Tucker Carlson kicked off the primetime Thursday lineup for Fox News Channel – the only major news network not to broadcast the Jan. 6 House committee hearings in full – complaining about the nature of proceedings going on in the background while wrangling a robust lineup of familiar guests to join the grousing.
It was certainly a juggling act, and Carlson and his guests pulled off their first night of the much-criticized strategy without a hiccup.
In a surprise, Fox News Channel presented “Tucker Carlson Tonight” without ads for the entire hour, and made a promise to “break in” to the hearings when “warranted” – but never took the chance to do so live. Instead, Fox cherry-picked statements from the committee’s only Republicans, GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, teeing up their anti-riot statements for the conga-line of guest commenters to hammer. Of the precious few actual statements aired (and subsequently ripped by Carlson and his guests) during the hour, this was one:
All the while, a video feed from the primetime hearings, which were gaveled in the same minute “Tucker Carlson Tonight” kicked off at 8 p.m. ET, were popped in and out of a window over Carlson’s shoulder. With the audio mostly muted, Carlson began rolling in some of his friendliest allies – including sports journalist Jason Whitlock, former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, American Conservative Union head Matt Schlapp and several others – each of whom trashed the committee’s big show as it unfolded.
“They’re just trying to tap into fear and emotion,” Whitlock said.
Each guest got the usual minute-or-so segment to unload criticisms of the Jan. 6 hearings – and each opened with a point they were clearly prepared to make. All were in the same vein, however, downplaying the Capitol riot as a bungled security plan that got out of hand.
“It’s literally being produced by someone from ABC News with little regard for the truth,” said Gabbard, referencing the committee’s decision to tap former ABC News President James Goldston to help dramatize the testimony for the hearings.
“When the political violence benefits them, they turn a blind eye toward it,” CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp said. ”When it doesn’t, they want to put people in jail.”
Carlson and his guests hit the usual talking-points: how the Jan. 6 riot was less serious than the summer 2020 Black Lives Matters protests, how Donald Trump eventually offered to call the National Guard to back up Capitol security, how the Southern borders are unsafe, and how billions in federal money has been authorized for security in Ukraine.
“The point is not to get to the truth,” Carlson said. “It’s to hide the truth. And to declare war against people who don’t share their political agenda.”
One guest, Ned Ryun, CEO of American Majority, looked forward to a day when Republicans would be in power – and could offer their own version of what happened on Jan. 6. ”The GOP majority will unearth the truth,” he said, “and release all 14,000 hours of footage.”
If the hearings weren’t going on live – over Carlson’s shoulder and on every major news network in America – you might just think it was another regular night on Fox News Channel.