CNN’s Brian Stelter dedicated more than ten minutes of Sunday’s Reliable Sources arguing that Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson is the “new Donald Trump.”
In an awkward fit of rage and demonstrable jealousy over Carlson’s ratings, Stelter denigrated both Fox News personnel and viewers. He smeared Carlson as a white-rage enabler, unapologetic “fire starter,” who “offend[s] millions of people”:
STELTER: I have come to one inescapable conclusion about the GOP and the media. I want to see you if you agree or disagree with me. Even though Republicans are out of power right now, the use of the media, their use of the media has a major impact on the Democrats, and on political dysfunction. So, this – what I'm about to say— directly impacts President Biden and his administration. All right. Are you ready for it? Here is my conclusion: Tucker Carlson is the new Donald Trump. Tucker has taken Trump's place as a right-wing leader, as an outrage generator, as a fire starter and it's all happening on Fox just like Trump's campaign did, which means Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are ultimately responsible.
I mean, think about all of the ways these two men are similar. Every day, Carlson is throwing bombs, making online memes, offending millions of people, also delighting millions of others, tapping into white-male rage and resentment, stoking distrust of big tech and the media, generally coarsening the discourse, never apologizing for anything and setting the GOP's agenda. Sounds like a recently retired president, right?”
After ranting (once again) about Fox’s decision to add new, Carlson-related content to their streaming service, Fox Nation, Stelter invited on a panel of four other Fox haters to further support his theory.
The Baltimore Sun’s media critic David Zurawik—someone who was once able to aptly spot journalists’ leftist bias—was the most unhinged of the four guests. Zurawik contended that Fox News Channel should lose its access to the White House press pool and should be deprived of all journalistic access to the Biden administration. The left-wing hack asserted FNC shouldn’t be treated like a media outlet, but rather a “political tool.” As a result, the network, according to Zurawik, should be treated the "same" as the Proud Boys.
Stelter then asked CNN political analyst April Ryan if she thought Carlson was a “thorn in the side of the [Biden] administration.” Ryan responded that the Fox News host was, indeed, a thorn in “everyone’s side”—especially Biden’s. Ryan then baselessly argued that Carlson “has put a lot of people’s lives on the line for his entertainment purposes.”
Ryan’s overwrought assertion even caught Stelter by surprise, causing him to inquire: “Lives on the line?”
Failing to take the host's interjection as a hint, Ryan doubled down:
“Lives on the line. Taylor Lorenz. Taylor Lorenz, when Tucker Carlson puts you on his target board, people throw out crazy threats and death threats and she has to, in exchange, speak loudly and publicly so people can see what is happening to save her life. Trust me because I understand, because I've been a target of Tucker Carlson.”
Apparently stating someone’s name more than once in a sentence constitutes endangering the welfare of “a lot” of people.
Stelter also mocked Carlson’s production team for the graphics they displayed during Biden’s address last week, despite previously admitting to writing some bizarre and nonobjective chyrons himself.
Media critic Erik Wemple, who has appeared on Carlson’s show before, analogized their efforts to constructively criticize Fox News and the Murdoch family to “pissing into the wind” and commended Stelter for doing so with him.
Brian Stelter’s animus for Tucker Carlson was supported, in part, by Fidelity. Contact this advertiser and others via the Media Research Center’s Conservatives Fight Back website, conveniently linked here.
Please click "Expand" to view the entire March 14 transcript:
11:01 AM Eastern
BRIAN STELTER: But, first, I have come to one inescapable conclusion about the GOP and the media. I want to see you if you agree or disagree with me. Even though Republicans are out of power right now, the use of the media, their use of the media has a major impact on the Democrats, and on political dysfunction. So, this – what I'm about to say— directly impacts President Biden and his administration. All right. Are you ready for it? Here is my conclusion: Tucker Carlson is the new Donald Trump. Tucker has taken Trump's place as a right-wing leader, as an outrage generator, as a fire starter and it's all happening on Fox just like Trump's campaign did, which means Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are ultimately responsible.
I mean, think about all of the ways these two men are similar. Every day, Carlson is throwing bombs, making online memes, offending millions of people, also delighting millions of others, tapping into white-male rage and resentment, stoking distrust of big tech and the media, generally coarsening the discourse, never apologizing for anything and setting the GOP's agenda. Sounds like a recently retired president, right? Even before the 2020 election, there was informed speculation about Carlson as a 2024 candidate. Of course, some of Carlson's detractors say he's just a troll. He's just really good at ticking people off. But isn't that what they said about Trump for years? Yes, Tucker is known to critique Trump and the Republican Party from time to time.
