A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Fox’s Tucker Carlson is being roundly criticized for claiming that America’s white supremacy problem “is a hoax.”
It’s “just like the Russia hoax,” he told his viewers on Tuesday night. “It’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power.”
This nonsensical claim came after several days of scrutiny of the El Paso suspect’s racist views and the forces that may have radicalized him. News outlets have pointed out that some of the anti-immigrant “invasion” language in the manifesto published online shortly before the attack mirrors what is frequently heard on far-right-wing talk shows and websites. And many prominent politicians have warned about the growing threat of white nationalist violence.
Carlson responded in a monologue on Tuesday night. He asserted that “the whole thing is a lie.” And he downplayed the threat by saying it’s “actually not a real problem in America. The combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country would be able to fit inside a college football stadium.”
But men like the suspect in El Paso aren’t “members” of an “organization.”
Carlson’s comments sparked widespread condemnation, including from one of his own colleagues, liberal Fox News contributor Mo Elleithee. He tweeted on Wednesday morning, “You know who else believes white supremacy is not a real problem? White supremacists.”
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg, knowing President Trump is a fan of Carlson’s show, tweeted that “if Trump apes these talking points, it’ll be awful for the country and devastating for Trump’s presidency.”
On white supremacy, facts first: An audit by the Anti-Defamation League found white supremacist murders in the US “more than doubled in 2017,” with far-right extremist groups and white supremacists “responsible for 59% of all extremist-related fatalities in the US in 2017.” They were responsible for 20% of these fatalities the year before.
And from the Charleston church massacre through the killing of a protester in Charlottesville and the shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway and most recently El Paso , far-right extremists are responsible for – or suspected of - most of the ideological killings in America in the last 10 years, according to data from the ADL, which tracks extremist activity.
White supremacists are also looking to heavily recruit new members. White Supremacist groups posted more propaganda on college campuses for the third year in a row as they tried to get new young members on board, according to the ADL.
The exact numbers of groups, attacks, and activities are not as specifically known because of a lack of cohesiveness, transparency and data surrounding these types of groups at a federal level.
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned in July, before the El Paso attack, that domestic terrorism threats are on the rise. He said the FBI takes white supremacist hate crimes “extremely seriously.”
There is also a long, long history of white supremacy, dating back to the country’s founding. Carlson knows all of this, but that hasn’t stopped him from parroting the talking points favored by white nationalists. His punditry on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” frequently focuses on immigration — both legal and illegal — and he depicts immigrants as dangerous criminals. He rejects multiculturalism and relays to his audience that it is a threat to “Western civilization.”
“White supremacy is the ideology that has killed more Americans than any other terroristic ideology in the history of America,” Washington Post reporter and CNN contributor Wesley Lowery said on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources.”
In the wake of the El Paso massacre, it is getting newfound attention.
The Los Angeles Times has an editorial in Wednesday’s paper titled, “As the El Paso massacre showed once again, white supremacy is the poison in our well.”
The Fox factor
At the same time, over on MSNBC, “host Chris Hayes suggested there is ‘no distance’ between the anti-immigration rhetoric published in the El Paso shooter’s racist manifesto and commentary uttered by Fox News opinion hosts like Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Brian Kilmeade,” Mediaite’s Caleb Ecarma wrote.
We made a similar point on “CNN Tonight” on Monday, and I said there’s no evidence that the suspect watched Fox’s “invasion” and “illegals” coverage, but millions of viewers DO watch it every day…
A false equivalence
Oliver Darcy emails: Since the Dayton shooter’s extreme left-wing Twitter account came to light, there have been many comparisons between him and the suspected El Paso terrorist. A lot of Q’s have been asked about why news organizations are highlighting the alt-right politics of the suspected El Paso gunman, while spending relatively little time talking about the left-wing views of the Dayton killer.
But it’s not as cut and dried as some people are making it seem. There is a key difference between the two cases: The El Paso shooter left behind an online post explaining that he was committing his act of terror because of his racist politics. In the Dayton case, police say there’s no indication so far that the shooter’s politics were a factor. That is a crucial distinction.