There are few sights these days as pitiable as a corporation acceding to the demands of radical activists on the basis of an ostensibly insensitive comment made by one of its officials or employees. As the script normally dictates, the offending individual steps down, while the company profusely apologizes for its insensitivity and vows to redouble its commitment to “diversity.” That’s what makes Fox News Channel’s refusal to fire political talk show host Tucker Carlson in the face of an activist-triggered advertiser boycott so refreshing. By resisting the speech police, the network just might have set an example for other corporations.
Tucker Carlson, now 49, host of Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, isn’t one to back down from a controversial issue. Indeed, not backing down is pretty much his main job requirement. His blunt style won him the 8 P.M.-9 P.M., Monday through Friday time slot on Fox News vacated by Bill O’Reilly in April 2017. Social justice warriors of the Left never liked O’Reilly, and indeed had launched any number of boycotts against him during his two-decade tenure. But they especially have it in for Carlson. For months, they had been looking for some gaffe that would expose his “racism” and provide a pretext for starving his show of advertising revenue. During the broadcast of Thursday evening, December 13, they found what they were looking for.
The subject was immigration policy, especially in the context of the “caravan” of thousands of migrants from Central America demanding automatic asylum in the U.S. The marchers, whose terminal point was Tijuana, just south of our southern border, were not legitimate refugees. Nor for the most part, contrary to popular misconception, were they young mothers with children. To capitulate to the demands of the migrants at once would have enabled future caravans and made a mockery of our sovereignty.
Tucker Carlson thought this was a reasonable position. And he proceeded to say so – in unapproved language. Unrestricted immigration, he said, likely would make America “poor and dirtier and more divided.” Zing! The phrase triggered a social media storm. Radical activists, guided by David Brock’s Media Matters for America, launched a campaign to call upon the show’s sponsors to withdraw all advertising.
By the middle of the following week, at least 18 companies had pulled out. The ranks of attrition included Ancestry.com, Bowflex, Minted, NerdWallet and Pacific Life. In the words of Nautilus, Inc., parent company of Bowflex: “We have requested that Fox News remove our ads from airing in conjunction with Tucker Carlson Tonight in the future. Aside from our decision to remove our ads from his show, we have no other association or affiliation with Mr. Carlson.” The radicals seemed to have achieved the desired bum’s rush to the exit door.
Or had they? Here, the storyline took an unexpected twist. Fox News management, rather than knuckle under to its accusers as so many deep-pocketed corporations have in similar situations, defended Carlson. “It is a shame that left-wing advocacy groups, under the guise of being supposed ‘media watchdogs,’ weaponize social media against companies in an effort to stifle free speech,” declared the network. “We continue to stand by and work with our advertisers through these unfortunate and unnecessary situations.”
The following Tuesday, Fox management gave an encore. “We cannot and will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts from the likes of MoveOn.org, Media Matters and Sleeping Giants,” the network stated. Fox reminded its audiences that on the evening of November 7, a group of antifa activists had gathered in front of Carlson’s Washington, D.C. residence, chanting and calling him a “racist scumbag.” He was at his broadcast desk during this act of harassment, but his family was at home and justifiably frightened.
Carlson himself rebuked his immigration-enthusiast accusers during the show’s December 17 segment. “The enforcers scream ‘Racist!’ on Twitter until everybody gets intimidated and changes the subject to the Russia investigation or some other distraction,” he opined. “It’s a tactic, a well-worn one. Nobody thinks it’s real. And it won’t work with this show.” He added: “We’re not intimidated. We plan to try to say what’s true until the last day.”
The responses by Tucker Carlson and his network ought to point the way for multitudes of business enterprises that reflexively submit to radical inquisitors to avoid the prospect of bad publicity and a boycott following a ginned-up controversy over the company’s tacit approval of “racism.” For well over a decade, for example, U.S. corporations have shelled out sizable donations and “consulting fees” to Reverend Al Sharpton’s nonprofit National Action Network (NAN) in hopes of deflecting threatened boycotts by Sharpton and his minions. Once the company makes a donation, Sharpton quickly calls off his threats – at least for a while. Corporations donating sums to NAN in recent years include AT&T, Chrysler, Colgate Palmolive, Comcast, Facebook, General Motors, Home Depot, Macy’s, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Pfizer and Walmart.
Happily, the Left’s campaign to persuade Fox News Channel, a subsidiary of the Fox Entertainment Group, to drop Tucker Carlson’s show has stumbled. And there a few good reasons why.
First, television advertisers typically lock themselves into contracts with the network, not with a particular program. Fox News Channel has the option to move ads from one show to another. Indeed, it has exercised this option already. A Fox spokesman has confirmed that sponsors who pulled their commercials from Carlson’s show have continued to advertise elsewhere on the network.
Second, and related, recalcitrant advertisers are a small part of the picture in this case. Laura Keiter, communications director for Media Matters for America, admitted to Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple that nearly 500 brand names have run at least one ad during 2018 on Tucker Carlson Tonight. Some advertisers, such as Farmers Insurance, even have announced they will not yank ads.
Third, Carlson’s “poor and dirtier and more divided” comment, when placed in context, was appropriate. And many Americans sense as much. This is the full quote:
Here’s a funny thing that we noticed the other day. People debate all the time about mass immigration. What you never hear anybody do is make the economic case for mass immigration. And here’s why.
Our country’s economy is becoming more and more automated and tech-centered by the day. It’s obvious that we need more scientists and skilled engineers. But that’s not what we’re getting. Instead, we’re getting waves of people with high school educations or less. Nice people, no one doubts that. But as an economic matter, this is insane.
It’s indefensible, so nobody even tries to defend it. Instead, our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poor and dirtier and more divided.
What exactly is objectionable about these words, save for possibly the phrase “nice people?” Large-scale immigration from Third World nations is an economic disaster for America. Instead of expanding our productive capacity, it has dramatically expanded the size of an indigent class feeding at the trough of public benefits. And far from unifying our nation, such immigration, given its vast ethnic, linguistic and religious differentiation, is dividing us – indeed, the very word “diversity” implies division. As for his uttering the word “dirtier,” Carlson specifically was referring to a complaint by an elected official in Tijuana, Mexico who had appeared on his show on the subject of thousands of uninvited Central Americans pouring into that city.
Fox News Channel could have taken the easy way out and dropped Tucker Carlson’s show. But the network stuck to its guns. And Tucker Carlson stuck to his. As a result, people in this country now have a little more freedom to speak out on the issues without fear of retribution. Perhaps such boldness will rub off other corporate employers.