Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday rejected the notion that white supremacy is on the rise in the United States, and liberals responded with shock and outrage.
Some commentators equated Carlson’s words with violence, and others urged violence against him.
Carlson triggered the backlash when he used his show to address heightened concerns about right-wing extremism in the wake of an apparently anti-immigrant shooting massacre Saturday in El Paso, Texas.
“It’s actually not a real problem in America,” Carlson said of white supremacy. “This is a hoax, just like the Russia hoax. It’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power.”
“In point of fact, he never endorsed white supremacy or came close to endorsing white supremacy. That’s just a lie,” Carlson said. “But he condemned it anyway.”
In making his case, Carlson noted that that few Americans belong to white supremacist groups, like the KKK.
“If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns, of problems this country faces, where would white supremacy be on the list? Right up there with Russia, probably,” he said. “The combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country would be able to fit inside a college football stadium.”
Carlson’s comments renewed allegations that he is racist himself. Such claims have in the past helped spur activist to harass the host and campaign for his firing.
On Wednesday, the Occupy Democrats Facebook page declared itself “SPEECHLESS!” over Carlson’s latest comments.
“THE FOX NEWS PROPAGANDA MACHINE NEVER STOPS,” added the liberal outlet, which has nearly 8 million followers.
SPEECHLESS! "It’s not actually a real problem in America," Carlson said. THE FOX NEWS PROPAGANDA MACHINE NEVER STOPS.Follow Occupy Democrats for more.
Many Twitter users called for Fox News to cancel “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and by the afternoon, #FireTuckerCarlson was trending on the platform.
RAICES, a major immigration advocacy legal group, went viral with a tweet claiming that Carlson’s “comments have already led to murders.”
It's time Fox News fires Tucker Carlson.
His comments put our lives in danger and have already led to murders.
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) August 7, 2019
Juliette Kayyem, a Department of Homeland Security official in the Obama administration, accused Carlson of inciting violence.
re: Tucker Carlson's white supremacy segment — generally, racists hate being called racist and they hate that the ideology they promote on their prime time show incites violence. The playbook they use makes it hard to call it out because it allows them to feign outrage. @CNN ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/7u4El5epkd
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) August 7, 2019
Liberal activist Adam Best compared Carlson’s rhetoric to the El Paso shooter’s manifesto, and deemed him the spokesperson for white supremacy.
The El Paso shooter’s manifesto was almost indistinguishable from a Tucker Carlson monologue. 22 people are dead because of the same white supremacist talking points he espouses on TV. Of course Tucker doesn’t think white supremacy is a problem. He’s its spokesperson.
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) August 7, 2019
Other liberal Twitter users conjured Carlson’s death.
It will be interesting to see if any of the #QuislingRepublicans will condemn his hateful rhetoric and idiocy. At least when Tucker Carlson dies, he won't have to worry about packing a blanket. #FireTuckerCarlson https://t.co/918zBPcRXd
— MWL (@MWL44038076) August 7, 2019
Activist Tim Hannan urged his 27,000 followers followers to “literally light [Carlson] on fire. The post earned well over 100 likes and a couple dozen retweets.
#FireTuckerCarlson – literally light him on fire.
— Tim Hannan (@TimHannan) August 7, 2019
A number of others explicitly wished for Carlson’s death.
tucker carlson die bitch
— huancaina (@yawningpuppy) August 7, 2019
A history of “violence”
The El Paso shooting is far from the first time white supremacy has become a national issue during the Trump presidency. Liberals like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, have warned that the ideology is on the rise, and even that the United States is headed toward fascism thanks to Trump.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, right-wing extremists were linked to at least 50 murders last year, the highest annual total since 1995, which saw the Oklahoma City bombing.
However, conservatives have repeatedly pushed back on the left’s white supremacy narrative, if not always as forcefully as Carlson. Some, like Quillette editor Andy Ngo, have suggested that more than anything, right-wing violence is simply getting more attention because of anti-Trump hysteria.
Proponents of such views are often dismissed as white supremacists themselves. But there is evidence that fears of right-wing violence have fostered a countereaction on the left, even as liberal journalists and politicians seem to largely shrug off the phenomenon.
In June, antifa protestors attacked Ngo, landing him in the hospital. Last month, an apparent antifa member tried to firebomb an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Washington State. And on Sunday, a young man with left-wing views perpetrated a massacre in downtown Dayton, Ohio, before police shot him dead.
While his motives are not yet clear, CNN reported that the Dayton shooter “liked” several tweets about the El Paso attack in the hours before unleashing his own round of violence.
- Tucker Carlson speaks on his Fox News show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” on Aug. 6, 2019.: YouTube