Carlson falsely claims his show is "not partisan" as public feud with Fox News colleagues continues

Carlson's on-air claims contradict what his colleague told Salon about the division between news and opinion at Fox

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published September 26, 2019 7:34PM (EDT)

Andrew Napolitano and Tucker Carlson (Getty Images/Salon)
Andrew Napolitano and Tucker Carlson (Getty Images/Salon)

A feud between the news and opinion sides at Fox has continued to play out live on the airwaves of the infamously conservative-leaning news network. 

The battle broke out Tuesday after the network's legal analyst Andrew Napolitano told its news anchor Shepard Smith that President Donald Trump's own admissions of his interactions with Ukraine constituted "a crime."

That evening, Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson invited the conspiracy theorist Joseph diGenova on his primetime program to refute his own colleague's analysis.

“Attacking our colleague who is here to offer legal assessments on our air, in our work home, is repugnant," Smith retorted on air the following day.

Carlson then invited DiGenova back to his show in a so-called effort to "educate" Napolitano. The opinion host also used the opportunity to make the false claim that unlike the dayside hosts on Fox News, he was "not partisan."

"I have been an U.S. attorney, an independent counsel and investigative counsel on Capitol Hill in the House and the Senate," DiGenova said. "Judge Napolitano has never been a U.S. attorney. He has never been a federal prosecutor. He has never conducted a federal grand jury. I have done all of those things."

"I — if he wants to have an opinion, that's fine. I am not a paid Fox contributor," he continued. "I am a guest of Fox network. I come on when they ask me."

Napolitano, who has described himself as a libertarian, in fact told Salon last year that he had managed to maintain a close friendship with Trump despite frequently criticizing what he felt were unlawful activities from the White House.

“I have not hesitated to write — if you look at my column from two weeks ago — that much of the division in the country is caused by the choice of his words — by him and his demeanor," Napolitano said at the time. "But my friendship persists. I mean, you have to ask him why he still calls me.”

Nonetheless, without calling out Smith by name, Carlson sought to cast his colleague’s show as “not news” but “opinion.”

When you dress up news coverage — when you dress up, rather, partisanship as news coverage and pretend that, you know, your angry political opinions are news, you know, people tune out,” Carlson said on his show to diGenova.

However, Carlson's claim that Smith has conducted himself like an employee of the opinion side of the network rather than the news division directly contradicts what his Fox News colleague, who made a concerted effort to champion the separation between the two groups, told Salon earlier this year.

“When it comes to the news side of FNC, it’s sometimes tough for some people who don’t watch Fox to realize there is an opinion side and a news side of the house," the news anchor Bret Baier told Salon in January. "So when it takes me 592 days to get President Trump to sit for an interview and a little longer for Chris Wallace, some people just paint with a broad brush and lump us all together. The president has appeared frequently on many of our opinion shows."

Salon also spoke with Carlson in January. During that interview, the Fox News pundit said he believed that “we talk too much and think too much about Trump” — and he felt news outlets should refrain from doing so. At the time, Carlson also claimed that the supposed fixation on Trump was “a way to wade past the actual conversations, which are uncomfortable about who is getting rich and who is not.”

“In that script, and on my show more generally, I really try to be like the one place where we don't have to talk about Trump for an hour," Carlson said. "Not because it's like some political decision I've made — it's not— but because I just don't think it's that interesting.”

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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