Fox News host Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonRepublicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks Critics blast Tucker Carlson's immigration remarks amid border surge Stefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' MORE on Wednesday sparked vehement backlash online after saying it was not surprising that the teen accused of fatally shooting two protesters in Kenosha, Wis., took matters into his own hands because “no one else” would maintain order in the city.
“So what does that amount to? We're unsure. A court will decide whether what you just saw qualifies as self-defense. As of tonight, we really don't have more details," Carlson said on his show Wednesday. "We do know why it all happened, though. Kenosha is devolved into anarchy because the authorities in charge of the city abandoned it. 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? How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would? Everyone could see what was happening in Kenosha. It was getting crazier by the hour,” he continued.
Carlson was referring to Kyle Rittenhouse, who was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Antioch, Ill., on Wednesday.
Tucker Carlson: "So are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would." pic.twitter.com/5Mm4L4Qejv— Yashar Ali (@yashar) August 27, 2020
On Tuesday, Rittenhouse showed up with his rifle to the third night of Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. The teen, who traveled from Antioch to Kenosha to attend the protests, allegedly shot and killed two people and injured another.
Carlson’s segment immediately sparked outcry on social media, including from Democratic Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyHouse Democrats urge Pelosi to prioritize aid for gyms House Intel Democrats express doubts about completing Afghan evacuation by deadline Gyms, hotels, bus companies make last-ditch plea for aid MORE (Ill.), who called on the GOP and President Trump to “immediately and unequivocally condemn Tucker Carlson’s comments and the disturbing rise in white nationalist violence.“
Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times Magazine reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the 1619 Project, said on Twitter that Carlson "just justified murder."
A Fox News spokesperson responded to an inquiry from The Hill by pointing to the full transcript of Carlson's remarks and a tweet the host posted Wednesday night where he reiterated the points made on his show, suggesting the acts of local leaders led to the alleged violent acts by Rittenhouse.
Conservative voices also came to Carlson's defense, such as the president's son Donald Trump Jr., who accused the media of twisting the commentator's words.
"The leftwing media is willfully twisting Tucker Carlson’s words to smear him. He never endorsed 'vigilante justice,'" Trump Jr. tweeted.
The White House and Trump campaign officials sought to distance themselves from Rittenhouse's alleged actions after it was reported the teen had attended a Trump rally and shared pro-law enforcement rhetoric.
"President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE condemns violence in all forms and believes we must protect all Americans from chaos and lawlessness,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. “This is why he is encouraging Democrat governors to request the National Guard and federal law enforcement to augment their local law enforcement efforts.”
Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said in a statement that Rittenhouse “had nothing to do with our campaign and we fully support our fantastic law enforcement for their swift action in this case.”