Selective-outrage machine goes after Tucker, again

Selective-outrage machine goes after Tucker, again
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Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson said things on the radio years ago that won't be defended in this space. The comments were misogynistic, insensitive and degrading, to put it mildly. He once demeaned Martha Stewart's daughter and defended Warren Jeffs, who helped facilitate statutory rape.
 
As a periodic guest on Carlson's prime-time program on Fox News, I can say two things for certain: Those weren't Carlson's finest moments — and they also don't reflect his work today.
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But — and this is an important "but" — Carlson made many of those comments all the way back to a time when George W. Bush was president and Carlson was on MSNBC. That's a long time ago, just like it was a long time ago when a current and popular MSNBC host, Joy Reid, wrote more than a few anti-Semitic and homophobic things on her blog. And instead of owning up to it, she blamed hackers, who could have pulled off the alleged hack only if they had "Doc" Brown, a DeLorean and the ability to travel back in time as in the movie "Back to the Future."

Some of Carlson's comments also were made around the same time that actor Kevin Hart wrote some homophobic tweets on Twitter. He lost his hosting gig at the Oscars only as a result of refusing to continue apologizing after the first one wasn't deemed enough. Good for him. 

Sarah Jeong, who was hired to join the New York Times editorial board last year, tweeted years ago "how much joy she got out of being cruel to old white men" and asked if white people are "genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun." The Times said that, while her "rhetoric is not acceptable," it would hire her anyway, citing her "important voice" in the national conversation. 

The list goes on, but you get the point. And it begs this question: Should those who work in media or entertainment be held accountable for things they publicly stated or wrote years, or even more than a decade, ago? 

Which brings us back to Carlson and a great point made by CNN's Mary Katherine Ham, one of a shrinking group of level-headed pundits in the cable news game, on Tuesday's edition of "New Day." 
 
Ham, who is no fan of Carlson despite being a conservative, correctly argued that destroying people's careers over errant comments or social media posts is something that doesn't sit well with the public. 

"The idea that people are being cowed by political correctness and by this attempt to fire people and take people’s scalps when they say something mildly errant, even if this isn’t mildly errant, this is something that resonates with a lot of Americans," she said. "This is actually a large part of why Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE was elected, even though I’m not a huge fan and often disagree with Tucker Carlson.”

“I wrote an entire book about how I don’t like coming for people’s heads and people’s jobs because they say things people don’t like,” Ham added. “And I actually believe what I wrote. And I do think there’s another thing that’s corrosive in addition to people saying mean things. And it is the impulse to take people down, and to take people’s jobs for ... errant Facebook posts. Which is something that happens to real people, not just public figures.”
 
She rightly concluded, regarding Carlson: “Look, if it wasn’t a fireable offense for MSNBC ten years ago, it ain’t a fireable offense now.”
 
The liberal, anti-Fox organization Media Matters is behind the unearthing of Carlson's public statements, which didn't cause a ripple when they were first said to shock-jock "Bubba the Love Sponge" sometime between 2006 and 2011. Yet, Media Matters is not what one would refer to as anything resembling a consistent messenger. 
 
In 2018, Media Matters was asked by The Wrap's Jon Levine why it wasn't calling for boycotts of Reid's MSNBC show as that story was blowing up, even in progressive publications. Its president responded that the organization's threshold for boycotts is high and the criticism of Reid was “right-wing chicanery.”
That threshold, of course, is that Reid works for MSNBC and is one of the network’s most beloved hosts. To cover Reid would mean alienating its readers and defying its mission, and that just wasn’t going to happen.  
 
And that's why, ultimately, the Carlson story goes nowhere outside the bubble. The partisans will scream and yell, of course, but not because anyone is truly outraged. Because if you were silent about Joy Reid, or Kevin Hart, or Sarah Jeong, and their past comments and actions — or, say, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) and his alleged blackface photo — then you can't possibly be outraged over Carlson now, unless there's some ulterior motive. 
 
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For their part, advertisers need to be aware of this before reacting to what, at first, appears to be a tidal wave of criticism via social media in the form of mass boycotts over a TV host. The wave is simply a well-coordinated, orchestrated, optical illusion of outrage that doesn't really exist. 
 
Get out this weekend to a social event and ask your friends, conservative or liberal, just how many plan to never again purchase products advertised on "Tucker Carlson Tonight." Many will not have heard of the controversy. Most of those who have heard of it will react the same way they did when they heard about Reid or Hart — by asking the question, "Wasn't that said a long time ago?"
 
Selective outrage is all the rage in 2019. 
 
For most objective, sober people, here's the good news: It's quite easy to see right through it. 
 
Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill and co-host of "WOR Tonight with Joe Concha and Lis Wiehl" weeknights on 710-WOR in New York.