Post Left Whitewashing of Tucker Carlson’s Racism Uses MSNBC Playbook

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Allies of Tucker Carlson are working hard to distract the public from the Fox News host’s culpability in spreading racist conspiracy theories, adopting the same tactics they sneer at from liberals.

In the wake of the Buffalo massacre, where white supremacist Payton Gendron murdered 10 people in a racist attack, Carlson has come under fire for hyping the same Great Replacement conspiracy theory the shooter cited in his manifesto. The two men used nearly identical language to describe the topic, putting Carlson in the hot seat.

Now, five days after the shooting, a competing narrative is being pushed. According to certain figures in the fringe post-left conservative movement, the issue is not that Carlson referred to the conspiracy—it’s that he did so in response to Democrats and other liberals bringing it up first.

Their argument claims that because Democrats and liberals have noted in the past that a changing demographic electorate could pay dividends for the party, Carlson’s racist rhetoric around immigration and warnings of racial replacement are simply reactive. It’s a deceitful argument and blame-shifting that allows Carlson and his right-wing allies to sail above the controversy, and has one goal: changing the conversation from Carlson to the dishonest semantics of “who started it.”

Social media influencer Glenn Greenwald was, perhaps unsurprisingly, among the first to deploy the tactic. “The Democrats and their leading strategics for years have been arguing that immigration will change the demographic make-up of the country—by replacing conservative voters with more liberals ones,” he tweeted, “and that this will benefit them politically.” Conspiracy theorist Jimmy Dore told his audience that the Great Replacement has been pushed by the Clintons, not Carlson. And The Hill’s Briahna Joy Gray said that Carlson, who is “fastidiously race neutral” with his language, was right about the fundamentals of the conspiracy with respect to the Democratic embrace of demographic change.

Their aim is clear—to thoroughly water down and whitewash the reality of the American right. If it sounds familiar, it should, because it’s exactly what liberal media figures, primarily on MSNBC, have been doing for George W. Bush for years.

A real accounting of Bush’s time in office would make the former president a pariah, at least in left-of-center circles (one hopes). But liberal commentators like Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell instead did the opposite, making Bush out to be a cuddly statesman type. The Trump era provided the opportunity for folding the right-wing pundits who hyped up the war and the officials who waged it back into polite society. Just look at MSNBC superstar Nicolle Wallace, who served in the Bush White House press office.

It all gets a bit confusing for the average viewer. With no one there to remember exactly what was done and when—by, in other words, taking the same obfuscation strategy used by Carlson’s ally to confuse the issue—liberals made sure that the former president’s image was ready for rehab. It’s worked, today Democrats love Bush and look back on him fondly.

Comparing the post left with their liberal counterparts is antagonistic, to be sure. There are few people they hate more. But the right-wing laundering approach is virtually indistinguishable. All that’s changed is who’s in power on the right, and who on the liberal-left are willing to help conservatives dissemble about their real beliefs and sell themselves as respectable, serious commentators. Same old story.

Eoin Higgins is a journalist based in New England. He writes The Flashpoint newsletter. Reporting for this article was funded by a grant from the ExposeFacts program of the Institute for Public Accuracy.