Tucker Carlson, under fire for past radio comments, turns tables on the 'outrage machine'

These things are true about Tucker Carlson:

There is a media mob out to get him.

They are using words he uttered on a shock-jock radio show as long as 13 years ago, even though for part of that time he worked as an MSNBC host.

The effort is led by a liberal advocacy organization that has been crusading against Fox News for years.

There is a push to get advertisers to boycott his prime-time show in an effort to force him off the air.

These things are also true about Tucker Carlson:

Some of the things he said on the radio show are offensive, troubling and can't be defended.

Yes, he seemingly made the comments in jocular banter long ago, but in today's Twitter-driven environment, old remarks are an increasingly common weapon against public figures.

He has gone on offense rather than apologize, unlike what many media figures have done to make amends.

Carlson regularly called in to the Tampa-based "Bubba the Love Sponge" show between 2006 and 2011. He hosted the MSNBC show "Tucker" for the first half of that period, when most of the inflammatory remarks were made, and was a Fox News contributor toward the end of that period. MSNBC declined to comment.

The audio and transcripts were released by Media Matters, a liberal group that goes after media conservatives in general and Fox in particular. (There are similar organizations on the right).

In the first batch of recordings, Carlson said: "I love women, but they're extremely primitive, they're basic, they're not that hard to understand."

He described Elena Kagan as unattractive, called Arianna Huffington a pig, and used the C-word in discussing television host Alexis Stewart, the daughter of Martha Stewart.

There were also exchanges about Warren Jeffs, former head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now serving a life sentence for child rape.

While Jeffs "may" be "a child rapist," Carlson said, "I'm just telling you that arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her." He said on the show three years later that he was not defending underage marriage, but "I just don't think it's the same thing exactly as pulling a child from a bus stop and sexually assaulting that child."

In a second batch of recordings, released live on MSNBC during an interview with Media Matters President Angelo Carusone, Carlson used awful language in describing why he opposed the Iraq war.

Iraq is a "crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys," he said. On another show, he said he had no sympathy for Iraqis or their culture because they "don't use toilet paper or forks."

In a 2006 appearance, Carlson said he'd like to see a presidential candidate blame "lunatic Muslims who are behaving like animals," and that such a candidate would be elected king by vowing to "kill as many of them" as possible.

Carlson also repeated a gay slur used by Bubba as they joked about having a sexual attraction to each other. And in a third batch, Carlson called the winner of the Miss Teen USA pageant "so dumb" and speculated she was having sex with a prominent actor.

As I said, I can't defend any of these comments.

Carlson's response was to blame "the great American outrage machine." And Fox News, rather than making a statement, is referring reporters to Carlson's rebuttal.

He told viewers Monday that "it's pointless to try to explain how the words were spoken in jest or taken out of context, or in any case bear no resemblance to what you actually think or would want for the country. None of that matters, nobody cares. You know the role you're required to play. You are a sinner that needs the forgiveness of Twitter."

Even if he apologized profusely and issued a statement of deep contrition, Carlson said, it would simply provide a pretext for critics to attack him again.

He said these critics believe "that politics is war" and will do whatever it takes to gain power. "If that includes getting you fired or silencing you, or threatening your family at home, or throwing you in prison, okay. They know what their goal is. If you are in the way, they will crush you."

He added that "we've always apologized when we are wrong," but "will never bow to the mob."

From Carlson’s vantage point, he made the most criticized comments as an MSNBC host on Bubba's popular radio show on Sirius XM, it was never hidden, but no one brought it up until he had a top-rated show on Fox.

As if to underscore the guerilla warfare involved, the Daily Caller, the conservative site co-founded by Carlson, has struck back by unearthing incendiary comments from that period by Carusone, the Media Matters chief.

In a 2005 post about a Bangladeshi man robbed by transvestites, Carusone asked whether the writer was a "tranny lover" and said the police should advise the public to "stay away from tranny bars." He said "lighten up Japs" after a Japanese basketball coach was accused of hitting female players and making them run nude. Carusone also said of his boyfriend, "despite his jewry, you KNOW he’s adorable."

On the air last night, Carlson cited such examples in calling Carusone an "enthusiastic bigot."

Compare the media pillorying of Carlson with the way that liberal MSNBC host Joy Reid was treated last year after Mediaite obtained numerous homophobic posts she had written a decade earlier.

Among other things, Reid wrote that "most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing" and that "a lot of heterosexuals, especially men, find the idea of homosexual sex to be ... well ... gross.”

After an initial apology for some earlier posts, Reid blamed unspecified hackers — an explanation she soon dropped — for "an effort to taint my character with false information by distorting a blog that ended a decade ago."

But then still more posts surfaced, including her promotion of a theory that the U.S. government was behind 9/11. She also Photoshopped John McCain's head onto the body of Seung-Hui Cho, who murdered 32 people in a mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

Reid apologized again, saying "there are things I deeply regret and am embarrassed by" and that her position on some issues had changed. MSNBC called the remarks "obviously hateful and hurtful," but said they were "not reflective of the colleague and friend we have known at MSNBC for the past seven years."

But there was no huge media uproar over Reid's past anti-gay rhetoric. To be sure, Carlson is more famous and has one of the biggest audiences in cable news. And yet the reaction follows a pattern: the mainstream press and liberal commentators seizing on controversies involving media conservatives, while those on the right doing the same when someone on the left is targeted but not achieving the same noise level.

Six years ago it took days for MSNBC host Martin Bashir to resign after saying Sarah Palin should be forced to endure the treatment of slaves — including having someone defecate in her mouth — and that drew a small fraction of the coverage now surrounding Carlson.

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Kathleen Parker, a moderately conservative Washington Post columnist, wrote that while she finds his past language "abominable ... neither Carlson nor anyone should instinctively bow to the mob ... Let them rage their furies, but once we allow a self-selected subset of American liberalism to become arbiters of what constitutes acceptable thought, then we are, indeed, on the road to purgatory."

Carlson generates plenty of controversy for what he says on his Fox News show. His old radio banter was offensive, but it’s equally clear that digging it up was an ideologically motivated effort to discredit him.