It should go without saying that the right-wing media’s incendiary response to President Joe Biden’s speech last week — on the looming threat to American democracy posed by “MAGA Republicans” who seek to subvert the results of elections — was deeply hypocritical. Right-wing demagogues buy summer homes with the proceeds of their rage against the left, and they supported former President Donald Trump as he attacked wide swathes of the population and triggered an insurrection. But now they are pretending to be deeply disturbed by Biden’s remarks, which they falsely claim were directed at every Republican voter.
It would take more time than I’m willing to spend to detail every instance of hypocrisy in the right-wing responses to Biden’s speech at Independence Hall. But here’s a telling example involving Tucker Carlson, the Fox News prime-time host who stands above all others as the face of that network.
While other networks were carrying Biden’s speech on Thursday, Carlson lashed out at him, then mischaracterized the remarks to his viewers as the president claiming “anyone who disagrees with him is a threat to the country.” Based on that false characterization, Carlson termed Biden’s remarks “very dangerous,” “totally immoral,” and “truly nuts and threatening to the future of the United States.”
Carlson was still using his fabricated version of Biden’s comments to frighten and anger his viewers five nights later. On Tuesday, he lashed out at cable news commentators who had praised the speech.
“It’s amazing how Soviet the whole thing is. Joe Biden calls for political purges and law enforcement crackdowns on his political opponents, and state media cheer him on,” Carlson said, simply making up topics that weren’t in the speech and getting mad about them.
He then complained that a speech about threats to American democracy focused on Trump and his closest allies rather than China or fentanyl, adding, “Like the obedient little servants they are, our media cheer him on. You have to wonder about their views on authoritarianism — obviously they’re for it.”
Carlson went on to describe the historian Jon Meacham, who reportedly “help[ed] with the framing” of the speech, as “our propagandist-in-chief.”
Speaking of authoritarianism, presidential calls for law enforcement crackdowns, and propaganda, Carlson’s monologues were reportedly the inspiration for then-President Trump’s remarks at his rally in front of Mount Rushmore on the eve of Independence Day, 2020.
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children,” Trump claimed during the speech. He denounced “angry mobs [that] are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities” in order to take away “our country, and all of its values, history, and culture.”
“In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance,” Trump warned. “Make no mistake: This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.”
He told the cheering crowd that he was “deploying federal law enforcement to protect our monuments, arrest the rioters, and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”
Some commentators pointed out the authoritarian content of Trump’s remarks. “Trump’s own sense of emergency and claims of an imminent threat to the nation—as he narrowly conceives of it—represent the closest he has ever come to a fascist form of argumentation,” the historian of fascism Federico Finchelstein wrote in Foreign Policy. “Contrary to what he proclaimed at Mount Rushmore, it is Trump who is constantly undermining democracy and inclusion—and his nativist populism is anchored in the fascist past.”
But not Carlson. The Fox host described it as “the single best speech Donald Trump has ever given.”
“It was a roadmap for his reelection message, but more than that, it was a roadmap for the country itself,” he continued. “Equality, decency, pride in our nation — those were the themes.”