Last month, I texted Tucker Carlson to ask him a question that was on my mind: “Did you get vaccinated?”
“When was the last time you had sex with your wife and in what position?” he replied. “We can trade intimate details.”
Then we argued back and forth about vaccines, and he ended the conversation with a friendly invitation to return to his show. “Always a good time.”
One question you may be asking, if you are a New York Times reader, is: Why are you exchanging texts with Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host who recently described the media at large as “cringing animals who are not worthy of respect”?
And if you are a Tucker Carlson viewer, you may also be asking: How can the guy who tells you every night that the media is lying be texting with the enemy?
The answer is one of Washington’s open secrets. Mr. Carlson, a proud traitor to the elite political class, spends his time when he’s not denouncing the liberal media trading gossip with them. He’s the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about Donald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself). I won’t talk here about any off-the-record conversations I may have had with him. But 16 other journalists (none from The Times; it would put my colleagues in a weird position if I asked them) told me on background that he has been, as three of them put it, “a great source.”
“In Trump’s Washington, Tucker Carlson is a primary supersecret source,” the media writer and Trump chronicler Michael Wolff writes in his forthcoming collection of essays, “Too Famous.” Mr. Wolff, who thanked Mr. Carlson in the acknowledgments of his 2018 book, “Fire and Fury,” explained, “I know this because I know what he has told me, and I can track his exquisite, too-good-not-to-be-true gossip through unsourced reports and as it often emerges into accepted wisdom.”
Mr. Carlson was particularly well positioned to be a source about the Trump administration. His Fox platform, where in May he had a nightly average of three million viewers, made him someone who mattered to Mr. Trump, a close follower of television ratings. He has a former reporter’s eye for detail and anecdote, and his observations can be detected in the lurid tales of Mr. Trump’s chaotic court and Fox’s own tumultuous internal politics.
A coming book by the Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” includes a moment in which Mr. Carlson sends Mr. Trump’s calls to voice mail after the first presidential debate last fall, when he was criticized for repeatedly interrupting Joe Biden. When Mr. Trump finally reaches the Fox host, the book describes, verbatim, an exchange between the two men that casts Mr. Carlson in a flattering light. (“Everyone says I did a good job,” Mr. Trump tells Mr. Carlson. “I don’t know who told you that was good,” Mr. Carlson says. “It was not good.”) Mr. Bender declined to comment on the sourcing that allowed him to so precisely reconstruct a conversation between the two men.
And Brian Stelter, the host of the CNN program “Reliable Sources,” told me that “you can see Tucker’s fingerprints all over the hardcover” edition of his 2020 book “Hoax,” which excoriates Fox News for amplifying Mr. Trump’s falsehoods. He said that he “couldn’t stomach” talking to Mr. Carlson, who has grown ever more hard-line, for the updated paperback version that was just released.
Mr. Carlson was born to a world of insiders and story shapers, and makes no secret of it. His father was a reporter in Los Angeles and San Diego before Ronald Reagan appointed him director of the Voice of America, and the son grew up with a generation of elite Washington journalists. “I’ve always lived around people who are wielding authority, around the ruling class,” he said in a 2018 interview. A former New York Observer media writer, Sridhar Pappu, recalled to me that when he first traveled to Washington to cover the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in the early 2000s, it was Mr. Carlson who asked him, “Do you have an invitation to Tammy’s?” referring to the annual brunch for media insiders co-hosted by Tammy Haddad, the well-connected former MSNBC producer.
Mr. Carlson has said he turned against his fellow elites after the 2008 financial crisis. His political shift also transformed his long journeyman’s career as a magazine writer and MSNBC conservative, and made him Fox’s leading tribune of the pro-Trump masses.
