Tucker Carlson’s recent travails with the media remind me of the great M. Stanton Evans’ Solomonic judgment regarding President Richard Nixon. Said Stan: “I never liked Richard Nixon … until Watergate.” Then he saw the 37th president in a different light. Well, I did not like Tucker very much until he got fired by Rupert Murdoch. Then, as everyone among the bien-pensants piled on, even the odious Geraldo Rivera, I saw Tucker in a different light. He was not as bad as I had thought. In fact, he was pretty good.
He initially applied for a job at The American Spectator when he was fresh out of college, sometime in the early 1990s. Wlady Pleszczynski, then our managing editor, did not think Tucker had made the grade yet. Maybe in a year, but not when he came to us at first. We published his father, who had genuine literary talent, but not Tucker, not then. He was still a little green.
Unfortunately, Tucker in those days had a habit of bearing grudges. He was given the opportunity to kiss up to the left, and he took it. In the course of groveling to the left, he publicly dismissed the Spectator as a “wingnut” publication. I can hear him now cracking his joke about all the wingnuts at The American Spectator and accompanying his bon mot with his trademark cackle. It was about this time that Tucker, while freeloading at an American Spectator dinner, poured a glass of Champagne from a second-floor balcony on the head of Grover Norquist. In those days he would do things like that. He had a problem with strong drink. Grover paid him no mind.
I would see him then in the green room of various network television shows. I had a name for his kind of conservative. There were the neoconservatives. There were the paleo-conservatives. And there was Tucker. I called him the mini-conservative, sporting his bow tie and other Ivy League paraphernalia. Did he wear saddle shoes? Eventually he discarded the bow tie. I do not know what happened to the saddle shoes.
As I remember, Tucker kept climbing ever upward until he got to Fox News and really hit his stride. In recent years he actually was very, very good. Frankly, I worried about him. I cannot say I watched him regularly, but when I did watch him he often seemed poised, informed, interesting, and well prepared. He was the star of cable news. Then, kaboom, it happened. Someone at Fox — was it Rupert or Lachlan or both — lowered the boom. It has happened before with the likes of Glenn Beck or Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly. They were all people in top form and they are all gone now.
Somehow the people at Fox News laid hands on a text message written by Tucker that the management deemed racist and imprudent. First came the racial aspect of the message. Tucker was commenting on a film that portrayed an “Antifa kid” being set upon by three — at least — pro-Trump thugs. All the people involved were presumably White. At any rate, Tucker commented to one of his producers on the attack, saying, “It’s not how white men fight.” That is all that was said on the matter of race. It was a childish commentary. It was also, I presume, an ignorant commentary — though it has been a long time since I got into a fight. But it is not a racial comment. For it to be reflective of a racist mentality I would have to have more evidence.
Then came the moral side of Tucker’s remarks. He said, “I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it,” he wrote.
“Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me, I’m becoming something I don’t want to be.” And he went on to write, “Somebody probably loves this kid and would be crushed if he was killed.” That does not sound like a racist to me.
I hope Tucker will be given another chance. I happen to know that when the man who built Fox News, Roger Ailes, was shown the door, only one person on the Fox team ever called wishing Roger a merry Christmas: Tucker Carlson.
Glory to Ukraine!
• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His memoirs, “How Do We Get Out of Here: Half a Century of Laughter and Mayhem at The American Spectator — From Bobby Kennedy to Donald J. Trump,” will be published by Post Hill Press in September and can be ordered online now from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.