Fox News host Tucker Carlson stepped into a gigantic mess Tuesday night when he said white supremacy is “not a real problem in America,” or at least not as real a problem as issues that affect millions, like suicide rates, the opioid crisis, and a declining middle class.
Carlson’s comments came, of course, after someone who espoused anti-immigrant views slaughtered 22 human beings in an El Paso, Texas Walmart. Rather than solely blame the shooter, the media and Democrats leaped to his political ideology as a convenient way to slam anyone who holds some semblance of anti-immigration thought, from President Donald Trump to Carlson (of course, they ignored the potential politics behind the less-narrative-convenient Dayton shooter).
Not being one to shy away from an issue, the Fox News host tackled it head on during Tuesday night’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” After making the point that Trump has never endorsed white supremacy, Carlson called the whole issue “a lie.”
“If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns of problems this country faces, where would white supremacy be on the list? Right up there with Russia probably,” said the Fox News host. “It’s actually not a real problem in America. The combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country would be able to fit inside a college football stadium.”
“This is a country where the average person is getting poorer, where the suicide rate is spiking — ‘white supremacy, that’s the problem’ — this is a hoax,” he continued. “Just like the Russia hoax, it’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power.”
The outrage mob predictably came out in full force. Right above a call to boycott his advertisers, immigration legal assistance organization RAICES wrote, “It’s time Fox News fires Tucker Carlson. His comments put our lives in danger and have already led to murders.”
“Tucker Carlson’s claim that the threat of domestic white supremacists is a ‘hoax’ is a dangerous lie,” wrote Mia Farrow. Young Turks host John Iadarola called Tucker a “white supremacist.”
There were plenty more, all over the social network. The hashtags #FireTuckerCarlson and #BoycottTuckerCarlson were trending Wednesday, and everyone who was anyone left-of-center on Twitter was wringing his hands, declaring his virtue, and condemning Carlson as some sort of “racist” for daring to proclaim an obvious truth. By the sheer level of histrionics, you’d be forgiven if you thought what prompted all this was the Klan marching down your city’s main street in force carrying a burning cross to plant in front of your local Martin Luther King Jr. statue.
“Tucker Carlson said last night that white supremacy isn’t a ‘real problem’ in the United States,” wrote CNN reporter Daniel Dale above a video clip quoting Anti-Defamation League (ADL) source material to try to refute Carlson. “This is almost too ridiculous to fact check, but here are a few numbers from me on the extent of the problem.”
Many pundits busy using “facts” to condemn Tucker, including The Forward in this Wednesday anti-Carlson article, are generally relying on this ADL report, called “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2018.” But take a gander through their list of examples and you’ll find that not all is what you might expect.
Here are a few to illustrate. James Mathis and his wife, Amanda Oakes, allegedly murdered their six-month-old son and put his body in a freezer. Apparently this was an “extremist” crime and warranted inclusion since Mathis had been in a white supremacist prison gang while serving a stint in the joint.
Richard Starry, another man who joined a white supremacist group in prison, killed four family members before killing himself. Local police said they were baffled over the motive, and I can find no indication from local reports that it had anything to do with race or politics. One of the victims included the shooter’s father, who would obviously have shared his ethnicity.
Jeremy Shaw and his wife, Lorena, were charged with a bevy of crimes revolving around a plot to murder a stranger and steal his property using an adverse possession scheme Shaw had been researching. Neither were charged with hate crimes, but the ADL still saw fit to include them in their list since “Nazi and white supremacist-themed items” were later found in Shaw’s home. And because it inflates the narrative they want to sell.
Joshua Daniel Miller made the list after killing a man at his ex-wife’s house during an argument. The reason for his inclusion? He was “involved with militia and Three Percenter groups.” That alone doesn’t make his actual crime anything related to white supremacy.
The Waffle House shooter, Travis Reinking, is listed because he called himself a “sovereign citizen” at some point, but even the ADL report admits that the shooting “appears to have been non-ideological in nature.”
Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, is listed even though “little evidence has so far emerged to suggest that the MSDHS shooting spree itself was conducted as a white supremacist attack.”
And then there are the “white supremacist” black folks: “Demetrius Alexander Brown, a self-proclaimed Moorish sovereign citizen, was arrested for the fatal shooting of Sharmine Pack following a dispute about a vehicle sale at an auto repair shop,” ADL writes. Well, don’t take my word for it, Google “Demetrius Alexander Brown” and see if you can tie that guy to white nationalism. While you’re at it, Google “Tierre Guthrie” and “Malachi Qaadir Dorns,” two other killers who made the ADL list.
I get it. The report says “Murder and Extremism,” so the report is technically accurate in that these murderers happened to be extremists of some form at some point in their lives. But why is the media using this report and others like it to overplay the “threat” of “white supremacy”? Their murders were clearly not all done in the name of this reprehensible worldview. It’s disingenuous to claim otherwise.
“Every extremist killing in the US in 2018 had a link to a right-wing extremism,” Business Insider brilliantly declared before linking to the report. In other words, to prop up the lie that “extremists” are rampantly committing violent, racially motivated crimes in America, any crime by an extremist of any race is cited, whether or not that crime had anything to do with “white supremacy.”
Specifically, the ADL report lists “50 extremist-related killings” in 2018. Shave that number down by the ones I mentioned and more (I didn’t even factcheck them all), and you’ve likely got fewer than 20 for 2018 alone. It’s too many, and the 22 lives taken in El Paso are too many as well, but neither does this equate to the Klan marching down the street and lynching folks at will.
Yes, white extremism is on the rise and should be countered, just as any other form of extremism should be. And yes, there are certainly horrifying instances of extremist violence motivated by white supremacy. The Tree of Life Synagogue shooter, the Charleston church shooter, and the El Paso Walmart shooter are three prominent examples.
However, in the grand scheme of things, these horrific actions represent a tiny fraction of crimes in America, yet seem to get 90 percent of the media coverage. To paraphrase Tucker Carlson, imagine how many lives could be saved if everyone focused on America’s much bigger problems.