Fox News’ Tucker Carlson unleashed a furious screed on Tuesday night in response to California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff’s argument that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security focus their efforts on white nationalist terrorism.
“Listen to America’s new grand inquisitor,” Carlson said on air, introducing a clip of Schiff speaking.
In the clip, Schiff, who is Jewish, explained to CNN that the concern is not new.
“We have been urging for some time that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security raise the priority to domestic terrorism, to white nationalism, as it threatens the country,” he said. “And we’re going to continue sounding the alarm, and make sure that they’re devoting the time, the resources, the attention. Just as we did after 9/11 to the threat of international terrorism, we need to give the same priority and urgency to domestic terrorism.”
They weren’t surprising remarks, coming just weeks after the U.S. Capitol was stormed by a violent and deadly mob, filled with racists and white supremacists, trying to overthrow the constitutional order. As the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, it’s Schiff’s job to oversee the conduct of the agencies in question.
But for Carlson, the remarks were completely outrageous. To convey that message to his audience, he had to completely distort what Schiff said. The way Carlson chose to misinterpret the remarks was quite telling.
“Got that?” Carlson said after playing the Schiff clip. “Vote the wrong way, and you are a jihadi. You thought you were an American citizen with rights and just a different view. But no, you’re a jihadi. And we’re going to treat you like we treated those radicals after 9/11. Like we treated bin Laden. Get in line, pal. This is a war on terror. Keep in mind, as you listen to people talk like this — and Adam Schiff is far from the only one — they’re talking about American citizens here. They’re talking about you. But nobody seems to notice or care.”
It was a remarkable reaction. In the clip — the clip Carlson specifically chose because he thought it best illustrated his point — Schiff was explicitly talking about white nationalist domestic terrorists. This is indisputably a crime, not First Amendment-protected activity, and it’s a threat that the Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray recently warned about as an increasing peril.
“Within the domestic terrorism bucket, the category as a whole, racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group. And within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that,” Wray said last September. “Lately we’ve been having about 1,000 domestic terrorism cases each year. It is higher this year.”
The attack on the Capitol only highlighted this danger. It’s fair to worry that the new administration might overreact to this threat and that civil liberties might be at risk, as they were after 9/11. Those are concerns worth taking seriously.
But that’s not what Carlson said. Instead, he told his audience that Schiff is arguing that people should be treated like terrorists if they “vote the wrong way.” In fact, he even said that “you” will be treated like Osama bin Laden — that is, hunted down and killed — because of who “you” vote for. That’s not within the same ballpark of what Schiff or anyone else has said. This a QAnon-level conspiracy theory that Carlson is spouting on primetime cable news.
Carlson also showed his own prejudice and bigotry, directly implying that “jihadis” couldn’t be American citizens with all the rights that entitles them to. That’s false, of course — some terrorists who commit jihadist-inspired acts of terrorism are Americans. Even foreign jihadi terrorists have many rights that ought to be recognized. But it’s been people like Carlson and his allies who have consistently argued against the rights of terrorists when they happen to be Muslim. Despite his posturing now against the war on terror, he previously supported it. In fact, Carlson one called Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys” who should “just shut the fuck up and obey.”
So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that while overreacting to the idea that white nationalist terrorism should be targeted by law enforcement, Carlson also made clear that he thinks terrorists who are Muslim should not have any rights. He’s being perfectly clear about who he stands with and who he stands against.