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Editorial

Greetings from Baltimore, Tucker Carlson’s nightmare city | COMMENTARY

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Fox News host Tucker Carlson discusses 'Populism and the Right' during the National Review Institute's Ideas Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Carlson talked about a large variety of topics including dropping testosterone levels, increasing rates of suicide, unemployment, drug addiction and social hierarchy at the summit, which had the theme 'The Case for the American Experiment.'  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In Fox world, as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki observed on a recent podcast, linking Joe Biden to urban crime has become a far more urgent topic than, for example, a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. So, naturally, The Fox News Channel’s most arrogant and condescending host, Tucker Carlson, turned his attention to Baltimore Tuesday to make the matter seem more in Mr. Biden’s backyard and, in classic Carlson fashion, make the pitch both racist and absurd.

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“Whatever you do, don’t go to Baltimore,” the host warned. “Baltimore is a major American city. It’s only about 40 miles from where Jen Psaki lives. It’s one of the worst places in the Western Hemisphere. It’s a little bit of Haiti in the Mid-Atlantic. Baltimore is exactly what happens when you apply Jen Psaki’s ideas to governing.”

Now, normally we would ignore such off-the-rails bloviation, as jaw-dropping as those words may be. One can almost feel the IQ points slipping away if you try to follow his reasoning down into the hidey hole of extremism. Tucker Carlson used to be a respected politically conservative writer working for respectable publications. He then went to Fox in 2009 and got rich by giving himself over to the Bill O’Reilly audience of disaffected white Americans looking for scapegoats. What binds them all together appears to be a deep hatred of the “liberal media” and an ardent fondness for “news” twisted to confirm certain misinformed views — and, apparently, shouted at them by a 52-year-old man. In recent years, he’s gone full clown, including cozying up with the paranoid anti-vaccine types.

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But this was especially egregious for several reasons. The first and most obvious is that it wore its racism so proudly and overtly. Haiti? Let’s see, what does Baltimore have in common with Haiti. If his point had been to raise concern about Baltimore’s high homicide rate, it was off the mark; even within the Caribbean, Haiti falls short of Jamaica for murder. Could it be our susceptibility to hurricanes? Probably not. More likely, Mr. Carlson turned to Haiti as an impoverished and struggling majority-Black nation (with 95% of the population of African ancestry). Baltimore is a majority-Black city dealing with an array of social ills, too. Oh, so this is about low-income people who don’t look like Mr. Carlson. Got it.

And then there’s the matter of video. To make his point, the host offered some choice segments courtesy of WBFF Fox45, the Baltimore Fox Television affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, observing both low public school performance and the city’s high homicide rate. For those who haven’t watched Fox45 in years, take note. It is no longer the plucky news operation of the past, but more like a mini-FNC that prefers repeating the same right-wing narratives (Baltimore public schools are irredeemable and wasteful is an especially popular theme), often with a reporter shouting questions at an exasperated official walking away. There is no serious consideration of the role poverty, police misconduct, racism, historic redlining, substance abuse or mass incarceration has played in events. Not even in student absenteeism. That kind of nuance is so mainstream media.

The formula here is not original, of course. Donald Trump targeted Baltimore in the summer of 2019 in an effort to embarrass then-Rep. Elijah Cummings calling it “disgusting” and rat infested. The congressman may have passed, but the willingness of right-wing media to tear so viciously into Baltimore for the amusement of its predominantly white audience has not. Make no mistake, Baltimore has its share of serious problems, including January’s brutal homicide count. But, alas, we can’t muster the Fox News level of simple-mindedness required to heap all of the blame for it on Jen Psaki’s doorstep. The day Tucker Carlson or his ilk, national or local, want to have a thoughtful, honest conversation about how to address this city’s long-standing and complex problems — whether it involves murder, public education, public corruption or terrible public transportation — we’re all ears. But don’t dump your race-baiting contempt on us and tell us it’s journalism or even informed opinion. It’s surely none of those things.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.


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