Last weekend, Tucker Carlson woke up to world of pain. A researcher at Media Matters had dug up hours of his call-ins to a radio show called Bubba The Love Sponge. You can dig into all his deeply offensive opinions elsewhere, but here’s a lowlight reel, as summed up in the Washington Post: he implied underage marriage (that, to be clear, involves child rape) is not as serious as other instances of child rape, deemed rape shield laws “totally unfair” and said he would “love” to watch teen girls experiment, sexually. He also called women “primitive,” just to top it all off.
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Tucker Carlson has demonstrated sexism, racism, and homophobia in prime time for a decade. This is the man who told writer Lauren Duca, “You should stick to the thigh-high boots. You’re better at that.” It’s also because the Republican Party now teems with men who sexualize and dehumanize women in both public and private, and then use their power to advance laws that have more or less the same effect—restrictions on reproductive choices, statutes of limitation that make it harder for women to seek justice, support for NDAs that silence those who suffer workplace harassment, and on and on. Less than 48 hours ago, a judge had to block a GOP-backed law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected at six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant. In 2012, a Republican state representative perhaps made his point a little too clearly, comparing women who might have to then carry a nonviable fetus to term to farm animals: “I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive; delivering pigs, dead and alive,” he said. “It’s breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it.” Sure. It’s almost as if…when men don’t see women as people, it’s easier to deny them control over their own lives.
Carlson’s week deteriorated from there, with additional audio releases. In one, Carlson calls a (underage) contestant in Miss Teen USA “dumb” and he too compares her to an animal. “She’s like, she’s vulnerable,” Carlson said. “She’s like a wounded gazelle, separated from the herd.”
Carlson, of course, hasn’t apologized for these remarks, even as he’s lost 34 advertisers over it. In a statement, he wrote, “Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago. Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.”
It’s the kind of word salad that could make your blood boil—textbook deflection, coupled with Carlson’s usual indignation. But this time, it’s almost true. The Carlson who calls into Bubba the Love Sponge isn’t all that different from the Carlson who hosts a show on Fox News. And so in that sense his show does illuminate how he thinks. In the anchor chair, his views are afforded a somewhat more polished veneer. But people who watch his show or who’ve observed the GOP in action over the past several decades know what just what the movement stands for. Their camp is headed by a thrice-married adulterer who paid off two different women during his campaign and then won the White House. What’s there to apologize for?