A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
In a brief set of prepared comments, Tucker Carlson (finally) addressed the revelation that his now-former top writer, Blake Neff, was secretly posting racist and sexist material on an online forum. “On Friday, many of those posts became public,” Carlson said. “Blake was horrified by the story and he was ashamed. Friday afternoon he resigned from his job.”
Carlson said the comments Neff wrote under a pseudonym on the online forum were “wrong” and that he does not “endorse those words.” Carlson continued, “It is wrong to attack people for qualities they cannot control. In this country, we judge people for what they do, not for how they were born. We often say that because we mean it.” Carlson added that Neff “fell short of that standard and he has paid a very high price for it.”
And then things took a turn. Carlson said, “We should also point out to the ghouls now beating their chests and triumph of the destruction of a young man that self-righteousness also has its costs. We are all human. When we pretend we are holy, we are lying. When we pose as blameless in order to hurt other people, we are committing the gravest sin of all and we will be punished for it. There’s no question.” As The New Republic’s Matt Ford observed, “Carlson [was] visibly less displeased with Neff … than he [was] with the reporters who exposed Neff.”
What he didn’t say
If you watched Carlson’s remarks and knew what he was talking about, you may have noticed a glaring omission. At no point did Carlson ever describe his former top writer’s online comments, much less note that they had been racist and sexist. And at no point did he explain to viewers that Neff was actively posting such comments as recently as last week.
The average viewer tuning in who had not seen our reporting may have come away with the impression that Neff had made some edgy remarks years ago and was forced out by a cancel culture mob. That’s *NOT* what happened, but Carlson structured his remarks leaving room for that interpretation. As Erik Wemple tweeted, “Viewers who hadn’t seen the stories might have no idea what he was saying.”
Misleading, at best
While he attempted to put distance between Neff and the show, Carlson said of Neff’s vulgar online remarks, “They have no connection to the show.” But that’s misleading at best. First, Neff was obviously Carlson’s top writer — so his own personal views had a direct relationship to the show. But even more to the point, we documented instances in our story where Neff’s online activity did connect to the show — from planting an Easter egg into Carlson’s script, to something in a news story that he almost certainly saw on the forum ending up in the show, to similar language, there was overlap between the two…
Reminder: He could have said this all Friday
It’s worth noting that Carlson had all the opportunity in the world to have addressed this matter on Friday. We reached out to Neff for comment Thursday night, and by Friday morning Fox News knew our story was in the works, leaving Carlson with a fair amount of time to prepare remarks and address it all.
But he didn’t, instead waiting until Monday night. Which is strange right? After all, if you were a cable news host, wouldn’t you be outraged if you learned your top writer had been secretly posting racist material online? Wouldn’t you want to address it and clear the air? Apparently not Carlson…
A “long-planned” vacation
At the end of his show, Carlson announced that he was heading on a “long-planned” vacation to do some “trout fishing.” While it may be true, it’s worth noting that there is a long tradition of Fox News anchors going on supposedly pre-planned vacations when they spark controversy. Think Bill O’Reilly (whose vacation was, it turned out, actually pre-planned, even if he didn’t return from it), Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters, and even Carlson himself in the past…