Opinion | Buffalo shooting suspect’s racist views align with Tucker Carlson’s diatribes

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Fox News host Tucker Carlson said something revealing on a podcast last fall: “I lie if I’m cornered or something. I bind.”

Is he feeling cornered now? There are conceptual overlaps between some of Carlson’s on-air themes and a 180-page screed allegedly authored by Payton S. Gendron, the 18-year-old suspect in the shootings at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday that killed 10 people and injured three others . Eleven of the 13 shots were Black.

Carlson’s response? Deflection and omission.

Tucker Carlson says Buffalo suspect’s alleged screed ‘not really political’

After briefing his viewers Monday night on the Buffalo massacre, Carlson dug into the document. “It’s definitely racist, bitterly so. Gendron reduces people to their skin color. That’s the essence of racism, and it is immoral,” said Carlson. “But what he wrote does not add up to a manifesto. It is not a blueprint for new extremist political movement, much less the potential inspiration for a racist revolution. … The document is not recognizably left-wing or right-wing, it’s not really political at all. The document is crazy.”

“He writes like the mental patient he is — disjointed, irrational, paranoid,” Carlson said.

From there, the host pivoted into denunciations of Democrats’ reactions to the tragedy. “Within minutes of Saturday’s shooting before all of the bodies of those 10 murdered Americans had even been identified by their loved ones, professional Democrats had begun a coordinated campaign to blame those murders on their political opponents,” he railed.

And with that, Carlson ducked his own potential link to the Buffalo shooting. Many quickly noted thematic overlaps in the screed with the sort of hateful comments that Carlson routinely broadcasts in his weeknight 8 pm slot. First among them is the “great replacement theory,” or the idea that powerful forces in the United States — typically framed elites or liberals — are scheming to replace the White population with immigrants and other people of color.

A New York Times analysis in April found that in more than 400 episodes of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” — more than a year of broadcasts over the nearly six-year run of the show — the host has “amplified the idea that a cabal of elites want to force demographic change through immigration.” The document linked to the shooting suspect also expresses an obsession with replacement: “Due to the threat of ethnic replacement and our own horribly low birth rates, we do not have 150 years or even 50 years to achieve positions of power,” it says, among many other references to the conspiracy theory.

Carlson didn’t address these commonalities on Monday, instead focusing on the suspect’s mental state. In fairness to the host, the document does not say its writer watched “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and iterations of the great replacement theory abound on racist sites. The writer got his “current beliefs” off the Internet, the document says.

On his Tuesday night show, Carlson pretended to address the issue at hand. “You’ve heard a lot about the ‘great replacement’ theory recently. It’s everywhere in the last two days, and we’re still not sure exactly what it is,” said Carlson. Uncertainty notwithstanding, Carlson attempted to flip the script, slamming Democrats for having a politically motivated immigration policy. To prove the point, he quoted several Democrats, including Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. He reached back to a 2018 campaign event at which she said: “The blue wave is African American. It’s White, it’s Latino, it’s Asian Pacific Islander.” She also said: “It is made up of those who’ve been told that they are not worthy of being here. It is understood of those who are documented and undocumented.”

Only on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” is a multiracial coalition a sinister thing.

Diversity, of course, is a dirty word for Carlson, as he has proclaimed time and again on his show. The Buffalo suspect appears to have agreed with the Fox News host on this point — so much so that his tract veers toward intellectual appropriation. The online document says:

Why is diversity said to be our greatest strength? Does anyone even ask why? It is spoken like a mantra and repeated ad infinitum “diversity is our greatest strength, diversity is our greatest strength, diversity is our greatest strength…”. Said throughout the media, spoken by politicians, educators and celebrities. But no one ever seems to give a reason why.

Here’s Carlson on the same topic in September 2018:

“How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?”

Although Carlson’s comments sparked a backlash at the time, he retreated not an inch on the following show, arguing that the doctrine was accepted as an article of faith. “What’s striking is that nobody has ever bothered to explain exactly how” diversity is our greatest strength, he said.

That’s false, as this blog pointed out. Rudy Giuliani, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are among the national figures who’ve uttered eloquent affirmations of diversity’s importance.

Along with the replacement-theory echo, the strikingly similar passages on diversity have triggered criticism and commentary. Citing the New York Times analysis, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) said on Monday, “This is a poison being spread by one of the largest news organizations in our country.” Carlson called Schumer a “coward” on Tuesday night for declining an invitation to appear on his show.

Misdirection, dishonesty and pseudo-intellectual froth are common elements to every Carlson episode, though they’re all a bit more transparent, and extreme, in the aftermath of Buffalo. What do you say, after all, when your views line up with the alleged scribblings of a racist mass shooter? We asked Carlson how he reacted upon seeing the overlaps. We’ll update this with any response.

In the nearly six years since Carlson’s prime-time Fox News program launched, there has been debate about the copious media coverage of his rhetorical atrocities. Why feed the troll? Why provide oxygen to the sort of outrage that Fox News has used to boost its own ratings?

Buffalo is why. It’s irrelevant whether the shooter derived his opinions from Carlson’s show. What matters is that these views — the fear of “replacement” and contempt for diversity — are expressions of irrational anger prone to spill into violence. And Carlson uses all of his guidance to avoid that topic.

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