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Tucker Carlson defends his commentary on race in fiery interview

Fox News host Tucker Carlson swatted away suggested ties to white supremacist ideology when pressed about the rhetoric on his nightly show during a tense interview at an event on Thursday.

“I’ve never had a white supremacist work for me. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a white supremacist,” Carlson said during event hosted by Semafor, a new media company founded by journalist Ben Smith and media executive Justin Smith. “I’m not sure what that means. I know it’s a slur and the worst thing that a person can be. I don’t really understand the terms.”

Carlson had been asked by Ben Smith about comments the host has made in recent years on matters of immigration, race relations and demographic changes in the American electorate.

Smith played during Thursday’s event a widely shared clip from one of Carlson’s recent shows, which pulls in an average viewership of more than 3 million people every weeknight, in which the host argues that Democratic politicians are working to “replace” what he called “legacy” Americans with new voters from other countries.

Critics have likened comments like those to so-called great replacement theory, a racist ideology that suggests white people are being deliberately replaced by minorities. A recent analysis conducted by The New York Times found Carlson has mentioned variations on the replacement theory idea in more than 400 episodes of his show since 2016.

“I have no empathy for people who derive their judgments about anything from 30-second clips on Media Matters,” Carlson said Thursday, referring to the liberal watchdog group that tracks narratives present on Fox News and in other conservative media.

Smith pressed Carlson specifically about a number of staffers that formerly worked on his show who were found to have posted on white supremacist message boards, something Carlson argued at the time he did not know about.

“Why have you been flypaper for racists?” Smith asked Carlson at one point during the testy back-and-forth about the Fox host’s comments on race.

“I believe that people are not defined by their race, any race,” Carlson said. “People are defined, their value is derived from the fact that they were, A, created by God, and, B, by what they do, by the choices they make. They’re not part of some larger group, they’re individuals. I believe in the individual, and I say that virtually every night.”

To critics who assert that Carlson is a racist, he said, “I don’t know what to say to you.”

“I’m stating my sincere views as reflected in my personal life and my professional life as clearly as I can,” he said.

Smith also asked Carlson about Fox’s place in the American political discourse and the pressures of the cable news ratings race that underpins the industry.

“I’ve been in TV for 27 years, I don’t know how to read a ratings chart. Ask anyone who works for me,” Carlson said. “I never look a the ratings, I’m not on the ratings e-mails. … I don’t know what my ratings are, and I mean that, you may not believe me, I don’t own a TV. That’s true. So I’m actually never thinking about ratings.”

Asked if he would be allowed to “go negative on Trump in any sustained way” without “clearing it” with Fox News leadership, Carlson said, “I don’t clear anything with anyone.”

“The fact that there’s only one TV channel in the entire country, a country of 350 million people, that allows actual free speech,” he said, “and that’s the one that The New York Times, The Washington Post or any of these other absurd organizations want to destroy, it tells you everything.”

Tags Ben Smith Ben Smith Donald Trump Fox News Great Replacement Theory Justin Smith Racism Semafor Tucker Carlson Tucker Carlson
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