How the Times Monstrously Mistreated Tucker Carlson

Carlson has never disparaged other races and his concerns about the volume of illegal immigration are shared by most Americans.

Tucker Carlson at a Fox News Channel studio at New York in 2017. AP Photo/Richard Drew, file

by Conrad Black

The feature news article by Nicholas Confessore on page one of the New York Times on Sunday was perhaps the most evil as well as the stupidest prominently played news piece I have read in 65 years of frequent scanning of that newspaper.

The sub-headline, “How Tucker Carlson Stoked White Fear to Conquer Cable News,” is admittedly narrowly surpassed by the 1985 Times gem: “President Equates Nazis to U.S. War Dead,” when in an address at the Bitburg German war cemetery where there were graves of 49 members of the Waffen-SS among 2,000 non-political dead soldiers, the president said that conscripts who died for an evil cause were also victims of that cause.

This was in fact an unexceptionable statement. My relations at the time with the publisher of the Times, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, were sufficiently cordial that when I told him how unfair I thought that headline was, he graciously acknowledged, proud Marine combat veteran as he was, that he “wasn’t happy with it.”

There have been many such challenging moments in my days as a Times reader, such as Tom Wicker’s comment on the Sunday prior to the inauguration of Richard Nixon as president in January 1969 that he thought that the chances that Mr. Nixon would blow up the world in a nuclear war were at least 50-50, and the column of Scotty Reston in 1983 predicting that Ronald Reagan would honorably conclude that the presidency was too much for him and he would not seek renomination and return to Hollywood.

These were personal comments in opinion pieces. But the assertions about Tucker Carlson this past Sunday, seven full pages with the lead from three-fifths of the top of the front page, was presented as reporting and was in a class of its own. It stated without any qualification that Fox News evening commentator Tucker Carlson is a racist, clearly in the sense of someone who despises whole races, incites racial hostility, and believes that the stability and general welfare of the United States is threatened by all illegal non-white immigration.

Mr. Carlson has never disparaged other races and his concerns about the volume of illegal immigration are shared by most Americans, including most non-white Americans of all backgrounds.

The Times remains preeminently the newspaper that in acute embarrassment and with commendable frankness acknowledged after the 2016 presidential election, in which it had given Hillary Clinton a more than 90 percent likelihood of winning, that a neutral presentation of the news was not its function. Rather it was the duty and destiny of the New York Times to present information in a way that would persuade its readers to do and think as the editors of the Times thought they should.

In the piece on Sunday this avocation produced the bold assertion that Mr. Carlson’s program “teaches loathing and fear,” and “attacks alien cultures,” and warns that “high birth rates mean the new arrivals might soon overwhelm our country.” It was somehow a racist falsehood to claim that the “peaceful protesters” of the summer of 2020 who killed more than 20 people and injured many hundreds and did billions of dollars of damage across the country after the appalling death of George Floyd were “criminal mobs.” That is precisely what they were, as the mainly non-white surviving victims almost uniformly said.

Mr. Carlson is said to stand in a “nativist American tradition that runs from Father Coughlin to Patrick J. Buchanan.” No he doesn’t; Coughlin was a fascistic radio priest trying to lever his clerical credibility into a general political influence that both the Roosevelt administration and the Holy See considered to be potentially anti-democratic.

Cardinal Pacelli, the Vatican secretary of state and future Pope Pius XII, spent the 1936 election campaign in the United States ensuring that Coughlin did not publicly meddle in partisan political matters. Mr. Buchanan was an able speechwriter for Nixon and Reagan and while his views are sometimes a bit simplistic, he is not a sinister figure.

Mr. Carlson is accused of bandying about “the rhetorical tropes and exotic fixations of white nationalists.” This is bunk. He objects to millions of undocumented migrants swarming into the country and giving cover to the slave and drug trafficking activities of the Mexican gangs. These opinions are shared by almost everyone in the United States, including the hapless homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, he claims.

The Times likened “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to “The Daily Stormer,” an evidently neo-Nazi newspaper. Mr. Carlson does not claim that the Democrats are “deliberately importing more obedient voters from the Third World to replace the current electorate”; he assumes that part of the motivation of the Democrats in promoting this colossal inundation, and in urging that citizenship cease to be a criterion for having the right to vote, is that they would expect to gain votes by such a demographic change. That is a reasonable imputation of motives and a reasonable assumption for the Democratic strategists to hold. Opposing it is not racism.

This is a stupid, as well as an evil article because starting from the false premise that Mr. Carlson is a foaming-at-the-mouth, nostrils-flaming racist, it takes the short and irresistible step to conclude and profess that Mr. Carlson’s racism expresses accurately the corporate opinion of News Corporation, which owns Fox News, and specifically of its chairman, founder, and controlling shareholder, Rupert Murdoch, because he exchanges frequent congenial text messages with Mr. Carlson, and of President Trump.

It is held to be part of a successful Fox strategy to become and remain the most watched cable news service, and the key to Mr. Trump’s electoral strategy. Thus, Mr. Confessore and his editors imply that not just Mr. Carlson, a mere messenger, but Messrs. Murdoch and Trump and most Americans are vehement racists. Anyone who knows an appreciable number of Americans knows that the general charge is false and scurrilous. Anyone who knows Messrs. Trump and Murdoch knows that the allegations against them are false and defamatory.

I don’t know Mr. Carlson but his comments objected to in the Times on Sunday are fair comment. His hostility to assisting Ukraine is nonsense: Of course the West must promote the sovereignty of legitimate independent countries and must assist those who are illegally invaded, even if the best and most probable outcome of the current war is in some respects a compromise.

In these matters, Mr. Carlson is unworldly in not recognizing that the reabsorption of Ukraine into Russia would be a terrible blow to the West, an incentive to further aggression by anti-democratic powers, and a substantial reversal of the glorious and bloodless strategic victory of democracy and Western civilization in the Cold War. None of that, though, makes Mr. Carlson, much less his employer and the former president, a racist.

The fact that Fox’s chief rivals, CNN and MSNBC, have suffered a collapse of ratings, and that CNN has recently fired its chief executive and attracted only approximately 10,000 viewers in all of America to its late, short-lived streaming service, might have something to do with the endless vilification by both those networks of Mr. Trump as an intelligence asset of the Kremlin who had committed crimes in office and out, and as a flagrant and demonstrable racist himself.

This is as malicious and contemptible a fiction as Mr. Confessore’s unqualified assertion that Mr. Carlson strongly supported “those who violently stormed the U.S. Capitol to keep Donald Trump in office.” Mr. Trump and his genuine followers were objecting to a dubious election result and the abdication of the judiciary from judging the questionable changes of voting and vote-counting procedures in swing states, and the last thing they wanted was an insurrection.

This article was a monstrous and despicable slime job that is an unanswerable and indefensible self-condemnation of the long distinguished newspaper that commissioned and published it.

First published in the New York Sun.