But his decades of Washington relationships have produced a tiresome conversation among Mr. Carlson’s old friends about what he really stands for, whether he’s really a racist or whether he cynically plays one on TV. Who knows, and what does it matter anyway? Mr. Carlson’s recent fixations include suggesting that the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was, in fact, a provocation staged by the F.B.I. and that making children wear masks is abuse. The Anti-Defamation League recently called for him to be fired from Fox News for warning that Democrats are plotting to “replace” the current electorate with “more obedient voters, from the third world.” The Pentagon rebuked him for a sexist riff on women in the military.
And then there are his stated views on the media. “I just can’t overstate how disgusted I am,” he told the Fox-owned sports media site Outkick in April. “The media is basically Praetorian Guard for the ruling class, the bodyguards for Jeff Bezos. That’s the opposite of what we should have. I really hate them for it, I’ll be honest.”
Monday, June 21, 2021
Time to remind everyone of the Oliver Willis Unified Punditry Kayfabe Theory: it's all pro-wrestling, the heels and the faces are all buddies, and the corporations write the scripts months in advance for consumption, as NY Times reporter Ben Smith talks to his "white supremacist but only on TV and radio" buddy Tucker Carlson.
The answer of course is "since nobody really knows what Carlson is thinking, and that he's just a media cypher, does it matter when he's here to play a role, and that he plays it better than anyone else?"
That's letting him off too easily, but the media ecosystem isn't meant to punish obvious assholes like Carlson. He's played the game expertly and he continues being handsomely rewarded for doing so. The point is to hate the guy, but to recognize that he runs his little sick high school clique.
America is full of assholes like that.
Most of the time, they win and keep on winning.
That's the problem, of course.
US Catholic Bishops, ignoring Pope Francis's warnings, are considering denying Pro-choice politicians in the US the rite of communion, up to and including President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, flouting a warning from the Vatican, have overwhelmingly voted to draft guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist, advancing a political push by conservative bishops to deny President Biden communion because of his support of abortion rights.
The decision, made public on Friday afternoon, is aimed at the nation’s second Catholic president, perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief since Jimmy Carter, and exposes bitter divisions in American Catholicism. It capped three days of contentious debate at a virtual June meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The measure was approved by a vote of 73 percent in favor and 24 percent opposed.
The Eucharist, or holy communion, is one of the most sacred rituals in Christianity, and bishops have grown worried in recent years about declining Mass attendance and misunderstanding of the importance of the sacrament to Catholic life.
But the move to target a president, who regularly attends Mass and has spent a lifetime steeped in Christian rituals and practices, is striking coming from leaders of the president’s own faith, particularly after many conservative Catholics turned a blind eye to the sexual improprieties of former President Donald J. Trump because they supported his political agenda. It reveals a uniquely American Catholicism increasingly at odds with Rome.
The action is the latest sign of how the nation’s bitter political divisions are shaping religious life. Christians across denominations are facing similar divides. Earlier this week at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville, a more moderate majority narrowly headed off a takeover attempt by a hard-right movement.
The text of the proposal itself has not been written and would ultimately require approval by a two-thirds majority vote. The proposed outline, earlier reported by America Magazine, said it would “include the theological foundation for the Church’s discipline concerning the reception of Holy Communion and a special call for those Catholics who are cultural, political, or parochial leaders to witness the faith.”
Some conservatives want to use such a statement as theological justification to deny communion to Mr. Biden and Catholic politicians like him who support abortion rights.
The decision immediately drew criticism from 60 Catholic Democrats in Congress, who urged the bishops “to not move forward and deny this most holy of all sacraments” and who challenged the bishops by outlining their own commitment to “making real the basic principles that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching.”
Asked about the bishops’ decision at a vaccination event on Friday, Mr. Biden said it was “a private matter and I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Joe Biden has more faith than I do in the Church and in the church, that is 100% true and i freely admit it. But there are a good five dozen Democratic Catholics in Congress, and for the Church to basically target them for political views, well, that seems...
...actually that's completely in character for the history of the Roman Catholic church over the centuries, now isn't it?