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Carlson shows two sides to his views on Trump, supporters

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Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s conflicting feelings about former President Trump and his supporters have been on full display this week amid headlines over his controversial Jan. 6 coverage and private emails unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

Carlson has dedicated two nights of his widely watched prime-time opinion program to defending the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan.6, downplaying the incident as “mostly peaceful chaos,” — comments that sparked a widespread political backlash.

But in private, communications brought to light through the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit show Carlson offering scorn of the GOP’s default standard-bearer.

“We are very very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” Carlson wrote in one text to an unidentified Fox employee on Jan. 4, 2021, just two days before the former president’s supporters stormed the Capitol, according to one recent court filing.

In another, he said, “I hate him passionately.”

What emerges is a media personality who wants to seek solidarity with the common man who supports the former president, but who has severe misgivings about the former commander in chief.

Dominion is suing Fox for defamation and is seeking $1.6 billion in damages. The company’s suit alleges that Fox hosts and executives knowingly aired conspiracy theories they did not believe that Dominion had been part of an electoral fraud effort in the 2020 presidential election.

Fox has defended itself on First Amendment grounds, arguing it had a journalistic duty to cover Trump’s newsworthy claims and accused the company of “cherry picking” quotes from top hosts like Carlson to drive high-profile press coverage and strengthen its case. 

“Thanks to today’s filings, Dominion has been caught red handed using more distortions and misinformation in their PR campaign to smear Fox News and trample on free speech and freedom of the press,” the network said in its most recent statement on Dominion’s filings. “We already know they will say and do anything to try to win this case, but to twist and even misattribute quotes to the highest levels of our company is truly beyond the pale.”  

As the suit plays out, Fox is now dealing with a separate controversy surrounding Carlson’s take on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave the Fox News host thousands of hours of tape as an exclusive, which Carlson used on Monday and Tuesday to paint a more peaceful picture of the riot at the Capitol.

There’s a close connection between the conspiracy theories about voter fraud costing Trump the presidential election and the riot at the Capitol.

On the day of Jan. 6, 2021, Trump gave a speech about voter fraud near the White House. His

Supporters then invaded the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election. The count was restarted and concluded hours after the Capitol was cleared.

Messages released in the Dominion lawsuit suggest Carlson did not believe the theories of voter fraud.

“Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,” Carlson wrote to fellow prime-time host Laura Ingraham on Nov. 18, according to another filing. Powell at the time was a pro-Trump lawyer pushing unfounded theories about Dominion.

In other messages, Carlson told Powell: “You keep telling our viewers that millions of votes were changed by the software. I hope you will prove that very soon. You’ve convinced them that Trump will win. If you don’t have conclusive evidence of fraud at that scale, it’s a cruel and reckless thing to keep saying.” 

Yet this week, on his nightly prime-time program, Carlson took a much different tone about the election and Jan. 6.

Many of the people who entered the Capitol that day, Carlson said on his Monday evening show, “believed the election they had just voted in had been unfairly conducted.”

“They were right. In retrospect, it is clear the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy, given the facts that have since emerged about that election,” the host said. “No honest person can deny it. Yet the beneficiaries of that election continue to lie about what is now obvious.” 

Carlson offered no new evidence to support the allegation of fraud.

Carlson, since launching his show on Fox in 2016, has not shied away from knocking Republicans and Trump, though his criticism in public has been less sharp than the private texts.

“Many others are saying that Donald Trump is the reason why Republicans didn’t do as well as they thought they would. That’s a more complicated question,” Carlson said during one of his broadcasts shortly after last fall’s midterm elections. “The truth is we can’t see the entire picture this early … The truth is Trump has always been a mixed blessing politically. The downsides are marbled in with the upsides, but in this case he’s certainly not the single cause of anything.” 

Trump promoted Carlson’s show early this week, which experienced a 20 percent bump in audience on Monday, thanking him for airing additional footage from Jan. 6 and calling the assertions the host was making “irrefutable.” 

Trump opponents in the GOP were critical of Carlson.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that “it was a mistake, in my view, [for] Fox News to depict this in a way completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol” described. 

Carlson appeared to revel in the bipartisan criticism on his show Tuesday, saying members of both parties were engaged in “hysteria” over the release of new footage from Jan. 6 while doubling down on his framing of the attack. 

“They’re all on the same side. So it’s actually not about left and right. It’s not about Republicans and Democrats. Here, you have people with shared interests ….The people who, underneath it all, have everything in common are all aligned against everyone else,” Carlson said. “They kind of outed themselves and showed their membership cards in whatever club this is.” 

“So keep a list,” he told his viewers. “If you want to know who’s actually aligned despite the illusion of partisanship, we found out today.”

Zach Schonfeld contributed. 

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Source : The Hill

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