Fox News firebrands Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro stand by controversial statements

The controversy around Carlson comes as Fox News has received fresh scrutiny for its close relationship with the Trump administration.
Image: Tucker Carlson at the Fox News Channel studio in New York on March 2, 2017.
Tucker Carlson at the Fox News Channel studio in New York on March 2, 2017.Richard Drew / AP file

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By Claire Atkinson

Fox News has distanced itself from critical remarks about Islam by one of its commentators and has received calls to fire one of its primetime hosts for comments that were criticized as misogynistic, adding to renewed scrutiny of the cable news channel.

On Sunday night, the liberal activist group Media Matters for America released recordings of a variety of comments Tucker Carlson made during appearances on a radio show in which he disparaged sex workers in Florida and described women as being “primitive.”

Carlson, who joined the network in 2009, made the comments on a radio talk show hosted by “Bubba the Love Sponge” (whose real name is Todd Alan Clem) from 2006 to 2011. Carlson was a host on MSNBC from 2005 to 2008. He has also worked for CNN and PBS.

Carlson described both Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton as being against men and described other women including Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Arianna Huffington in derogatory terms.

Carlson refused to apologize for the remarks, and posted a tweet admitting only that he said something “naughty” and that he made the comments more than a decade ago. He invited those who disagree with him to come on his show.

Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the women’s rights group UltraViolet, called for Carlson’s removal in a statement sent to NBC News.

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“Tucker Carlson is a dangerous misogynist,” Thomas said in the statement. “Carlson’s defense of domestic abusers and child rapists, and his perverted comments about young girls, are nothing short of horrifying. Unfortunately, they’re also not surprising. This report shows exactly who he is and has always been. Fox News should fire Tucker Carlson immediately.”

Media Matters released additional audio Monday night of Carlson using a homophobic slur on the "Bubba the Love Sponge" radio show, where he told the host he liked him in a "completely f-----" way.

In more releases, the Fox host credited white men for "creating civilization," called Iraqi people "semiliterate primitive monkeys," and said the Congressional Black Caucus "exists to blame the white man for everything."

Fox News declined to comment. Carlson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Separately, the cable news company issued a statement on Sunday in which it condemned comments made by Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host who questioned the loyalty of Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., because of her Muslim beliefs and headscarf.

“We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar," the company said in a statement. "They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly."

Pirro made the comments during a monologue on her show on Saturday.

“Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Shariah law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?” Pirro said.

Jeanine Pirro speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland on Feb. 23, 2017.Zach D. Roberts / NurPhoto via Getty Images file

Omar tweeted to Fox News, thanking the company for its statement.

In a statement sent via a Fox News spokesperson on Monday, Pirro denied that she had questioned Omar’s loyalty.

“I’ve seen a lot of comments about my opening statement from Saturday night’s show and I did not call Rep. Omar un-American,” Pirro said. “My intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution. I invite Rep. Omar to come on my show any time to discuss all of the important issues facing America today.”

The comments from Pirro and the controversy around Carlson come as Fox News has received fresh scrutiny for the conservative bent of its commentators and close relationship with the Trump administration following an article in The New Yorker that detailed the many connections between President Donald Trump and the cable news channel. Last week, the Democratic National Committee announced that it would not allow Fox News to host any 2020 Democratic presidential debates, citing its ties to Trump.