Tucker Carlson is at it again. The far-right Fox News host spent much of his show last night stoking hatred and, as Kat Abu of Media Matters tweeted, “openly calling for violence against teachers and LGBTQ+ people.”
Abu included in her tweet a truly chilling clip of Carlson from his show, ranting about LGBTQ people allegedly grooming children — an age-old homophobic trope used to position gender and sexual minorities as perverts and threats. “No parent should put up with this for one second, no matter what the law says. Your moral duty is to defend your children,” Tucker told viewers in the clip. “This is an attack on your children, and you should fight back.”
That “attack,” in Carlson’s mind, is the very existence of LGBTQ people in the public sphere. Using an extreme example of a Canadian transgender teacher wearing shockingly large prosthetic breasts, Carlson went on to insist that LGBTQ teachers — and lessons about LGBTQ people — are grooming and sexualizing children.
Doctors treating transgender children, drag queens, and LGBTQ rights activists are all frequent targets of Carlson’s vitriol. Indeed, Carlson spent so much time railing against the LGBTQ community last night that it is hard to know where to begin unpacking his bigotry. As such, let me start where we agree. Parents should have a say in what their children are learning at school, and they should be allowed to discuss threats of grooming and sexually inappropriate behavior around children, regardless of anyone’s identity. No one should be exempt from child safeguarding — not you, not me, not even far-right gadflies like Tucker Carlson.
But let’s take another example from Carlson’s recent monologue. “If you were walking through the park with your kids and a stranger came up and started talking to them — say to your fifth grader, your five-year-old, even your 14-year-old — about sex, what would you do?” he asked his viewers. “Well, you would call the police, of course. That’s not allowed, it’s a crime because they are children. But teachers are allowed to do it and then to brag about it.”
To be clear: No, they are not. If a teacher approached a child in a park and started talking about sex, they ought to be arrested like any other creep. That’s not what is happening, though. Rather, Carlson is drawing a false comparison between a predator in a park and qualified and vetted professional educators leading age-appropriate lessons on the existence of LGBTQ people. That is entirely appropriate. It is also, crucially, unrelated to the case of the Canadian teacher mentioned earlier. That person teaches shop class, not sex and relationship education. Sartorial and cosmetic issues are not the same as issues with lessons on gay people or trans people, both types of people who exist in our society who children are likely to encounter and who deserve to see themselves reflected in the country’s school curricula. Of course, these discussions should be age-appropriate — but there is nothing inappropriate about the existence of LGBTQ people.
Carlson’s inability to distinguish between gay people and gay sex is a problem, but it is not a problem that should lead schools to cease teaching about gender and sexual diversity. Whether anyone likes it, LGBTQ people are real. Children ought to be taught as much.
I can already hear Carlson’s voice in my head, whining that I called him names while denying that “groomer” is an insulting, homophobic slur. That is, of course, because Carlson has an agenda here. His hateful and homophobic rhetoric has become more toxic as time goes by, indicating that his intent is not to protect children — as he would have us believe — but rather to ensure that LGBTQ people are marginalized, excluded, and forced back into the closet — violently, if need be.
On August 18, Carlson called gender-related healthcare for minors “sexual mutilation of children,” despite the fact that what is known as gender-affirming surgeries on the genital regions are not done until the age of consent is reached. This is true of Boston Children’s Hospital, which guests on Carlson’s show have falsely attacked for performing gender-related genital surgeries on minors. Subsequently, the hospital and its doctors have received threats of violence, including a bomb threat, from far-right extremists.
And last year, Carlson leveled homophobic attacks at openly gay Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for taking paternity leave. In 2018, GLAAD accused him of inciting violence against a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre. In April, he encouraged parents to “go in and thrash the teacher” if they teach children about transgender folks. Discussing Florida’s homophobic “Don’t Say Gay” bill with fellow far-right extremist Matt Walsh, Carlson said any talk of LGBTQ people in kindergarten is “sexual abuse” — a prejudiced and hateful view that fails to differentiate between gay people and gay sex or trans people and fetishism.
It gets worse. In his college yearbook, Carlson claimed to be a member of the “Dan White Society,” a group many suspect was named for the infamous assassin of Harvey Milk, the nation’s first openly gay elected official. In 2006, Carlson used a homophobic slur while recording an episode of the “Bubba the Love Sponge Show.” On that same show in 2009, Carlson defended child marriage while claiming that was not what he was doing: “I’m not defending underage marriage at all,” he said, while discussing one horrific case, before going on to argue that “the rapist, in this case, has made a lifelong commitment to live and take care of the person, so it’s a little different. I mean, let’s be honest about it.”
Clearly, Carlson does not care about sexually exploiting children if he’s going to offer even a tepid defense of a child rapist. This is all about his hatred of LGBTQ people.
Carlson is very clearly stoking hatred and encouraging violence against teachers, against doctors, and against the LGBTQ community. He is doing all of this while making conversations about individual behaviors and incidents into attempts to scapegoat the entire LGBTQ community, misconstruing facts, and even deliberately lying.
We can no longer pretend that this is only an issue of free speech or media sensationalism. Tucker Carlson is an active threat to innocent LGBTQ people, and he should be treated as such. It’s time to call him what he is.