlson’s take on sexual orientation and gender identity is key to understanding his other views as they go hand in hand with his sexist statements.

Homophobia and Transphobia

Outside of questioning the medical science behind gender reassignment surgery, Carlson has a long history of making problematic statements about the LGBTQ community.

Carlson went on a tirade in 2014 after former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a so-called ‘religious freedom’ bill that targeted LGBTQ people for discrimination in places of public accommodation. He argued:

Well it’s pretty simple. I mean, if you want to have a gay wedding, fine, go ahead. If I don’t want to bake you a cake for your gay wedding, that’s okay too. Or should be. That’s called tolerance. But when you try and force me to bake a cake for your gay wedding and threaten me with prison if I don’t, that’s called fascism.

In fact, Carlson is so in favor of Jim Crow-style discrimination laws targeting LGBTQ people, in 2015 Carlson defended Mike Pence’s now infamous ‘religious freedom’ law (that also targeted members of the LGBTQ community for discrimination in places of public accommodation). Calling opponents of the law “Jihadis,” he lashed out at a perceived attack on religious business owners’ right to refuse service if they disagree with someone being LGBTQ.

Calrson even bragged a while back about violently attacking a man who made a pass at him in a bathroom. After people pointed out the fact that what he described was gay-bashing, he backtracked and blamed ‘bloggers’ for quoting him verbatim.

That seems to be Carlson’s brand though: make egregious statements, see what sticks, and deny intent if any of those statements produce substantial blow back.

Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists & Trolls

Carlson’s penchant to push the limits of acceptability in on-air reporting and opinion make him the optimal role model for the so-called ‘Alt-right’ community (comprised of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, men’s rights activists, and other trolls).

“Tucker Carlson is literally our greatest ally. I don’t believe that he doesn’t hate the Jews,” argued Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer earlier this year.

Media Matters pointed this out in an article explaining:

But since landing his 7 p.m. Fox News program Tucker Carlson Tonight in November, Carlson has built a strong following among the worst racists, misogynists, and anti-Semites on the Internet.

Those deplorables love Carlson’s cutting interview style, which seeks not to extract information from guests but rather to embarrass them. Many of Carlson’s victims have included the young women, Jews, and “social justice warriors” who constitute the main perceived enemies of the “alt-right.” They believe that Carlson is helping to mainstream their racist, misogynist worldview.

At “r/The_Donald,” Redditors regularly highlight instances in which Carlson “REKT,” “tore apart,” “grills,” or “DESTROYS” his interviewees. A separate subreddit was created in November with the mission statement: “Alpha Male Tucker Carlson routinely plows beta-male SJW snowflakes over on Fox News. This is where we compile his greatest hits.” The subreddit’s official Twitter account is @cantcuckthetuck, a mantra that Carlson’s “alt-right” supporters use to highlight his supposed unwillingness to be “cucked.”

The neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer regularly features videos of Carlson’s interviews under the headline “You Can’t Cuck The TUCK!” The site’s founder, Andrew Anglin, has called Carlson “our greatest ally” and a “machine of ultimate destruction” who “LAMPSHADE[S]” Jewish guests.

The former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke has praised Carlson for pushing back against “Jewish Supremacists” who “believe they are above the law.”

They added, “Across Twitter, Carlson’s ‘alt-right’ supporters praise his show using the hashtag ‘#cantcuckthetuck.’ And of course, there are memes.”

Many of Carlson’s topics and methods cater specifically to this audience from attempting to surprise and humiliate his guests to demeaning disenfranchised groups like refugees. He also pushed Trump’s unsubstantiated claim of being “wiretapped” by the Obama administration.

When not serving as the voice of the ‘Alt-right,’ Carlson seeks out an audience almost exclusive to the Fox Network: Christian Dominionists.

Religion

When an argument can be made in favor of inserting Christian ideology into anything – government, schools, businesses or otherwise – Tucker Carlson is normally one of the first to volunteer.

For instance, in 2013 Carlson argued that lack of belief in a higher power leads to “killing a ton of people.”

To be clear, this only applies to belief in a Christian higher power; any other belief system is suspect or outright dangerous if Carlson is to be believed.

His ‘religious freedom’ arguments aren’t just reserved for targeting members of the LGBTQ community; he targets anyone that can be viewed as anti-Christian.

In 2015 Carlson argued against a Wisconsin religious protection law offering atheists protection from discrimination in areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation. “[M]aybe you’re an airline and hiring pilots who you prefer they maybe believe in Hell. To tell people that you can’t only hire people of faith intrudes on their free exercise of faith,” he argued.

