Tucker Carlson, Rupert Murdoch and Fox News: A network of treason, sedition and lies

The more we learn about Fox News, Jan. 6 and Donald Trump, the worse it gets. There must be consequences

By Brian Karem


Published March 9, 2023 9:41AM (EST)

Advertisements featuring Fox News personalities, including Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, adorn the front of the network's headquarters building in New York. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Advertisements featuring Fox News personalities, including Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, adorn the front of the network's headquarters building in New York. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem writes a weekly column for Salon.

Some of us still don't get it: Rupert Murdoch, Tucker Carlson and Fox News are an existential threat to the United States.

Let us recap. Four Americans recently crossed the border  into northern Mexico for a weekend of fun and cosmetic surgery.

The four travelers from South Carolina had barely made it to the city of Matamoros, where one of them, a mother of six, planned to get a "tummy tuck," when members of a Mexican drug cartel allegedly mistook them for Haitian drug dealers, kidnapped them and killed two of them. The abduction — a prominent story on most networks, including Fox News — was blamed on Joe Biden's policies toward Mexico. In response, the Mexican government told the U.S. it could handle its internal problems.

In my professional career, which includes years covering the border, I've never seen Mexico adequately handle its internal problems. Republicans and Fox viewers are intent on blaming Biden, even claiming that a record seizure of fentanyl on the southern U.S. border is somehow indicative of the current administration's policy failures.

The facts make clear that this is a problem at least 40 years in the making. Fox expresses selective outrage against Biden and his policies while ignoring the outrageous behavior of others the network supports. (More on that in a moment.)

In case anyone has forgotten, Enrique "Kiki" Camarena was a DEA agent kidnapped and murdered by the Mexican drug cartels. He wasn't a tourist. He was an agent of the U.S. government. In 1984 he provided information that led to a raid on a pot farm worth more than a billion dollars. The following February he was kidnapped by corrupt Mexican government officials and handed over to the drug dealers. He was tortured for 30 hours before being brutally murdered. He was found with a hole punched into his skull by a piece of rebar, as well as several broken ribs.

Our country has never adequately addressed the problems on the Mexican border, and both major political parties play political football with the issue. Our news networks, especially Fox, have never adequately covered the issue, further muddying the waters. It is one of the key signs of our dysfunction and division. Fox News, as one of the largest and most watched networks, shoulders a lot of responsibility for all this disinformation.

As Chris Rock pointed out in his live-streamed Netflix comedy special last week (full disclosure: I'm paid zero dollars to mention Netflix), we remain a divided nation.

I recently found a place, however, where the far right and the extreme left could come together without equivocation. It was at a theater in North Hollywood last week during a screening of "Ithaka," the new documentary about Julian Assange's father, and his attempts to free his son. 

Toward the end of the documentary, Joe Biden was seen speaking about democracy at his inauguration. The crowd in the theater, which included many local members of the ACLU (which hosted the event and moderated the discussion afterward with Assange's father and brother) went wild as Biden spoke.

When I say "went wild," I don't mean they were cheering.

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There were catcalls and boos, though I also heard a few shouts of "You suck!" and "You're the worst president ever!" from the self-described progressive viewers. One old white guy, who looked like a skinny Santa Claus with a waxed mustache in a T-shirt and blue jeans, actually screamed at Biden, "Can't you just die already?"

I blinked. For a minute I thought I was at a Trump rally or watching a Tucker Carlson special.

But that wasn't the only place where I've seen the right and left converge recently. In Baltimore, Chris Rock's live audience laughed and applauded as he attacked "woke" business culture. That got him a favorable mention on a Fox News segment — the same Fox News that many of Rock's fans avoid. I blinked again. For a minute as I watched Fox, I thought I was watching MSNBC. Fox aired that clip, of course,  because it fit with the corporate attitude toward "woke" culture.

The divisiveness in this country is punctuated by the fact that we are too loud, too proud, too elusive and too hyperbolic — while also being massively ignorant and hypocritical.

That ought to be Fox's new slogan: Loud, proud, hyperbolic, hypocritical and ignorant. Fox News: It's not what you need. It is what you want.

The defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems has already exposed a lot of Fox's hypocrisy, including Tucker Carlson's lack of moral fiber, common sense or decency. "We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights," Carlson texted a colleague on Jan. 4, 2021. "I truly can't wait." He added: "I hate him passionately." 

Where was Carlson's public outrage? He didn't have any. 

Tucker Carlson privately says he hates Trump "passionately," but he's still trying to whitewash the Jan. 6 insurrection, and claim the Capitol Police acted as "tour guides."

