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I'll admit it.
I thought there was a good chance that Fox News host Tucker Carlson would apologize for the racist, sexist, homophobic online rants posted by his head writer Blake Neff, who resigned Friday after CNN exposed him. So I turned on Carlson's show Monday night to see how he would handle himself.
For the last five years, as we learned in a report from CNN’s Oliver Darcy, Neff had secretly been posting garbage on AutoAdmit, an online forum where lawyers and law students gather virtually, and where, as Darcy put it, “racism and sexism run rampant.”
Some examples of Neff’s recents posts:
“Honestly, given how tired Black people always claim to be, maybe the real crisis is their lack of sleep.”
"Black doods staying inside playing Call of Duty is probably one of the biggest factors keeping crime down."
“This may be a lot of things, this moment we’re living through, but it is definitely not about Black lives. Remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will.”
OK, so that last example wasn't something Neff posted. That was actually something Carlson said on his program, shortly after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis in May, back when Neff was still his head writer. Floyd’s horrific death inspired people around the world to take to the streets to protest racism. Carlson used the moment to stoke white fear.
Last week, Carlson insulted U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who said she was open to the national debate over removing statues of historical figures such as George Washington, who owned enslaved people. Carlson called her a “coward,” a “moron” and “a fraud,” and said she “hates the country.”
Duckworth is, in fact, a former helicopter pilot who was awarded the Purple Heart medal after losing both her legs in combat in Iraq in 2004. Her father served in World War II and Vietnam. Men in her family have served in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War. She is also reportedly on Joe Biden's short list of potential vice presidents.
How did Carlson describe Duckworth’s service?
“She was once injured while serving in the Army Illinois National Guard,” he said.
No wonder some GOP strategists are thrilled at the prospect of drafting him for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. He’s Donald Trump in a younger, better-looking package.
Carlson’s blatant, recurring displays of racism — and really, there is no other way to describe them — have prompted sponsors to flee his show.
Yet he has remained not just the No. 1 host in cable news, but the highest-rated cable host in history. (This, at one time, was also true of disgraced Fox host Bill O’Reilly, who was fired after the New York Times reported that he had paid some $13 million to women he’d sexually harassed. Ratings, as it turns out, aren’t everything.)
The neat trick by advertisers who have publicly renounced Carlson is that they get to have it both ways.
They can announce on Twitter, as T-Mobile Chief Executive Mike Sievert did, “Bye-Bye Tucker Carlson!” even as they continue to advertise on other Fox News programs.
In fact, Variety reported last month that Fox News ad revenue in the most recent fiscal quarter had grown by 15%, and that the network said that “all national ads and revenue from Carlson’s show have moved to other programs.”
On Monday, I was eager to hear what Carlson would have to say in the wake of the CNN expose.
Surely, he would apologize for the awful things Neff has written, for the cowardly nature of his secret posts, which included a sustained, yearslong attack on one woman who was a Facebook friend and another who had posted about her fertility. (That thread, reported CNN, was called “Disaster: WuFlu outbreak endangers aging shrew’s quest to freeze eggs.”)
Neff, 29, recently told the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine that anything Carlson reads off the teleprompter, “the first draft was written by me.”
Would Carlson accept responsibility, or throw Neff under a bus?
Neither, it turns out.
Instead, there was a naked attempt to distance the show from its head writer, the very person who puts words in Carlson’s mouth each weekday evening.
“What Blake wrote anonymously was wrong. We don’t endorse those words,” Carlson said. “They have no connection to the show. It is wrong to attack people for qualities they cannot control.” (Is that a specious way of saying that racism, sexism and homophobia are bad?)
There was also a bizarre attack on Neff’s critics.
“We should also point out to the ghouls now beating their chests in triumph at the destruction of a young man, that self-righteousness also has its costs,” Carlson said. “We are all human. When we pretend that we are holy, we are lying. When we pose as blameless in order to hurt other people, we are committing the gravest sin of all. And we will be punished for it.”
After predicting that the wrath of God will come down upon those who exposed Neff, Carlson made an important announcement.
He would spend the rest of the week fishing.