Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s Wednesday show was filled with images of the unrest in Kenosha, Wis., sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake – including graphic footage of a protester bleeding out in the street after he was shot in the head on Tuesday.
Police have charged Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, with murder for allegedly killing that man and another protester in a shooting after driving to Kenosha with a rifle to stand with others in self-styled militias guarding local businesses.
But Tucker argued that the teen’s actions were understandable after days of chaos.
“Are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder?” Carlson said. “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?”
Kenosha devolved into anarchy because the authorities abandoned the people. Those in charge, from the governor on down, refused to enforce the law. They’ve stood back and watched Kenosha burn. Are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? pic.twitter.com/oul2KUiDi3
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) August 27, 2020
Carlson’s comments drew swift and intense backlash online, with many calling once again for advertisers to drop the host, who has recently been assailed for past bigoted statements and who took a vacation in July after his former top writer was outed for racist and misogynistic posts.
“If they don’t take action after this, every one of Fox News’s executives, directors, and advertisers is complicit in Tucker Carlson’s racist, murderous rants,” tweeted Robert Reich, the former labor secretary under President Clinton.
Fox News didn’t immediately return a request for comment early on Thursday.
Carlson is far from the only right-wing personality to openly defend – and even praise – Rittenhouse. As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported, Ann Coulter said Rittenhouse should be her president and a Turning Point USA contributor called his actions a “justified shooting.” Former Major League Baseball player Aubrey Huff tweeted early Thursday that Rittenhouse is a “national treasure.”
Carlson highlighted the destruction that has beset Kenosha since Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back on Sunday as he stepped into a car with his children inside. He blamed local leaders and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) for not halting the unrest.
“Kenosha has devolved into anarchy because the authorities in charge of the city abandoned it. People in charge in Wisconsin from the governor on down refused to enforce the law,” Carlson said on Wednesday’s show. “They stood back and watched Kenosha burn.”
Police say Rittenhouse traveled about 20 miles from his home in Antioch, Ill., on Tuesday to stand in front of boarded up businesses with a rifle slung over his shoulder. He joined a group of other militia members who had answered Facebook calls to “protect” the city.
Police say the teen then killed two men and seriously wounded another after a chaotic confrontation between protesters and the armed men outside a gas station.
“So what does that amount to? We’re unsure,” Carlson said. “A court will decide if what you just saw qualifies as self-defense.”
Critics blasted Carlson for the segment, suggesting that he was justifying the killing of protesters.
“He just justified murder,” tweeted Nikole Hannah-Jones, the journalist behind the New York Times’ 1619 Project.
Added Blake Hounshell, Politico’s editorial director, “Vigilante violence was always one of my greatest worries about the present moment. And here we have a prominent TV host – a man who had the president’s ear – excusing it, rationalizing it.”
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