What to make of Tucker Carlson — and other journalists today


Tucker Carlson, Fox News host, speaks during the FAMiLY Leadership Summit at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center Friday, July 15, 2022 in Des Moines.

By Marty Rochester

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” 

— Former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

J. Martin Rochester, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, is the author of 10 books on international and American politics.

As you have probably heard, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson is off the air. In my judgment, Carlson and his former colleagues at Fox News are not really journalists. They certainly do not represent serious, objective, professional journalism. 

But that can be said of most of Tucker’s contemporaries in today’s newsrooms, no matter print or electronic, conservative or liberal.

I include here the three traditional broadcast TV networks — ABC, CBS and NBC; CNN and MSNBC; the New York Times, Washington Post, and other national agenda-setting media. 

Can you expect factual reporting any more from Rachel Maddow or Morning Joe or Joy Reid than from Tucker or Hannity or Laura Ingraham? What about Lester Holt and Norah O’Donnell, who simply cover the stories and read the words their shows’ producers feed them? Where are Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley when we need them? 

The simple reality is that virtually all news media today are hopelessly biased, promoting agendas of the left or the right, well beyond whatever leanings they may have had in the past. Opinions increasingly blend easily with what are presented as facts.

My observation is hardly new. Ted Koppel noted “the death of real news” long ago (Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2010). But things arguably have gotten even worse over time. 

Although bias is media-wide, it is fair to say that liberals dominate the media landscape far more than conservatives, except perhaps for talk radio. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that five times as many national journalists identified as liberal than as conservative (Kim Holmes, “The Closing of the Liberal Mind”). Tim Groseclose, in “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind,” writes that “in a typical presidential election, Washington correspondents vote about 93-7 for the Democrat, while the rest of America votes about 50-50.” There is a great deal of empirical evidence supporting Groseclose’s conclusion about the predominant liberal bent of news media in the United States. 

Whether the bias is from the left or the right, it is a sad commentary on the state of American journalism. 

I used to think that one exception, where one could find objective, serious reporting and analysis of events, was the “PBS News Hour,” which always had a slight liberal tilt but was relatively balanced compared with its competitors. However, even the News Hour has drifted further left over time, not only in its growing coverage of race, gender and other identity politics topics, but also in the slant it presents. Notice how, for its weekly political commentary, it relies on Jonathan Capehart of the Post, a far-left, super-liberal, rather woke commentator joined with David Brooks of the Times, who vacillates between moderate conservatism and centrism but hardly offers a clear counterpoint to Capehart.  

Speaking of a counterpoint to Capehart, let me return to Tucker Carlson. 

Although his style could have been less combative and more civil, I found myself agreeing with him on a lot of issues, especially on the turn liberalism has taken from mere political correctness to extreme wokeness in terms of no longer treating people as individuals but instead as rival grievance groups, thus undermining the fabric of the Constitution and the nation. 

I shared his concern about border control (how we can allow millions of illegal aliens into our country in violation of the rule of law), the dumbing down of our schools (how we can divert attention from the three R’s to an obsession with social justice and sexuality matters when half of our students in K-12 lack proficiency in reading), and many other problems.  

I disagreed with Tucker strongly on some other issues, notably on foreign policy, where I found him strangely isolationist to a fault on Ukraine and many other subjects.  

What about the recent controversy over Tucker’s airing of the Jan. 6 tapes and his characterizing the attack on the Capitol as relatively peaceful? On the one hand, I have called the mob invasion of one of our most sacred buildings “horrendous” and “inexcusable.” Tucker mildly condemned the act but did not go far enough to distance himself from it. On the other hand, there is merit in his argument that it is a bit of a reach to call the act an “armed insurrection,” as most media and the Jan. 6 committee did, given the fact that few were armed with lethal weapons and that it arguably could more accurately be called a riot than a serious attempt to take over the government. 

Carlson rightly pointed out that there were more Capital police officers injured in the June 2020 George Floyd murder when hundreds of left-wing protestors committed arson and violence outside the White House, causing the Secret Service to rush then-President Donald Trump to a security bunker in the building. The media, along with the Jan. 6 committee, tended to underplay the latter incident.

My point is not that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capital was not a shocking affront to our democracy but rather that democracy would have been better served had we had a bipartisan Jan. 6 committee instead of one whose members were handpicked by the Democrats, along with a professional, apolitical media reporting more credibly and evenhandedly. 

As for Carlson’s supposed racism, he is no more racist — and arguably less so — than the MSNBC commentators and others on the left who buy into the critical race theory assumption that, if you are white, you are by definition a racist by virtue of your skin color. 

In other words, Tucker Carlson is no better or worse than the Washington, D.C., universe he inhabits. Even with him removed from the air, we are still left with lots of “fake news.”