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Cable news host fails race test

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

The departures of Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly helped put Carlson into the prime real estate of an 8 p.m. time slot.

And good for him. This is a guy who has been fired from hosting gigs on CNN and MSNBC. But he never gave up, and look at him now. It's impossible not to root for someone like that.

But as other conservatives in Washington have already figured out about our old friend, the bright lights and seven-figure paychecks of prime-time television can change a brother.

In May, Weekly Standard founder and former Fox News contributor Bill Kristol said it was painful to watch Carlson -- his friend and former employee -- "beating up some 20-year-old college liberal because he said something stupid."

In July, during an on-air street fight with Carlson over U.S. intervention, conservative Max Boot told the host that his judgment was "clouded by ratings because you feel compelled to be a spokesman for Donald Trump." As Boot later noted in an essay for Commentary Magazine, Carlson's new shtick is "sarcasm, condescension, and mock-incredulous double-takes."

My old pal hit me with all three, and it didn't go well for him. He tried to talk down to me, by saying something like "What I'm trying to get you to understand ... " I cut him off with a scolding: "Tucker, don't be condescending to me! It makes you sound like those white liberals that you and I both find so annoying." For a second, the professional talker was speechless.

For most of the segment, Carlson simply called me a "racist." This didn't bother me. In 25 years of opinion writing, I've been called every slur in the book -- and a few that aren't in there because they're too ugly.

The exchange made me miss the guy I used to know. It also made me nostalgic for the good old days of politics when conservatives pushed back against those who called people "racist" -- instead of reflexively calling other people "racist."

I went on Tucker Carlson's show hoping to find some critical thinking. I got plenty of the critical, but not much thinking.

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Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

 

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