Author Michael Arceneaux explains why Tucker Carlson’s defiant non-apology for his bigoted remarks—and the support he has received from Fox News and beyond—comes as no surprise.
For days now, Tucker Carlson has been subjected to scrutiny after Media Matters, which touts itself as a watchdog of “conservative misinformation in the U.S. media,” published the audio from the Fox News host’s past appearances on The Bubba the Love Sponge Show. In those recordings from the Tampa-based radio program, Carlson is heard doing the following: insulting Black people and queer people, using sexist language to discuss child rape, child marriage, and rape shield laws, and employing racist and homophobic language to describe Iraqi people. In response, the hashtag #FireTuckerCarlson has taken off—calling on the actual faux news network to can one of its biggest stars.
However, if you expected an apology from Tucker Carlson, you are very unfamiliar with Tucker Carlson.
As you see in the above tweet, Carlson did employ the standard iOS note statement now popular among celebrities and other public figures in the wake of controversy, but he did not offer any form of contrition. Instead, Carlson decided to trivialize the severity of his disturbing comments, merely branding his behavior as saying “naughty things.” He then went on to promote his show.
And on the episode of said show that aired on Monday night, Carlson portrayed himself not as a person remorseful for his prejudiced views, or even as a provocateur who once took things too far, but as someone who should be counted among the persecuted. His persecutors? Naturally, the liberal “mob”—a group probably better described as folks of basic decency. “We will never bow to the mob,” Carlson declared. (There is also an op-ed published on the Fox News website supporting Carlson, which I encourage no one else to read.)
Carlson has plenty of supporters. His fellow Fox News host, Sean Hannity, championed him for delaying his vacation to take on the “mob.” Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker writes that, while she doesn’t approve of Carlson’s comments, she does believe “that neither Carlson nor anyone should instinctively bow to the mob, as he said in a retort to demands that Fox News fire their most popular anchor.” On Tuesday, CNN contributor Mary Katherine Ham argued that Carlson is correct “when he says that if he apologizes, nothing ends.” She went on to add, that “nobody’s interested in his apology.”
But he referred to Iraqis as “semiliterate primitive monkeys.” He cavalierly discussed child marriage. He freely used the word “faggot.”
And now, even more despicable comments have been uncovered.
In 2007, Miss South Carolina Teen USA Caitlin Upton was ridiculed for how she answered a question about why a fifth of Americans couldn’t locate their own country on a map. While discussing the incident, Bubba and Carlson spoke of her sexually, contributing to the pile-on of negative comments in the worst way possible. “I gotta be honest, I thought she was kind of appealing,” the future Fox News host said. As the two pondered the age of consent in South Carolina, Carlson said, “She’d probably be a pretty good wife.” Shortly thereafter, Carlson asked, “If you had a wife that dumb, would it be good or bad?”
Carlson has yet to respond to these latest recordings, but his response—if we even get one—is unlikely to be all that different from the previous dismissal.
Carlson should be apologetic, but why would he be? He is being paid millions of dollars to espouse these sorts of views.
Bigotry is the business model, and it has long proved profitable for Fox News. Yes, advertisers have reportedly cooled on Carlson, but as he himself has stated, the network stands firmly behind him. So the likelihood of Fox News axing him is highly unlikely. Even if Carlson were to be replaced, the network would likely install another bigot. After all, isn’t Tucker Carlson Bill O’Reilly’s replacement?
Funny enough, among those unearthed radio clips from The Bubba the Love Sponge Show, Carlson once declared that “everyone’s embarrassed to be a white man.” I’m not sure why that would be the case. When you consider Carlson’s defiance and his apologists in and out of the Fox News Channel, we’re being fed yet another needless reminder of just how great it is to be a white man.
Michael Arceneaux is the New York Times bestselling author of I Can’t Date Jesus from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Essence, The Guardian, Mic, and more. Follow him on Twitter.