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Tucker Carlson faces new backlash over comments on Kenosha shooter

Tucker Carlson on the set of his Fox News show at the network's studios in New York in October 2018.
Tucker Carlson on the set of his Fox News show at the network’s studios in New York in October 2018.
(Jennifer S. Altman / Los Angeles Times)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is under fire again, this time for incendiary comments he made Wednesday that attempted to rationalize the actions of the 17-year-old man who allegedly killed two protesters and injured one in Kenosha, Wis.

“How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?” Carlson told his viewers on Wednesday during a segment on Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager arrested and charged with murder for the incidents on Tuesday.

The comment ignited major blowback on social media, with critics calling for Carlson’s dismissal. Two current Fox News advertisers — digital asset management company Grayscale and Gabi Insurance — went on Twitter to distance themselves from “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

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“We do not condone his words and will not participate in his show indefinitely,” Gabi Insurance tweeted.

Such controversies and advertiser responses are not new for Carlson, a conservative provocateur who has complete freedom to express his views on his nightly program, one of the most watched in cable news. Advertisers including Walt Disney Co. and T-Mobile have previously pulled their support over his comments on immigration and the Black Lives Matter movement.

A Fox News representative said Thursday that the company’s executives had no comment on Carlson’s remarks about Rittenhouse. But the network did cite the full text of the segment to demonstrate that the host meant to criticize law enforcement, and not justify the actions of a vigilante.

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“Kenosha’s devolved into anarchy because the authorities in charge of the city abandoned it,” Carlson said, according to the transcript. “People in charge from the governor of Wisconsin on down refused to enforce the law. They stood back and they watched Kenosha burn. So are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder?”

Rittenhouse, a white youth who has often praised police, is charged with homicide in what officials described as a vigilante act that resulted in three protesters being shot, two fatally, late Tuesday night. Onlookers alerted police that Rittenhouse — who was underage and not allowed to openly carry a weapon — was roaming the street with a semiautomatic rifle slung around his neck.

Since his arrest Wednesday across the border in Antioch, Ill., details have emerged that Rittenhouse posted to social media in support of the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement. He spoke to reporters before the shooting about being part of a self-styled citizen patrol who came to Kenosha to protect businesses from vandalism.

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The protests followed Sunday’s police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who is currently hospitalized and paralyzed from the waist down, according to his family. In response to a domestic dispute call, police shot Blake in the back seven times outside of his car while his three children watched from the back seat.

The incident added to the growing national tension over policing in Black communities, which has simmered since the death of George Floyd, the unarmed Black man who was killed by Minneapolis officers on May 25, sparked a wave of protests across the country.

Carlson is scheduled to be on the air tonight before coverage of the final night of the Republican National Convention. The network representative said he currently has no plans to address his comments on Rittenhouse or the reaction to them.

The justification of vigilante activity was picked up by other Fox News commentators on Thursday.

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“I have to say on the argument of vigilante justice, when you have no police around to defend businesses and people who are being attacked ... then there is a void that is filled,” said Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace pushed back at Pavlich’s comments during the conversation on the network’s “Outnumbered.”

“Vigilante justice is a completely inappropriate response to the rioting in the streets,” Wallace said. “There is no justification for what happened in Kenosha, and vigilante justice is a crime and it should be punished as a crime.”


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