Fox News host Tucker Carlson refused to apologize after clips from old radio interviews in which Carlson made controversial remarks about women and child rape were circulated on social media Sunday.
Media Matters, a self-described “progressive media watchdog,” published clips and transcripts from appearances Carlson made between 2006 and 2011 on a popular shock-jock radio program called “Bubba the Love Sponge.”
In two appearances, Carlson jokingly downplayed the crimes of cult leader – and convicted child sex offender – Warren Jeffs. In other clips, he calls women “extremely primitive,” says he feels “sorry for unattractive women,” uses the c-word to describe a woman, calls one woman a “pig” and refers to two other women as “whores.”
During one of the discussions about Jeffs, who was accused, among other things, of arranging marriages between underage girls and adult men, Carlson said what he had done was not as bad as a violent assault.
“I am not defending underage marriage at all,” Carlson said in a clip from 2009. “I just don’t think it’s the same thing exactly as pulling a child from a bus stop and sexually assaulting that child.”
When the hosts pushed back, saying that what Jeffs did was arguably worse because it was “more planned out and plotted,” Carlson disagreed.
“Hold on a second. The rapist, in this case, has made a lifelong commitment to live and take care of the person, so it is a little different. I mean, let’s be honest about it,” Carlson said.
An unidentified “Love Sponge” co-host called Carlson’s take “twisted” and “demented,” prompting Carlson to repeat that he was not defending child marriage.
In another clip from that 2009 interview, Carlson incorrectly said Jeffs “didn’t marry underaged girls” (he would be convicted in 2011 of marrying and sexually assaulting two girls ages 12 and 15).
Carlson said the real reason Jeffs was in prison was “because he’s weird and unpopular and he has a different lifestyle that other people find creepy.” He said that if he made the laws, Jeffs would go free while former NFL quarterback Michael Vick would have been given the death penalty for dog fighting.
“I’m not for child rape. I’m just saying, if you mistreat dogs like that, we’re going to have to execute you,” he said.
Warning: The following audio contains explicit language:
A defiant Carlson addressed the audio clips in a statement Sunday night, just hours after the Media Matters story ran.
“Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago,” he said. “Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.”
Thanks to Twitter, people who were upset by his views did not have to wait to appear on his show to explain why they were outraged.
“Shame on you. You have daughters,” tweeted actress and MeToo movement advocate Alyssa Milano.
Several commenters called for boycotts of the companies that advertise during Carlson’s show and others called for his outright firing.
Carlson also had many defenders on social media, including President Donald Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr., who said “the left” is “going after” Carlson because “he’s effective at destroying their agenda.”
Some conservatives, like alt-right conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, said there was no justification for Carlson to resign because liberals are not held to the same standard.
Many pointed to Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who is still in office despite admitting that he dressed in blackface in the 1980s and including a photo of someone dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes on his medical school yearbook page.
Actress Alana Stewart said Media Matters “only targets conservative hosts.”
Former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka applauded Carlson’s refusal to apologize, tweeting that he showed “how you must hold the Leftists’ attack-dogs in utter contempt.”
Carlson’s past comments are drawing scrutiny amid a larger debate about the role of Fox News. On Saturday, CNN President Jeff Zucker reportedly called Fox News “a “propaganda outlet,” echoing Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan who said Fox News had “devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president.”
And last week, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said Fox News would not be asked to host any of the Democratic primary debates because the network could not be trusted to remain “fair and neutral.”
Here are some other quotes from the radio clips that sparked controversy:
On adult women having sex with underage boys:
“Now, 13-year-old boys getting laid, not a bad thing. Thirteen-year-old girls getting laid, bad thing. Particularly if the 13-year-old girl is your daughter, right?” Carlson said in 2006. “Because when a 13-year-old boy is 35, he can barely remember the girls he slept with when he was 13 … But a 13-year-old girl, when she’s 35, she’s still thinking about that guy. I mean, it’s just a much deeper experience for girls at that age and they’re not ready for that.”
Carlson said adult women who have sex with boys “are doing a service to all 13-year-old girls by taking the pressure off. They are a pressure relief valve, like the kind you have on your furnace.”
Calling for end of rape-shield laws
“If I’m alleging rape, I have the protection of anonymity. I can say whatever I want while hiding behind anonymity, while the person I accused, whether he’s guilty or not, has his life destroyed. That’s totally unfair,” Carlson said in 2006.
Carlson did not agree that the elimination of the rape-shield laws would lead to fewer rapes being reported.
“Women seem to be adults to me. I mean, in other words, if you are grievously injured by another person, it’s not your fault. I don’t understand why, if you’re an adult, you just can’t get up and say, ‘This is what the person did to me,’ ” he said.
Called Britney Spears and Paris Hilton ‘whores’
In a clip from 2008, Carlson refers to celebrities Paris Hilton and Britney Spears as “two of the biggest white whores in America.”
Called Arianna Huffington a ‘pig’
“Oh my God, she’s a pig,” Carlson said in 2006 in response to a question about Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington’s criticism of his father.
On Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s looks
“I feel sorry for unattractive women. I mean it’s nothing they did,” Carlson said during a 2010 discussion of then-Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.
“Physically, the problems with her are fundamental. She’s never going to be an attractive woman.”
On Alexis Stewart
“She seems extremely c—y,” Carlson said in 2006 of TV host Alexis Stewart, who is the daughter of Martha Stewart.
“She seems so high maintenance, she seems like the kind of person you marry and then just the rest of your life is like hell.” He also said he wanted Stewart to get “the spanking she so desperately needs.”
Women are ‘extremely primitive’
“Women hate you when they do you wrong and you put up with it,” Carlson said in 2007. “Because they hate weakness. They’re like dogs that way. They can smell it on you, and they have contempt for it; they’ll bite you.”
“I love women, but they’re extremely primitive, they’re basic, they’re not that hard to understand. And one of the things they hate more than anything is weakness in a man.”
‘What gets women going is arguing’
“In my brief experience, you know what gets women going is arguing with them, ” Carlson said in 2006. Carlson said that if a feminist says “men really need to be more sensitive,” a man should say, “actually, men don’t need to be more sensitive. You just need to be quiet and kind of do what you’re told.”