Tucker Carlson's Jacuzzi defense

Published July 27, 2004 8:50PM (EDT)

Wednesday is John Edwards day at the Democratic convention. Don't count on Tucker Carlson to celebrate.

The bow-tied conservative blowhard has repeatedly dismissed Edwards on "Crossfire" as a lawyer who used to "specialize in Jacuzzi cases." It's a reference to the case in which Edwards represented Valerie Lakey, a little girl from North Carolina whose intestines were sucked out when she got stuck to a drain in a wading pool at a recreation facility. A jury awarded the girl $25 million. After Salon chronicled Carlson's comments -- and the overall GOP war on Edwards as a "personal injury trial lawyer" -- the blog world ranted hard. One dailyKos diarist wished this upon Carlson: "I hope you wake up tomorrow and find yourself in hell, with succubus Ann Coulter sucking your insides out through a straw inserted in your a--, while John Ashcroft belts out 'Nearer my God to Thee' from a nearby Karaoke stage."

We saw Carlson in the halls of the Fleet Center this week, and we asked him about the flak he's taking. He said he hadn't heard about it, and he offered a testy defense.

"My contention is not that the girl wasn't grievously injured or deserves compensation, nor is it that he doesn't have the right to make $8 million off her suffering. My only point is that if you're going to make 7 or 8 or 6 or whatever million dollars off her suffering, don't claim it's an altruistic act," Carlson said.

Right, but isn't calling it a "Jacuzzi case" -- without further explanation -- somehow dismissive of what actually happened? "Are you going to lecture me? Are you going to ask me a question or lecture me? My point is not that it's a wine-and-cheese thing, and I'm not against Jacuzzis. That's not my point at all."

Carlson said calling the Lakey tragedy a "Jacuzzi case" is just a "shorthand" way to ask whether Edwards should really be seen as acting altruistically for the "little people" when he made so much money off the case. "I'm merely saying that, if you're going to make all that money, don't turn around and tell me that you're better than I am," Carlson said.

Does "Jacuzzi case" really convey that point? Couldn't he call it something else? "Maybe I could, but that's an evasion of the point I'm making. You're getting into whether I should call it a 'pool case.' OK, fine, call it a 'pool case.' I'm sorry I called it a 'Jacuzzi case.'"

So you're sorry? You won't call it a "Jacuzzi case" anymore? "No, I'm not sorry I called it a Jacuzzi case. I'm sorry that you're unwilling to answer what I think is a pretty serious question I'm posing."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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