“Based on his private statements to colleagues, we know that former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson did not believe Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s wild claims about systematic fraud in the 2020 presidential election. “Sidney Powell is lying,” Carlson flatly stated in a November 16, 2020, text message to fellow Fox News host Laura Ingraham that came to light as a result of the defamation lawsuit that Dominion Voting Systems filed against the channel. Ingraham agreed that Powell could not be trusted: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy [Giuliani].”
We also know, again thanks to discovery in the Dominion lawsuit, that Carlson had a low opinion of Donald Trump. In a November 10, 2020, text message, he called Trump’s decision not to attend Biden’s inauguration “hard to believe,” “so destructive,” and “disgusting.” He was more broadly critical in a January 4, 2021, text message to his staff. “There isn’t really an upside to Trump,” he said, describing “the last four years” as “a disaster.” Carlson was eager for a change: “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait. I hate him passionately.” The day after the January 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters, Carlson privately called him “a demonic force” and “a destroyer.”
Carlson, who launched a new show on Twitter after Fox News fired him in April, was singing a different tune.. t the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Why were they so mad?” he said during a giddy, meandering 44-minute speech at the pro-Trump gathering, referring to the Capitol rioters. “Why do they take the bus from Tennessee to go jump up and down in front of the Capitol?” The answer, he said, is that they were frustrated by the patronizing, dismissive response to their legitimate concerns about how the presidential election had been conducted.
Carlson suggested it was laughably implausible that Joe Biden had received “81 million votes”—”15 million more than Barack Obama,” which “seems like a lot”—especially “considering [that] he didn’t campaign and he can’t talk.” But instead of taking that reaction seriously, Carlson said, the political and journalistic establishment told Trump’s supporters to “settle down,” saying, “We have the source code in the voting machine software, and we’ve looked at it, and it’s totally on the level. We’ve double-checked. We wouldn’t let an electronic voting [company] hide their software from us.”
The unfounded claim that deliberately corrupted Dominion software enabled Biden to steal the election, of course, was the central issue in the company’s lawsuit against Fox, which the parties settled for a jaw-dropping $788 million shortly before Carlson got the boot. It was also the claim that Carlson privately dismissed as dangerous nonsense. “It’s unbelievably offensive to me,” he told Ingraham. “Our viewers are good people and they believe it.”
“Carlson, who was transparently craving the adulation of the Trump supporters in West Palm Beach, is reinforcing their conviction that Biden could have won the election only through a vast criminal conspiracy that Carlson publicly called unsubstantiated and privately called a lie. He apparently has swallowed any disgust he once felt at Powell et al.’s deception of “good people.””
“The allegations involving those two election workers—Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea Moss—were “false and unsubstantiated,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, announced.., as his office officially closed a two-year probe into the incident. The investigation had launched at the behest of Georgia state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R–East Cobb) and included the FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The final report includes details of interviews with Freeman, Moss, and other workers present during the ballot counting at State Farm Arena on the night of the 2020 election. Those interviewed provided “a consistent account” of the ballot-counting process, and matched what investigators saw on the video footage. As for that supposedly damning video footage, “There was no evidence of any type of fraud as alleged,” the report concludes, and there was “no evidence was provided to show that Freeman or Moss deviated from” the established process for storing boxes of legitimate ballots.
Additionally, the FBI interviewed the creator of an Instagram account that surfaced in December 2020 and purported to belong to Freeman. In posts to the account, the user (whose name was redacted in the final report) claimed to have participated in ballot fraud, but later admitted to the FBI that the content was fake.”
“also details the extent to which state investigators double-checked the election results. Audits conducted after Election Day “did not identify any issues or discrepancies to suggest fake or fraudulent ballots were scanned and counted in the 2020 General Election results,” and a subsequent recount requested by Trump’s campaign “also did not identify any discrepancies to suggest fraudulent ballots were introduced and counted in the tabulation process.””
“Trump, meanwhile, continues to push the claim that the election was stolen.”
“I have worked in English language media even longer than Carlson has, and I “understand” nothing like the totalizing constraints he describes, nor would a significant percentage of the people I have worked with. The editorial direction (not quite a set of “limits”) at an opinion magazine such as Reason, for example, tends to be tethered to a political/ideological/philosophical point of view, with content mutually understood by employer and employee alike to fit within a publicly stated organizational mission, and yet, I have for two decades felt perfectly free to explore out loud some of my least libertarian notions (including one, ironically enough, that was influenced directly by Tucker Carlson).