This time last year, he was at Mar-a-Lago trying to convince Trump to take COVID more seriously. But Tucker tells the same conspiratorial "us versus them" story that Trump told. The same they're out to get you the story that Trump told for years. It is the paranoid style in American politics all over again and Tucker, now, soaks up some of the same social media fury that Trump did. He stokes the same debates that Trump did, and it raises the same predicament that Trump raised five or six years ago, whether and how to cover his claims. I mean, here is some of what Tucker did this past week. He said pregnant service members are a mockery to the U.S. He claimed that the U.S. has a national masculinity crisis. And when military officials rebuked his comments, he flipped out and doubled down. Tucker also spent the entire segment berating a New York Times reporter because she had the audacity to call out online harassment, and then he blasted The Times for defending her. He tried to rewrite history about George Floyd's death and said American leaders used Floyd to enshrine, quote, open racism in nearly all of our institutions, and he mocked Meghan Markle and defended Piers Morgan, et cetera, et cetera, the list goes on and on, and it all is because of these individuals on screen. What Tucker wants is attention. What Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch want for him is attention. As this headline put it, Tucker is the post-Trump-MAGA champion, firmly supplanting Sean Hannity at this point as the number one star on Fox News, with ratings far ahead of anyone else on Fox. And, by the way, other shows re-air comments all day long.
Fox News is increasingly the Tucker Carlson channel and the Murdochs recently cut a deal with Tucker to expand his profile on Fox's streaming service, too. It's ultimately all about the Murdochs and what they want. How they're going to keep the profits flowing by giving the viewers more and more radicalized content led by Tucker Carlson. So what does this tell us about the state of the right-wing media and what does it mean for Biden's White House?
Let's bring in S.E. Cupp, the CNN political commentator and nationally syndicated columnist; Erik Wemple, a long-time Tucker watcher, media critic for The Washington Post; and April Ryan, a White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for TheGrio; and the one and only David Zurawik, the media critic for The Baltimore Sun. S.E.., am I right or wrong, that Tucker is the new Donald Trump?
S.E. CUPP [CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR]: Yeah, you know, I see what you're saying. I can't decide if he's the rich man's Trump or the poor man's Trump. In some ways he's smarter than Trump.
STELTER: I think so.
CUPP: Which is, you know, disappointing to people like me who know him, because he could be making very good substantive arguments about conservatism and politics that you might disagree with but that would be a lot more policy-based. I think, though, in some ways the Murdoch are relieved that the GOP no longer wants to tackle substance and policy and just wants to live in the culture wars. They make for much better television, which is why, I think to your point, you're seeing Fox become the Tucker channel, the 24-hour Tucker channel and Tucker is leaning into that kind of coverage and instead of doing the stuff that he used to do, that he's more than capable of doing, that Trump never could.
STELTER: April Ryan, do you think Tucker is a thorn in the side of the administration, do you think the White House cares about his daily attacks?
APRIL RYAN [CNN POLITICAL ANALYST]: Everyone cares about Tucker Carlson, the entertainer’s attacks. He's a thorn in the Biden side, he's a thorn in everyone's side. He is stirring a deadly witch's brew in his cauldron all for the purposes of gaining more attention and more people, which translates to money for Fox. Tucker Carlson has put a lot of people's lives on the line for his entertainment purposes—
STELTER: Lives on the line?
RYAN: That goes out to millions of Americas around the world. Lives on the line. Taylor Lorenz. Taylor Lorenz, when Tucker Carlson puts you on his target board, people throw out crazy threats and death threats and she has to, in exchange, speak loudly and publicly so people can see what is happening to save her life. Trust me because I understand, because I've been a target of Tucker Carlson.
STELTER: Tucker would say he gets lots of threats as well. That everybody gets threats and I would say all of that is despicable and the temperature should be lowered but Tucker, oftentimes, raises the temperature. Let's look at what he did during Biden's primetime speech. This wasn't just Tucker's doing. This was Fox as a network, putting up these banners saying, I know Biden is speaking, you don't want to hear from him, but Tucker is about to respond. They put up this live Tucker Carlson reaction cam in the corner of the screen. All right. So let's get our own Tucker Carlson reaction cam. Let’s see how this is going to look. Sorry, Zurawik, we're kinda squeezing you out of the corner, there. We’re going to see how Tucker reacts to you. I can't decide, David, if this was television genius or if this was a pathetic desperate attempt to hold on to the viewers on the part of Fox. What did you think?
DAVID ZURAWIK [BALTIMORE SUN MEDIA CRITIC]: Brian, I definitely don't think it was television genius. And I'm looking for it. Television is a different medium. If you do something and it works, I'm all with you. But I'll tell you what, this was not genius. What I saw was something that you would see in a high school or a middle-school class of somebody making faces at the teacher when the teacher speaks behind the teacher's back. And here is the thing about this. Just think about when we talk about dumbing down the civic conversation of American life, this -- Biden is talking about a package, a safety net, that rivals LBJ and FDR and this is the response that Tucker Carlson and Fox making faces at him. That's pathetic, Brian.
