Column: Finally, accountability for Tucker Carlson. But it's only a start

If you believe in accountability, if you believe in personal responsibility, if you believe that misdeeds merit punishment and those who knowingly lie should pay for their dishonor and deceit, then Monday was a good day.

Tucker Carlson — the race-baiting, immigrant-hating, election-denying, Putin-promoting, two-faced ringmaster of right-wing sophistry — was unceremoniously dumped by his corporate sponsor, Fox News.

Let the joyous news be spread!

If you believe his ouster will commence a new day of sunshine and companionship across the land, healing our divisions and making red and blue Americans join hands as one, you are probably as gullible as the Fox viewers who swallowed the diet of fallacy and claptrap routinely fed them by Carlson and other disingenuous Fox hosts.

It’s not going to happen.

As odious and insidious as he was, Carlson was just a symptom — albeit also a major spreader — of the toxicity that ails our politics and culture today.

His removal from a slot in television’s prime time eliminates a major source of air pollution. But it doesn’t change the mentality, a corporate drive for profit at any cost, or cease the kind of purposeful mendacity that turned Carlson into one of Fox’s biggest celebrities and a kingmaker in today’s benighted Republican Party.

Lest it be forgotten, Carlson replaced Bill O’Reilly, another top-rated star, who trafficked in distortion and misdirection, when O’Reilly grew entangled in one of the network’s serial sexual-harassment scandals.

Unless Fox throws out its business model and overlord Rupert Murdoch registers as a Democrat, Carlson will doubtless be replaced by a host equally willing to serve up the same noxious brew of incitement, spin and made-up stuff to an audience that craves it.

On the propaganda network where never is heard a discouraging word.

One of the most startling revelations to come out of the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox, which resulted last week in a nearly $800 million payout, was how many of the network’s on-air personalities — Carlson included — knew the allegations of a stolen election were false. They persisted in promoting the lie because they believed it was what their audience wanted to hear, truth and journalistic ethics be damned.

“The insight one can gather from the Dominion disclosures is that Fox News has focused on satisfying existing needs and playing to the desires of a base, niche audience and has done so successfully,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania professor and one of the country’s leading scholars on politics and the news media.

“And when threatened” with losing viewers, she noted, the network and its hosts deliberately misled them “to protect its interest in controlling that space.”

Amply demonstrating Fox News’ corporate credo of market share uber alles.

Carlson’s defenestration happened to coincide with Don Lemon’s firing from CNN and because what-about-ism is today’s reflexive fallback, let’s briefly consider Lemon’s dismissal.

He made a stupid, sexist remark about Nikki Haley, the 51-year-old former South Carolina governor seeking the GOP presidential nomination, being past her prime. It also didn’t help that Lemon failed to catch on as co-host of “CNN This Morning.”

Nothing Lemon said compares with the long, reprehensible list of vicious and hateful statements Carlson spewed. Those include attacks on immigrants — who, he suggested, make America poorer and dirtier — antisemitic and white supremacist tropes and a suggestion, mid-pandemic, that viewers call police or Child Protective Services if they saw a child playing outside and wearing a mask.

There might have been a smirk and own-the-libs wink when Carlson made such egregiously over-the-top remarks. But there was nothing the least funny about how some in his audience responded.

In one extreme case, the “great replacement” theory Carlson promoted was cited by a gunman who killed 10 people and wounded three others in May 2022 at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo.

Reams of academic studies have also documented the deleterious “Fox News effect” on viewers — who showed higher levels of being misinformed or believing proven falsehoods — as well as pushing congressional lawmakers to more far-right, uncompromising positions.

It is too much to blame a single individual, as despicable as Carlson may be, for leading a whole country into a slough of anger, backbiting, recrimination and mistrust.

But there is something particularly revolting about a person who was not only willing and eager to contribute to that poisoned atmosphere but did so knowing he was promoting a dangerous and explosive pack of lies.

In private, Carlson called allegations about Dominion stealing the election from President Trump “shockingly reckless” and “absurd.” On air, he spoon-fed them, straight-faced, to his credulous audience.

Carlson’s humiliating dismissal won’t cure all that ails this country. But it’s satisfying nonetheless.

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