Reason may be on the tolerant extreme of the open-debate spectrum, but I was similarly untroubled by the specter of editorial no-fly zones at the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper that hired me after I had written a series of “Outside the Tent” columns criticizing…the Los Angeles Times. (That institutional courage to solicit internal criticism was not shared by Carlson at his own The Daily Caller: Blogger Mickey Kaus resigned from the conservative publication in 2015 after a post of his critical of Fox News was deleted on the grounds that, in Carlson’s words, as quoted by Kaus: “We can’t trash Fox on the site. I work there.”)
As the Caller example indicates, the “rule of what you can’t say” is often self-imposed, for reasons that can have more to do with narrow careerism than some broader globalist plot. As such, breaking free from presumed shackles is often as easy as just blurting out the allegedly verboten thing—not unlike Tucker Carlson’s often interesting, often exasperating television program these past seven years.
But the populist trick and conceit, one that Carlson is already ratcheting up in his new Twitter phase, is to not merely say the forbidden truth but to do so while, improbably enough, claiming that you cannot do so.”
“Thirty years ago, the main conservative critique of the mainstream media was that it was biased. Twenty or so years ago, bias had escalated into pursuing an active agenda. Now, that agenda has managed to become an all-encompassing yet secretive transpartisan snow job.
“The undeniably big topics, the ones that will define our future, get virtually no discussion at all,” Carlson postulated in his first Twitter video after being fired. “War, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, corporate power, natural resources. When was the last time you heard a legitimate debate about any of those issues? It’s been a long time. Debates like that are not permitted in American media. Both political parties, and their donors, have reached consensus about what benefits them, and they actively collude to shut down any conversation about it. Suddenly the United States looks very much like a one-party state.”
This seems like a good place to point out that the May issue of Reason includes debates about war, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, and so forth. And I’m guessing that anyone who truly believes there are no meaningful differences between the two main political parties in the U.S. did not have children attending public school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carlson’s fans, including some (masochistic?) libertarians, surely do not care that his hyperbole crosses so frequently into fantasia; what matters is that he (again, like Trump) has the right enemies—the media, the wokes, the Pentagon, Big Pharma. If the journalism profession is going to go on a “moral clarity” bender of ever-escalating pejoratives for conservatives, aggressive “deplatforming” even of elected Republicans, and enthusiastic collusion with the censorious state, what’s wrong with a little overstatement from a commentator who rightly pushes back?
Well, once you start taking seriously the idea that some puppet master or single-minded Borg is inflicting intentional wickedness on Everyman for personal profit, then all intellectual bets are off. Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat offered this ideological shorthand soon after Carlson was fired: “For any idea with an establishment imprimatur, absolute suspicion; for any outsider or skeptic, sympathy and trust. It didn’t have to be political or contemporary, either. The U.F.O. mystery? He was there for it. The Kennedy assassination and the C.I.A.? He had questions.”
Carlson these days is frequently going there, whether in sympathetic interviews with the similarly conspiratorial Robert Kennedy Jr., or just musing aloud about Building 7, all while striking the classic populist pose of betraying his class interest by spilling the insidery beans.”
“Controlling the population is the media’s “only purpose,” Carlson continued. “They’re not here to inform you….Even on the big things that really matter, like the economy and the war and COVID, things that really matter and will affect you—no, their job is not to inform you. They’re working for the small group of people who actually run the world. They’re their servants, they’re the Praetorian Guard. And we should treat them with maximum contempt, because they have earned it.”
Carlson may not want to control the population, but what he offers as a replacement sounds a lot like passive consumption of a commiserative message…from Tucker Carlson. “Where can you still find Americans saying true things?” he asked in his first post-show Twitter video. “There aren’t many places left, but there are some, and that’s enough. As long as you can hear the words, there is hope.”
And now, having earned scores of millions of dollars from corporate media, Carlson is ready to burn it all down from the outside.
“The gatekeepers are still in charge,” he lamented in his video Tuesday. “We think that’s a bad system. We know exactly how it works, and we’re sick of it….There aren’t many platforms left that allow free speech. The last big one remaining in the world, the only one, is Twitter.””
