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Fox hosts feel the heat but deflect criticism after Buffalo massacre


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By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

In the wake of the Buffalo supermarket mass shooting and widespread discussion of far-right violent extremism, Fox’s prime time hosts pivoted to what they claim is the true threat: The left.

Condemnations of “the left” echoed across Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham’s highly-rated shows on Monday night. The shows warned conservative viewers that they are endangered by Democrats’ reactions to the massacre.

There wasn’t a hint of introspection about the network’s previous promotion of the so-called “great replacement” theory, a racist conspiracy theory that imagines a cabal is intentionally replacing Whites with minorities and immigrants. The theory is a central component of the racist screed that has been attributed to the Buffalo suspect.

Carlson has used “replacement” language over and over again on Fox, saying “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate,” “they’re trying to change the population,” “our country is being invaded,” and so forth — and he has come under sharp criticism for it.

On Monday Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cited a recent New York Times report that counted “replacement” rhetoric talk on more than 400 episodes of Carlson’s show.

“This is a poison that’s being spread by one of the largest news organizations in our country,” Schumer said.

On Tuesday Schumer, who represents New York state, sent a letter to Fox Corp bosses Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, as well as the top executives of the Fox News Channel, and urged them to “immediately cease the reckless amplification of the so-called ‘Great Replacement theory’ on your network’s broadcasts.”

Fox feels the heat

Even before Schumer’s letter, Fox was clearly feeling the heat. All of the network’s prime time shows pushed back on Monday night, beginning with Carlson, who denounced racism and didn’t mention “great replacement” theory at all. He focused on mental illness instead, pronouncing the suspect’s apparent screed as “crazy” but “not really political at all.”

Carlson claimed that other media coverage wasn’t sufficiently focused on the victims of the massacre, but he didn’t devote any of his air time to tributes. Instead, he dragged liberals for blaming conservatives’ “hate speech” for contributing to the attack.

“So what is hate speech? Well, it’s speech that our leaders hate,” Carlson said, casting his viewers as the victims. “So because a mentally ill teenager murdered strangers, you cannot be allowed to express your political views out loud. That’s what they’re telling you.”

Carlson went on to say that “race politics is a sin” and blasted President Biden for sowing division.

The 8 p.m. hour’s focus on “the left” purportedly trying to stifle free speech continued all night long. At 9 p.m., Hannity’s show featured on-screen banners like “THE LEFT’S VIOLENT RHETORIC” and “THE LEFT RUSHES TO POLITICIZE TRAGEDY.”

Ingraham’s framing at 10 p.m. was similar: “THEY ARE COMING FOR YOUR SPEECH,” one banner said. “MEDIA BLAMES CONSERVATIVES FOR LONE GUNMAN’S EVIL,” another said. “LEFT EXPLOITS TRAGEDIES TO LIMIT LIBERTIES,” a third banner said.

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

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