When we last checked in with Fox News, always a walk on the wild side, the channel was in ratings-trouble. Mildly so. Ratings were down in the immediate post-U.S. election period and right-wing outlets Newsmax and OAN were attracting disgruntled Fox News viewers.
Well, that didn’t last long. Rupert Murdoch went in and shook things up. These days Newsmax has half the audience it had last November when Donald Trump was pushing his rigged-election thing with energy. OAN doesn’t get involved in audience measurement because, one assumes, it might be revealed that the small gathering of elderly shut-ins who watch it are doing so by accident.
Fox News is back and winning big, or bigly, you could say. In early March it dominated the prime-time hours again. Could it be the recent arrival of Kayleigh McEnany, former White House press secretary, as a Fox News contributor?
Nope. Right now Tucker Carlson is its top anchor. He’s bigger than Sean Hannity and getting much higher ratings than competitors Anderson Cooper on CNN and Chris Hayes on MSNBC. How’s he doing this? Well, by attacking women, mostly.
It could be speculated that a nation gestates and builds a concept of itself through the impressions and constructs that are part of the popular culture, in movies, TV shows and news coverage. But let’s not even go there because scrutiny of Fox News in that context would suggest the United States is a misogynist hell-hole.
There’s a distinct pattern to Tucker Carlson’s recent rants and obsession. It suggests he is really mad at one woman and venting anger by attacking all women. His specific targets have been Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, a reporter for the New York Times and women in the U.S. military. In the latter matter, Carlson is apparently outraged to high heaven that arrangements are made to ensure pregnant women serving in the military can do their job in safety. Now, as the whole world except Tucker Carlson knows, you can’t be throwing verbal missiles at pregnant women.
In response to his angry blather last week, a Pentagon spokesman said, “What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host.” Well, good. During the previous U.S. administration, personnel advice came solely from all-news talk show hosts.
One of the oddest aspects of Carlson’s sexist obsessions was his approach to the Meghan and Prince Harry interview with Oprah. Next day, Carlson frowned – you know that frown – and snapped, “Who cares? So, we’re going to take a hard pass on the whole thing.” That’s his right. But, “hard pass”? He then spent 17 minutes talking about it, mainly about Meghan.
In the days between his mad meanderings about Meghan and before his strange outburst about pregnant women in the U.S. military, Carlson spent time belittling and sneering at New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz. Her crime was to write and put on Twitter, “For international women’s day please consider supporting women enduring online harassment. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the harassment and smear campaign I’ve had to endure over the past year has destroyed my life. No one should have to go through this.”
Lorenz writes about technology and the online arena for the paper. She’s no media star; she simply does a good job on her beat. For Carlson, the young reporter’s remarks were the epitome of what’s wrong with America. He referred to her as “privileged” and dismissed her experiences as “not real harassment.” For him, a woman complaining about online harassment is “woke-ism” at its worst.
He also did a sinister thing. On Lorenz’s Twitter feed she uses an avatar of a blobfish. Carlson and his team replaced that with a picture of Lorenz smiling. Just to let his viewers know what she looks like. It was seriously creepy and, as the Times has reported, vitriol aimed at the young reporter then soared.
That was a week of Tucker Carlson’s show: lambasting women and sneering at their concerns, even their right to complain. Last Thursday when Fox News aired President Joe Biden’s national address it was during Tucker Carlson’s program and, while Biden spoke, Fox News featured a “Live Tucker Reaction” graphic in the corner. That meant a little box in the bottom-right corner featuring Carlson frowning. What, you wondered, was he thinking as he stared at the camera while Biden spoke? Probably going through his list of women who needed a good talking-to.
As for Kayleigh McEnany, her main contributions to date have been attacks on the Biden administration for not acknowledging Donald Trump’s great vaccine plan. But her first significant contribution, on Fox & Friends, was to attack her successor, Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki, for saying she will “circle back” to get an answer to a reporter’s question.
It was mean-spirited but mild. She’ll learn to do it the Fox News way – attack women again and again. It’s what gets ratings. Carlson spent two nights berating Taylor Lorenz, and declared her a “deeply unhappy narcissist.” Look who’s talking.
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