“The embarrassment angle is the easiest to dismiss: Remember all those headlines, generated by damning admissions and documents from the likes of Tucker Carlson and Rupert Murdoch, that showed how Fox’s on-air talent and their managers knew they were peddling untruths to their audience about the supposed 2020 election fraud? You probably read those because you consume Actual News. (And, let’s be clear: If you’d thought about this at all, you weren’t surprised to see the deep cynicism that powers Fox spelled out in writing.)
But on Fox, the lawsuit was barely covered at all, and Fox’s media correspondent even said he was prevented from reporting on it. That’s not surprising, given the channel’s consistent commitment to presenting alternative facts, a practice which long predated the Trump era.
You may recall that in an effort to stave off lawsuits like the one Dominion filed, Fox grudgingly offered some non-apology clarifications in late 2020, then went right back to making things up. A few months later, they were providing cover for the January 6 rioters.”
“Yes, the $787.5 million settlement is much less than the $1.6 billion the company initially asked for in damages. But it is a giant windfall for the small company and its private equity owners. It would be crazy not to take a deal like that, and let media critics worry about what happens to Fox.
And yes, $787.5 million is a lot of money, even for a big company like Fox: It represents about 20 percent of Fox’s $4 billion in cash, which means it could impact Fox’s ability to buy things or pay out dividends to its shareholders. On the other hand, Fox posted profits of $321 million in the last three months of 2022, which means it can build back up its cash pile pretty quickly.
That seems to be Wall Street’s take: 21st Century Fox stock opened down a few points the day after the settlement was announced, but as of this writing it has almost completely rebounded; the company remains worth about $17.5 billion.
In other words: Even after Fox agreed to pay nearly $788 million in a settlement (on top of the legal fees it has already spent), investors have decided the payout will have no impact on Fox’s operations.”
“The most plausible threat to Fox News is the same threat facing every TV network in 2023: that its viewership erodes as TV viewers migrate to the internet. But Fox’s viewers, like other cable TV news operations, skew old, and that means they’re the ones least likely to give up their cable boxes. They’re also incredibly loyal, which is why Fox can charge cable TV operators — who pass the fees on to you, if you’re paying for cable TV — more money than anyone else in TV, with the exception of sports.
So until that audience, along with the revenue and clout it generates for its owner, dwindles, don’t expect Fox to budge at all.”
“the core violation here is, basically, that the Trump Organization logged hush money repayments improperly. The more small-scale charges like this after a long investigation seem, the more they suggest prosecutors landed on them because they tried to make a bigger case that didn’t pan out.
Does it resemble previous prosecutions? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Business records charges are common in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The New York Times called this charge “the bread and butter” of the office’s white-collar practice, pointing out that during Bragg’s tenure of a little over a year, 29 individuals and companies were charged with such offenses before Trump. “The charge of creating false financial records is constantly brought,” Agnifilo and Eisen write.
Still, there is some dispute about how the charge is being applied in this case. Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman points out that these false records were just internal company documents, and that Bragg has not yet specifically alleged they were used to deceive anyone. Shugerman asked whether there’s ever been a conviction in such a case. Various former prosecutors in the Manhattan DA’s office have argued that they can and did file such charges based on internal documents, but it’s unclear whether the legality of that theory has been directly tested in court.”
“he lied. I want to be clear about what I mean by that. He knew what he was saying was not true. He took judgements from the intelligence community that were very uncertain, judgements that we put out there with very clear caveats — “we believe Iraq is continuing its nuclear program, but we have a low degree of certainty, blah blah blah” — he would just come out and state those things as fact. He did this over and over again. Just like Cheney saying that Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague, as a fact. When the truth was, there was a great deal of doubt about it. It was our job at CIA to stand fast, to keep those ridiculous notions under control. And we tried. But there was only so much we could do. The White House wanted a justification for the invasion.”
” “people say that Bush was looking to justify the invasion of Iraq. He wasn’t. What he was looking for is something different — selling points. The decision to invade had already been made, and there was not any intelligence that was going to change their opinion. So this was not an effort to justify the war. It was an effort to sell the war publicly. That’s an important distinction. The Bush administration was very explicit about their Iraq obsession almost immediately when they took power. ”
” When nobody knows what the president or vice president knew, or when they knew it, you get a situation where Bush can stand up and say, “Well, there were no WMDs, but we were given false information.” OK, no you weren’t. The trench view is no you weren’t. You demanded faulty intelligence, because you wanted only intelligence that was going to support this big extravaganza of invasion of Iraq, and you got it.”