Daily Caller co-founders Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel wrote an op-ed for their conservative outlet attacking Democrats for the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s efforts to urge Ukraine to investigate his potential 2020 political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. In the opening sentences of their October 3 piece, they offered a surprising take:
Donald Trump should not have been on the phone with a foreign head of state encouraging another country to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden. Some Republicans are trying, but there’s no way to spin this as a good idea.
The rest of the article argued that Trump’s action was not an impeachable offense especially because there was no quid pro quo. But just the opening sentences of the piece caught the eye of some in the media desperate to find a voice of reason from Fox News. CNN’s Oliver Darcy wrote on Twitter that “the condemnation of the call is still a break from a lot of conservative media.” Politico’s Jack Shafer asked if this is “Tucker Carlson’s exit strategy.” Even the conservative outlet Washington Examiner hyped the Carlson quote.
But CNN’s John Berman pointed out on the October 7 edition of New Day that the piece is a “plea” to Republicans to stick to this strategy: say that though Trump was wrong, the phone call doesn’t warrant an impeachment.
On the same episode, CNN Political Director David Chalian referred to a few Republicans who have criticized Trump for the call but are not on board with impeachment as going down “the Tucker Carlson route.”
Sure enough, Carlson and Patel’s piece is almost a roadmap to Republicans on how to save Trump from impeachment. It argues that “the left” has been trying to impeach Trump since he was inaugurated, that the whistleblower -- and the entire effort -- is politically motivated, and that House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) started the inquiry process by lying.
These defenses -- spin, some might call them -- follow a pattern of misdirection that Carlson has long used to play both sides of the media and cautiously echoes the fiercer rhetoric Carlson has been spewing on his nightly show since the scandal and subsequent impeachment inquiry began. Carlson has attacked Democrats as “unhinged” for showing concern about the scandal, citing two-year-old prank calls to Schiff; called Schiff “demonstrably mentally ill”; mocked anyone who called the scandal a national security issue; criticized the unknown intelligence community whistleblower as politically motivated; and even attacked the media for covering the impeachment story at all.
Journalists would be wise to remember Carlson has a prime-time show on Fox where he speaks for an hour every weeknight. His seemingly more moderate piece and the unhinged comments he makes on his nightly show are all in the service of the same overall goal: to defend Trump at all cost.