There are calls for a controversial TV personality in the US to be fired after he appeared to defend the alleged actions of a teen who is accused of shooting dead two demonstrators during social unrest in the wake of Jacob Blake’s police shooting.
Fox News' Tucker Carlson is being heavily criticised for suggesting that no one should be surprised by the killing of the two demonstrators during social unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Authorities “stood back and watched Kenosha burn,” he said on Fox News Channel on Wednesday.
“So are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?”
Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Illinois resident and police supporter, was taken into custody on suspicion of homicide after the killings of two people involved in unrest following last weekend's police shooting of Black man, Jacob Blake.
He faces several charges over the incident including first-degree reckless homicide in the death of Joseph Rosenbaum and first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Anthony Huber.
Carlson's commentary drew an angry response online because it was seen as sympathetic to Rittenhouse or offering justification for murder.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich tweeted the Fox management “is complicit in Tucker Carlson's racist, murderous rants” if they take no action against him.
Author Don Winslow called the comments disgusting.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland shooting, called Carlson a “lunatic who will get people killed. ... You should be removed for the safety of our kids”.
"Fire Tucker Carlson Now" was trending on Twitter on Thursday (local time).
Political podcast host Brian Tyler Cohen tweeted a list of Carlson's advertisers, tagging several companies.
"You all just paid for Tucker Carlson to defend a murderer on air," he said.
But presidential son Donald Trump Jr tweeted that “the left-wing media is willfully twisting Tucker Carlson's words to smear him. He never endorsed ‘vigilante justice.’ He just pointed out that when ‘leaders’ cede control of our streets to the mob, it leads to heartbreaking consequences.”
The leftwing media is willfully twisting Tucker Carlson’s words to smear him. He never endorsed “vigilante justice.”— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) August 27, 2020
He just pointed out that when “leaders” cede control of our streets to the mob, it leads to heartbreaking consequences/tragedies like looting, anarchy & death. https://t.co/AwHR0semsi
Twitter flagged a link in one of Carlson's tweets for sensitive content. Carlson's tweet had quoted words he used on the air.
Carlson, who usually competes with colleague Sean Hannity to be the most popular news host on cable television, has been criticised in the past for comments considered sympathetic to white nationalists. Last month his show's head writer quit after it was revealed he was posting racist comments online under a pseudonym.
When asked for comment Thursday, Fox provided a transcript of Carlson's segment from the night before.
Fox management infrequently comments on individual statements by its personalities. Instead, Fox is more likely to express displeasure by taking someone off the air — temporarily or permanently — and Carlson is expected at his post on Thursday.
Kenosha devolved into anarchy because the authorities abandoned the people. Those in charge, from the governor on down, refused to enforce the law. They’ve stood back and watched Kenosha burn. Are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? pic.twitter.com/oul2KUiDi3— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) August 27, 2020
Latest protests divide opinion
Carlson didn't stand alone in his commentary, either.
Conservative provocateur Ann Coulter tweeted about Rittenhouse: “I want him as my president.”
Three hours before Carlson's statement, Fox's Jesse Watters said Rittenhouse acted inappropriately and “unfortunately this is what happens when a governor abdicates his responsibility to keep the streets safe."
Former Fox personality Megyn Kelly trended on Twitter for a series of retweets, including one that said “Jacob Blake was armed with a KNIFE when cops shot him.” While authorities found a knife in Blake's car after he was shot by police, it wasn't clear if he had possession during the confrontation.
She also emphasised a quote in a Real Clear Politics article by Ben Shapiro: “The narrative has been set. The (police) shooting was unjustified, and racist at that. No evidence has been presented, none need be. And if the facts don't match the accusations, the facts will be put aside.”
From @benshapiro re Kenosha: “the narrative has been set: The shooting was unjustified, & racist at that. No evidence has been presented; none need be. And if the facts don't match the accusations, the facts will be put aside.” https://t.co/RpfaULYIda— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) August 27, 2020
In an article on the website Outkick.com, writer Jason Whitlock wrote that professional athletes who have sat out competitions due to police shootings are “useful idiots” convinced that some police shootings were examples of racism when they were really about resisting arrest.
In the publication American Spectator, author Scott McKay said that while 17-year-olds should not cross state lines to carry rifles into demonstrations, protest groups like Black Lives Matter bear “total responsibility” for Rittenhouse doing so.
“What did you morons think was going to happen?” McKay wrote. “That you could continue to burn down a small city in middle America without any resistance?”
But “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace on Thursday rejected any notion that Rittenhouse's alleged actions are justifiable.
“Vigilante justice is a completely inappropriate response to rioting in the street,” Wallace said. “There is no justification for what happened in Kenosha and vigilante justice is a crime and should be punished as a crime.”
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