On the opposite end of the protection spectrum, Carlson becomes enraged annually when Christian displays are placed on public property during the holidays and other belief systems request equal access. Arguing against a Satanic display in Florida in 2014, he said, “I’m assuming that there aren’t a ton of Satanists in Tallahassee. I’m assuming there really aren’t any at all, and this is purely an attempt to stick a finger in the eye of Christians in Florida.”

After another Fox personality asked if he was questioning the validity of Satanism as a religious belief system, Carlson responded, “I mean, this is just an inability to draw reasonable distinctions between reality and what is a pretty offensive prank.”

A year later he lashed out at Duke University for claiming to be inclusive because it “offered to let Muslim students issue a call-to-prayer from the Chapel bell tower.

“There’s nothing inclusive about Duke,” Carlson argued. “Notice they’re not giving equal time to, say, evangelical pro-life messages. They’re not broadcasting those over the loudspeakers on the chapel. If you got in the middle of the Duke quad and read sections of the Bible that criticized homosexuality, you’d be dragged away by school security.”

This is not accurate – preachers cannot be prohibited from utilizing public areas of public colleges to exercise their free speech rights. But that’s beside the point.

Carlson concluded, “They’re not inclusive, they’re making a political statement about how they’re on the side of Muslims!”

In his diatribe, Carlson compared Muslims engaging in prayer to extremist Christians who cherry-pick the Bible in order to harass others. The comparison and charge against the university led to threats and ultimately the canceling of the policy to help equalize the playing field for Muslim students.

Upon hearing that the college cancelled the policy based in part on the threats created from his outrage, Carlson doubled down.

“This external threat stuff, we did a story on the Daily Caller about this woman from Ohio who called in to say I disagree with this decision,” he said. “She got a call from the cops! She wasn’t threatening — she says she wasn’t threatening anybody.”

“I don’t buy this external threat thing,” Carlson continued. “I think this is just another way to pretend that they’re being persecuted.”

This (again) is par for the course for Carlson.

Perhaps no exchange better describes what Tucker Carlson stands for than his now infamous interview with Teen Vogue‘s Lauren Duca. The New Yorker broke it down:

Last December, when a writer named Lauren Duca received a call from Carlson’s producers, inviting her on the show, she had good reason to say no: it was her husband’s birthday, and he told her, “I’d rather you not get yelled at today.” But Duca was feeling idealistic. She had recently written an article for Teen Vogue comparing Trump to an abusive husband. In the aftermath, she had received some sympathetic e-mails from Trump supporters, and she allowed herself to imagine the headlines her interview with Carlson might generate: “rare rational conversation on fox.”

What resulted, instead, was a session so hostile that it might have made Jon Stewart weep, if he had seen it—and, considering how widely it circulated, there is a good chance he did. After a temperate start, in which the two seemed close to agreeing on the public responsibilities of Trump’s daughter Ivanka, Carlson zeroed in on an infelicitous phrase from Duca’s essay: she had claimed that Trump was “threatening the sovereignty of an entire religion,” and Carlson demanded that she explain what that meant. Eventually, Carlson, getting irritated, tried to embarrass her by reading the headlines to some pop-culture stories she had written, including one about the singer Ariana Grande and her “epic thigh-high boots.” He ended the interview with a condescending sneer. “You should stick to the thigh-high boots—you’re better at that,” he said.

Viewers saw Duca register shock, and heard the first part of her reply: “You’re a sex—” Then her microphone was cut, although viewers could lip-read the rest: “—ist pig!”

When it was over, Duca’s phone began to vibrate. Her e-mail address is in her Twitter profile, and Fox News viewers were sending her vituperative e-mails, along with vituperative tweets. One user created an image of Carlson as Pepe the frog, a common pro-Trump symbol, tucking Duca into bed (“tucked,” it said); another wrote, “just wait till tuck ‘kill a jew for good luck’ carlson is shoving you in the oven at camp trump!” accompanied by a crude image of Carlson as a Nazi prison guard, and Duca peering out from an oven. Martin Shkreli, the so-called Pharma Bro, took an interest in Duca, sending her sardonic pickup lines and creating photographic collages of them together, until Twitter suspended his account. But, as liberal viewers discovered the exchange online, Duca began getting encouraging responses, too. Larry Wilmore, the former host of “The Nightly Show,” called her “brilliant,” and Duca’s Twitter following increased from about forty thousand to about two hundred thousand. Teen Vogue gave Duca a weekly online column, which is called “Thigh-High Politics,” in honor of the unpleasant encounter that helped make her reputation.

When faced with an articulate, well-reasoned position spoken by a woman, Carlson devolved into the caricature of what his ‘Alt-right’ fans make him out to be. He attempted to mock her when nothing else worked, and it had its intended effect: death threats and massive online harassment from his faithful followers. Carlson knew that would happen, and he allowed it.

He even later admitted he wanted to be mean to Duca.

And this is the man set to be the next Bill O’Reilly.

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.

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