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Tucker Carlson trying to be like Trump with transgressive talk on masks. And, sadly, it works. | COMMENTARY

Fox News host Tucker Carlson in 2019.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson in 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America/TNS)

I decided a few weeks ago that I was not going to write about Tucker Carlson anymore. The reason: He was generating a lot of chatter, but he was doing so by obviously imitating the media behavior of former President Donald Trump in saying something transgressive whenever it seemed like he wasn’t getting enough attention.

With Carlson and Trump, I considered it both a media strategy and a sickness, and I had enough of it with the former president when it had to be covered because of his position.

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But Monday night, Carlson lit up the cable news scoreboard with the kind of reckless talk that simply cannot be ignored. It is so dangerous that the behavior he is advocating could lead to conflict and death. And he was delivering such unhinged messaging to millions on a channel with the word “news” in its title.

“The next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk or the bike path, don’t hesitate,” he told his audience of millions. “Ask politely but firmly, ‘Would you please take off your mask? Science shows there is no reason to wear it. Your mask is making me uncomfortable.’ We should do that, and we should keep doing it, until wearing a mask outdoors is roughly as socially accepted as lighting a Marlboro in an elevator. It’s repulsive.”

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Wearing a mask is repulsive? Science shows there is no reason to wear it? Really. What science? Science shows the opposite. But this is classic disinformation, which flips the truth inside out.

But he was only warming up.

“Our response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a child in Walmart: Call the police immediately,” he said. “Contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re seeing is abuse. It’s child abuse, and you’re morally obligated to try to prevent it.”

If you are taking advice on moral obligations from Carlson and Fox News, I’ve got news for you: You are on a fast train to hell.

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I wish I could say that Carlson’s words were simply crazy, but they are dangerous in that they advocate conflict among citizens and potential abuse of police resources that are needed to protect citizens against real crimes.

This is a new low even for Fox News. But there is apparently no depth to which Carlson and Rupert Murdoch and his son, Lachlan, who own and run the channel, will not sink to in trying to hold an audience in the face of mounting competition from the right on Newsmax and One America News Network.

David Zurawik is The Baltimore Sun’s media critic. Email: david.zurawik@baltsun.com; Twitter: @davidzurawik.

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