It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad December for Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. On December 13, Carlson touched off a firestorm of protest on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” when he claimed that immigration makes this country “poorer, and dirtier, and more divided”–a dog whistle that would have done Donald Trump proud.
In the last two weeks, advertisers have headed for the exits en masse. That would make any talk show host nervous. But apparently Carlson has crossed the line from nervousness into desperation. That’s the only plausible explanation for what he did on Friday night. He effectively gave one of his few remaining advertisers several minutes of free advertising.
Contemptor noticed that the list of advertisers for Friday night’s edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” showed how much of a beating Carlson has taken for his comments.
With few exceptions, the ads were PSAs and promos for upcoming shows on Fox and Fox News. It was eerily reminiscent of the waning days of Carlson’s predecessor in the 8 p.m. Eastern slot, Bill O’Reilly.
But Carlson somehow found a way to work in one other ad during what he said will be his last show of 2018. He re-aired an interview he did in November with Mike Lindell, founder and CEO of MyPillow. Watch here.
Lindell is an open and unashamed Trump supporter, and an unabashed social conservative. He was there to discuss his investment in “Unplanned,” an unabashedly anti-abortion film that chronicles how former Planned Parenthood worker Abby Johnson became an ardent anti-abortion activist. Lindell has pumped $1 million into the film, which is slated for release sometime in 2019. He even makes a cameo appearance, in which he bulldozes an abortion clinic to make room for a pro-life group’s headquarters.
The interview itself was a standard Fox News softball fest. But the real problem was the decision to re-air it. MyPillow is one of the few major national advertisers to still be firmly in Tucker’s corner. Lindell put it simply to The Associated Press–he makes his advertising decisions “based on what is best for MyPillow.”
But the optics of Carlson’s decision to re-air this interview look questionable at best. It amounted to three-and-a-half minutes of free advertising for Lindell. At the very least, it creates the appearance that Carlson was re-airing it as a reward for MyPillow standing by him.
It’s entirely possible that this wasn’t the case. But at best, this was staggeringly poor judgment on the part of a man who has been on television for the better part of two decades. He should have known how bad the optics of re-airing this interview would have looked.
Imagine if Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell were targeted for boycotts, and decided to interview the CEO of a company that decided to keep its ads on their show. At the very least, we would be rightly asking questions about whether this was appropriate. This is no different.
There are certain questions that we should never have to ask about what airs on television, no matter what your political shade. Carlson’s decision on Friday has us asking some of those questions–and he would do well to answer them.
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