Tucker Carlson, Fox News demagogue

by Erik Wemple

Tucker Carlson doesn’t run a courtroom. He runs an opinion program on Fox News, a place where the fundamentals of American justice sometimes fall prey to ideological froth. And he doesn’t appreciate getting asked about it.

“He did not seem to presume that my client was innocent,” said defense attorney David Moyse in an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog.

That client was one of two immigrant teens who’d been slapped with rape and sex-offense charges in March. However: Evidence against Henry Sanchez Milian, 18, and Jose Montano, 17, just didn’t support the allegations that they had raped a 14-year-old classmate in a bathroom stall at Rockville High School. “The original charges cannot be sustained and prosecution of those charges is untenable,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy on Friday, according to an account in The Post.

So these undocumented immigrants have been cleared.

Viewers of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” may well be shocked. They, after all, heard a different story. On March 21, Carlson welcomed Zeke Cohen, a Baltimore City Council member, to discuss immigration policy. Cohen had championed a resolution asking that federal authorities prioritize “all enforcement efforts on arresting criminals who are causing harm to our city (violence, property crimes etc),” as opposed to undocumented immigrants not involved in criminal activity. Carlson ripped away: “Why, given what just happened, is that a wise idea? If these guys had been picked up in suburban Washington, in Rockville, this never would have happened. So, why would you encourage that policy in your city?”

After Cohen explained his position, Carlson repeated his conviction: “Okay, but we only knew that they were violent criminals after they had raped a ninth-grader. The fact is that at least one of them, possibly both, but at least one was in violation of the law already and because a lot of your state refuses to enforce federal immigration law, he was able to commit that rape. Wouldn’t it have been better to get him out of that school and out of this country before he raped this girl?” Later in the show, he amped up the accusations, complete with a clever nod to Trumpian rhetoric: “Why are people embarrassed to point to something that actually happened and draw obvious conclusions from it? Well, the Rockville rape atrocity may have been a rude awakening for some government officials that sometimes, when foreign countries send their people here, they are not sending their very best.”

Bolding added to highlight a missing word: “The alleged Rockville rape atrocity.” In fairness to Carlson, graphics on this program and occasionally his own statements did indeed couch the matter with the necessary caveats. But the host’s judgment was riding with the cops on this one. “This was a brutal attack,” said Montgomery Police Chief Tom Manger in the early going. “I am confident that we have a strong case.”

No more confident than the guy sitting in the Fox News anchor chair. A couple of nights after his chat with Cohen, Carlson squared off against Moyse. It was a brawl from the start, as Carlson showed incredulity at the defense attorney’s claim that this encounter was consensual. “Between two guys 17 and 18 and a 14-year-old girl in a high school bathroom? I mean, you pardon me if I seem astonished that you would be bold enough to assert something like that — that seems insane.”

Pushing further into the matter, Carlson asked whether Moyse was claiming that the alleged victim was lying. The response from Moyse was nothing fancy, but should serve as advice to reporters and pundits everywhere: “This case will go through the courts and the system will have evidence that comes out. It’s not just what has been the initial sensational headline.”

Then Carlson moved into scare-monger mode, asking Moyse a personal question:

CARLSON: So be honest, would you be comfortable having your 14-year-old girl in class with this guy?

MOYSE: I have two children, I live in Montgomery County, they’re young children. They’re not in school yet. But I want nothing but safety for my children, their friends, my family and everyone in my community.

CARLSON: Right, okay, we all do, but that’s not answering the question. This specific guy, your client — would you feel comfortable having your loved one go to school with him?

MOYSE: I don’t know him. I literally don’t know him and I can’t begin to answer that question about a single specific individual. Certainly these allegations have caused everyone a lot of concern and they should. This is absolutely a horrific allegation.

Before finishing out, Carlson waved a figurative finger at Moyse: “You’d better be right about this because if you’re going to be impugning the character of a 14-year-old girl who says she was raped — other people said they heard her screams.” Bolding added to highlight a claim mentioned by Moyse in his chat with the Erik Wemple Blog. “In that interview multiple times he injected as fact something that was completely fabricated — that people reported hearing her cry for help. That is an absolute falsity. In the course of this investigation, there has not been a single witness that the state has mentioned or that we have found that heard her crying for help,” Moyse told this blog.

Maybe Carlson unintentionally exaggerated the record. As The Post reported, charging documents in the case claimed that she had “cried out in pain,” though not that others heard the cries. “In all of our investigation and in all that the state turned over to us, there was never a report of a person hearing screams, cries, or anything,” Moyse said. Video cameras, he notes, “appear to show the opposite. There is no audio, but people do pass the area without ever showing any reaction or interest toward the male bathroom.”


Whether sloppy or purposeful, Carlson’s comments had the effect of incriminating the two immigrants far beyond what the record had indicated. Which is his job. Demagoguing a rape case involving immigrants: That act is why Tucker Carlson has gotten where he is; that act is what endears him to the Fox News brain trust, the disarrayed bunch that it is right now; that act is why, even as Fox News self-immolates in sexual-harassment and discrimination lawsuits of all kinds, people will watch.

Following his appearance on Carlson’s program, Moyse’s email got active. “I received hundreds of emails and phone calls with very negative threats and negative wishes,” Moyse told this blog “It was from that show.”

What does Carlson have to say about all this? We spent some time on Friday seeking feedback on whether he thought he’d gone too far, as well as a comment on the alleged audible screams. After sending the requests via email to the Fox News PR department, we heard back from Carlson:

Dear Erik,

Want to come on the show tonight? Live at 8:00 PM eastern. That was quite an appearance last time. I think our viewers would enjoy another. I know I would. Let me know.

Many thanks,

Tucker Carlson


Hi Mr. Carlson: Thanks for indirectly responding. I would be happy to, but first I’d appreciate an on-air admission that you lied in my last appearance. Once I see that, I will be happy to join you. In the meantime, I’d ask that you answer the questions that I posed. Thanks.

Carlson to Erik Wemple Blog:

So you won’t come on?


Here’s your last appearance, in case you want to enjoy it again.



Erik Wemple Blog to Carlson:

As I said: I will come on provided that you concede that you lied in my initial visit, which you did by choosing to highlight the only mitigating sentence in a critical piece that I’d written about my employer. You knew that you had mischaracterized it and did it anyway. [See explanation here]

Carlson to Erik Wemple Blog:

I’m assuming you know what a fraud you are. You can’t feel good about it.

Erik Wemple Blog to Carlson:

If that’s your evaluation of me, then I feel better about myself than ever. Thanks, Mr. Carlson.

Carlson to Erik Wemple Blog:

I’d bet money that you don’t.

Erik Wemple Blog to Carlson:

I mean, you, the top talent at Fox News, can continue trash-talking me here. Or you could answer the questions that I have posed. Defense attorney David Moyse says that your allegation that other people heard the alleged victim crying for help was “fabricated” and that no witness in the case ever made any such claim. Your response?

We will update with any response from Carlson, whether substantive or insulting.

Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the Montgomery County state’s attorney’s office, said he couldn’t comment on the matter, but advised: “You should ask Fox News where they got their sourcing.”

On his Friday night program, Carlson did address the dropped charges, acknowledging that he’d done “a number of shows on it.” In all, the exoneration of the accused immigrants secured about 100 words. As opposed to thousands upon thousands of words on the charges against them. “Let’s try to get our levels right,” importuned CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter in an essay on this matter. His appeal, however, presumes that people want to get it right — never a given with Carlson.


note: this op-ed originally appeared on the Washington Posts with the tittle Fox News’s Tucker Carlson demagogued a rape case involving immigrants. Then they were cleared


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