It was Carlson who whitewashed the Jan. 6 insurrection this week after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy turned over thousands of hours of video to the feckless fountain of fear and disinformation. Carlson tried to turn the insurrection into a Disney ride or a winter stroll  through the Capitol. In Rock's  standup routine, he quipped that angry white people were trying to overturn a government run by angry white people: "Who do they want out? Us!". 

That's not far from the truth, and Carlson took great pride in trying to dial that back, claiming that the cops happily acted as "tour guides" for a peaceful protest on that fateful day. He did this despite whatever his private concerns about Trump may be. 

Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger pointed out in an internal memo this week — read at roll call meetings and obtained by just about every media organization on earth — that Carlson had made "outrageous and false" allegations and "cherry-picked" calmer moments to create a false narrative. "Truth and justice are on our side," Manger wrote.

While the chief wouldn't go on the record outside of his memo, those inside the Capitol Police I spoke with this week said it was  a "reassuring memo" that showed the chief understood reality, and that it offered "the support we need to feel like we're appreciated doing our job."

This whole sorry episode is an example of the way disinformation undermines reality: It makes people disheartened by sowing fear and hate and encourages the abandonment of hope while pushing a false narrative. 

That's where Carlson has been most effective and why he must be held accountable. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell referenced that when he said that "the chief of the Capitol Police, in my view, correctly describes what most of us witnessed firsthand on Jan. 6." 

That's a badly needed slap in the face to Carlson, Murdoch and Fox. While McConnell wouldn't directly criticize McCarthy, it was clear McConnell wasn't willing to drink as much Kool Aid as either the speaker of the House or the suits at Fox. And another clear indication that the right and the left can sometimes find issues where they agree.

For those of us who witnessed the events on Jan. 6, it was also refreshing. I get tired of trying to explain to people what I saw and how that has nothing to do with politics. What I saw is merely what I saw. No one will ever convince me the violence I witnessed didn't happen. People who peacefully tour the Capitol use the stairs. They don't climb the walls. The question is how we deal with those like Carlson and the suits at Fox who clearly don't care about reality, and only care about feeding the frenzy and raking in the cash.

Part of that answer came in another recently filed lawsuit against Fox Corp., the parent company of the TV network, along with its chairman, Rupert Murdoch. This suit is about Fox sharing unreleased Biden campaign ads with people close to Trump, including Jared Kushner. The suit alleges that Fox made an illegal contribution to Trump's PAC by providing the ad material. It was filed with the FEC by Media Matters, a progressive watchdog group, which seeks the maximum fine allowable for violations of campaign contribution laws as well as "appropriate remedial action" against Fox, Murdoch and Trump's Make America Great Again PAC.

Let's hope these recent actions against Fox are the first signs that justice will be served to a corporation that has operated, at least since the Clinton era, as a bullshit factory (thanks to Jim Acosta for that description), churning out misinformation and made-up scandals, entirely in the pursuit of profit. Don't take my word for it: Read the texts from Carlson, Hannity and others.

I believe Tucker Carlson is one of the most notorious traitors to the United States — not to mention common sense — since the days of Joe McCarthy.

It takes a soulless corporation headed by a soulless individual to hire soulless and heartless people who care far more about their self-interest than about facts and honesty. That's Fox. That's the problem. It is exacerbated by politicians like McCarthy — a whore, a cuckold and a pimp all at the same time — who spread the Fox feces with impunity and help feed it with preferential treatment.

Finally, it is precisely that kind of disinformation that leads to the political ascent of people like Donald Trump, who said at CPAC last week, "I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution."

Vengeance is mine, saith the lord, and as we learned in Matthew 7:15, you have to worry about those who appear outwardly as sheep but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Donald Trump is a false prophet. 

Fox is his mouthpiece.

When we consider progressives booing Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell choosing to side with reality and Fox giving favorable coverage to Chris Rock, however fleeting, that shows us there are places and times where even the extremes can meet.

I hesitate to call it hope; watching anyone cheer for the death of a president is hardly hopeful. But it's still true that we still have far more in common than our differences seem to indicate.

I know people who are more concerned about a civil war or a "national divorce" than at any time in my life. 

Tucker Carlson is responsible for a great deal of this divisiveness. I believe he is one of the most notorious traitors to the United States and to common sense since "Tail Gunner Joe" McCarthy (who got that nickname by firing at unarmed coconut trees in World War II). Thinking about Tucker Carlson and the late senator from Wisconsin, I am reminded of Edward R. Murrow's statements at the end of "See It Now" on CBS in the 1950s:

"His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind. ... We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men."

Today we must squarely face those who would sow the seeds of fear, and who seek to exploit "Selective Outrage," to borrow the title of Rock's special, in order to manipulate us.

For that sin, Fox News, Rupert Murdoch and Tucker Carlson should be held accountable.

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

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Commentary Fox News Media Republicans Rupert Murdoch Tucker Carlson