Courtney: Tucker, Trump and Co. are lying and ripping us apart

They’re making money while doing it, too.

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Zach Courtney

A few weeks ago, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, on his primetime show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” said that “There was no physical evidence that George Floyd was murdered by a cop. The autopsy showed that George Floyd almost certainly died of a drug overdose.”

This is contradictory to what two autopsies said. Although they differed on some things, they agreed that Floyd died by homicide. At best, Tucker was being misleading, but what he said was probably closer to a lie. Sadly, that doesn’t even matter. In a previous defamation lawsuit against Carlson, Fox News argued (successfully, I might add) that “given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer arrives with an appropriate amount of skepticism.”

Is this even true? Do Tucker’s viewers arrive with an “appropriate amount of skepticism” to what he says? I’m not so sure. As former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said, “We have two sets of truth.” Franken is right. Recent polling by CNN shows that 75% of Republicans do not think that Biden’s 2020 win was legitimate. And though it’s flat-out wrong, it’s not even a fringe, far-right belief that Trump won the election. Even usually reasonable people are being bamboozled.

Ever since former President Donald Trump lost the election, he has been falsely arguing that he won the election and that widespread election fraud (coupled with other conspiracy theories) led to Biden winning. He was still pushing this narrative on Fox News just last week, saying “I think we won substantially. And Rush thought we won. He thought it was over at 10 o’clock; 10:30, it was over. A lot of other people feel that way, but Rush felt that way strongly.”

Trump can lie on his own time, but Fox News shouldn’t allow him to spread these conspiracies on their airwaves, free from dispute. Newsmax and One America News Network (OAN) — two networks that have (somehow) found room to the right of Fox News — allowed Trump to push the same narrative on their airwaves.

Rush Limbaugh passed away last week, and this column wouldn’t be complete without bringing him up. To say the least, he was awful. He once said, “Holocaust 90 million Indians? Only four million left? They all have casinos, what’s to complain about?” During the AIDS/HIV epidemic, Limbaugh had a segment titled “AIDS Update,” in which he mocked those who died of AIDS, even reportedly saying that, “Gays deserved their fate.” Late last year, he floated the idea of secession on his show. In 2009, he referred to then-President Obama as “more African in his roots than he is American.”

Tucker, Limbaugh and Trump have one thing in common: What they do can be really, really profitable. In 2020, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” along with his colleague Sean Hannity’s show, “Hannity,” became the first two cable news programs to finish a whole year with more than four million viewers. Limbaugh had long been a staple of right-wing talk radio, and made $84.5 million in 2018. Trump raised $207.5 million in the month following Election Day, largely based on his voter fraud nonsense.

These three aren’t in the business of helping our country. They aren’t in the business of moderating healthy public policy debates. They’re like a local Applebee’s: Serve up exactly what the customers want, or they’ll go to the place that will. Many conservatives don’t want to entertain the idea that Trump could have lost the election, or that a white police officer could have done wrong to a Black man.

Instead of facing these realities, right-wingers go get their comfort food from the likes of Trump, Carlson, Limbaugh, Fox News, OAN or Newsmax. I don’t blame them. I’ve been pretty clear on this; Democrats, almost as much as Republicans, have long failed to help the working class or the poor. I blame those like Trump, Carlson and Limbaugh that prey on desperate, hurting Americans, giving them what they want to hear in the short-term, making a quick buck for themselves, and rotting our democracy in the long run.

It wouldn’t do much for me to sit here and tell Carlson, Limbaugh and Trump not to lie or be divisive. It’s worked for them, so why should they care? What we need to do is stop making it so incentivizing for people like Tucker, Limbaugh and Trump to lie.

Stay tuned, because there will be much, much more to come on this.