Will Fox News condemn Tucker Carlson's comments?
What to do with Tucker Carlson?
That’s the question for Fox News, in light of some truly awful comments Carlson, who hosts his own show on the network, made to the "Bubba the Love Sponge" program between 2006 and 2011.
The smart money says the network will do nothing. Or at least not much.
Which is certainly its prerogative.
That doesn't mean it should do nothing. It should condemn Carlson's comments.
But it's complicated. Carlson made the comments before he was a Fox News employee, yes, but to simply ignore them — and the firestorm their discovery has created, as a quick Twitter search for #FireTuckerCarlson shows — is irresponsible. It certainly gives the appearance of supporting Carlson, one of the biggest stars on Fox News.
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Carlson hasn't helped things. Rather than apologize, he tweeted the following:
"Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago. Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I'm on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why."
It's typical Carlson, the smarmy attitude that has made him loved by conservatives — it's an attitude popularized by President Donald Trump, the never-say-you're-sorry tactic — and loathed by liberals, who sometimes act as if they want to apologize for everything. In certain situations, it’s really effective.
In this one, not so much.
For instance: "naughty?" Naughty is a bawdy sea shanty or something. This is not that.
To wit: Media Matters published both clips and transcripts of parts of some of his many calls into the show, which long has been a magnet for controversy.
Carlson, among other things, jokingly made light of Warren Jeffs, the cult leader and convicted child sex offender. During a discussion of Elena Kagan, who had been nominated for the Supreme Court (and was confirmed), "I feel sorry for unattractive women." He went on to say, "Physically, the problems with her are fundamental. She's never going to be an attractive woman."
He called Arianna Huffington a "pig."
He said of women, "They hate weakness. They're like dogs that way. They can smell it on you, and they have contempt for it. They'll bite you." He also said women were "extremely primitive, they’re basic, they’re not that hard to understand."
And when talking about a campaign ad then-presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's campaign aired in 2008, in which it implied Barack Obama was merely a celebrity, not a leader, Carlson said of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, who are shown in the ad, calling the women "two of the biggest white whores in America."
Oh yes, and he used the c-word to describe TV host Alexis Stewart.
Class act — and this from a guy who, when Samantha Bee rightly got called out for using the c-word when talking about Ivanka Trump, said this on his own show: "That one word that (Bee) used, I don't know any man who uses that word, because it is kind of the one word that is actually degrading. It's the thing feminists are always telling us. It really is."
I can think of one guy. …
A tough week for Fox News
It has been a tough week for Fox News. The New Yorker published a damning lengthy piece about the network and its cozier-than-normal relationship with Trump, among other things. Then the network rebuked Jeanine Pirro, who had wondered on-air if Rep. Ilhan Omar's Islamic beliefs were "indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which is antithetical to the U.S. Constitution?"
"We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar," Fox News said in a statement. "They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly."
So far the network has declined comment on Carlson. And again, ultimately, it doesn't have to say anything, ever, though that would be a mistake.
Others already have, however. For instance, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., tweeted, "Tucker, I've never had a problem going on your show before, but this is (expletive). I'm done."
It can be a slippery slope to scour someone's comments from years and even decades ago. None of us are the same person we were before. For a time, Carlson was a good magazine writer, engaging and thoughtful. But TV has made him crazy. It's not just his comments in the past. It's what he says now, on his nightly show on Fox News, that remains troublesome. Look no further than his non-apology for the latest example.
Of course, what Fox News says, or doesn't say, isn’t as important to Carlson's future as how advertisers react. Some have fled Carlson's show over other comments he has made. Doubtless there will be a lot of pressure for more to follow.
But Carlson's defenders are out in force, as well.
It's not as shocking as it is sad. Fox News supporters, many of them, don't really care what Carlson and Sean Hannity, etc., say. As long as it’s disparaging of the left, they just want them to keep talking.
Carlson will, and it’s unlikely Fox News will do anything to stop him.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Fox News doesn't have to say anything about Tucker Carlson's comments — but it should