STELTER: That's a very interesting point. Fox News, you know, used to wrap itself in a flag, say it was the most patriotic network, we're in the midst of a pandemic crisis and they're playing these games. Erik Wemple, what is your analysis of this, of the Tucker phenomenon? You've studied him for years, blogged about him for years.
ERIK WEMPLE [WASHINGTON POST MEDIA CRITIC]: Yeah, well, I just want to say I disagree with Zurawik, there, because I think that if we can get to a situation where all Tucker Carlson does is make facial expressions, I think the country will be a hell of a lot better off.
STELTER: Well, okay, that's the dynamic here. This is the tip -- the same question we have for Trump -- about Trump years ago. Should we, all five of us, be paying attention to Tucker Carlson?
WEMPLE: Well, I think that is no longer really an arguable premise, since Tucker helped conduct the White House for the past four years. So I think, you know, I hear a lot about that, like why are we giving them any further air time, I think it is important to put a stake down and to speak against it. I know that oftentimes it feels like we're pissing into the wind but it is an important marker to put down. So, I do, I believe in what you're doing, I believe in what I'm doing and, you know, it's clear that the Murdochs don't listen to us. But I think it's important to tell the truth.
STELTER: Here are some of your recent headlines about this, you know, saying that he's announced he's doing more hateful reporting and analysis. Yet you're referring to the idea that they're adding more and more Tucker programming on Fox.
WEMPLE: Yes. They are. They're expanding his foot print. They know they have a star, so to speak. Tucker, I think, your analogy between Tucker and Trump is an apt one primarily for two reasons: hatred and lie. They both traffic in hatred and they both traffic in lies. And for the longest time people have warned that the next Trump will be savvier in terms of how he lies and that is exactly what Tucker Carlson is. He doesn't lie with every utterance, but he lies strategically and carefully and he lies in such a way that he gets them past his audience. And, you know, the rest of the world sits there and fact checks him and nobody else seems to care. I mean he pulls in 4 million people and to April's point, those 4 million people listen very carefully and they take cues from Tucker Carlson.
STELTER: April, you were talking about, you know, the harassment that people experience they're called out by Carlson and by others on television, on Fox, especially. What is the right reaction? How do you and others handle that?
RYAN: You can't ignore it because the numbers are so great when they come at you. But what you do, again, in order to save your life, you have to speak on it and call it out to show people what is happening. This is inhuman what he's doing and we know a judge had to rule over Tucker Carlson when his attorney talked about him, he's not a news reporter, he's an entertainer. This entertainment value of Tucker Carlson is deadly and Fox News should be ashamed of it because people's lives are in jeopardy. We saw the threats that came into reality on January 6th because of a brew, a poisonous, witch's brew was stirred by Tucker Carlson and others over there.
[ON SCREEN HEADLINE: RIGHT-WING RADICALIZATION FLOWS FROM FOX’S SHOWS]
STELTER: And Tucker is going to say you're just trying to shut him down, silence him, kick him off cable, you know, and I don't anyone is actually –
RYAN: I don't have that power.
STELTER: Right, I don't think anybody is going to remove Fox News from the cable lineup. But there are – you know, these questions about Fox's – as Fox radicalizes and as it becomes even more and more of a political tool, Zurawik, you wrote a column recently for The Sun about this, saying Fox should be viewed as a political tool. And that raises a question, should it be a part of the White House press pool? You know, should it be afforded the privileges that comes with news gathering even though they do have some news reporters at the White House, you're saying they're primarily a political tool, so shouldn't that be reassessed, Zurawik?
ZURAWIK: And listen, I really do. I think it is a discussion we need to have. Look, I didn't say it. Lachlan Murdoch said they're the loyal opposition. You look it up in the dictionary, loyal opposition is a political term. It is a party that opposes the party in power. But even in that system, primarily parliamentary systems, it says that they share the same larger values for the culture and society. Listen, when you put people on your show telling the big lie as they did with – with former president— when they put him on, putting that lie on, for people who tried to shut down the government, when – on January 6th, you're not supporting democracy, you're not supporting the larger values of this culture. They don't even stand up as an opposition party, but there is nothing journalistic in what Lachlan Murdoch said. And, you know what, I say, hey, you know, let's take them on the word, let's not let them on the plane. You want to let Proud Boys on Air Force One, no, I don't think so. These guys are doing the same thing.
STELTER: Hmm. All right, you're going to get attention for that. I appreciate everybody coming here.
ZURAWIK: Thanks, Brian, I needed that.