Tucker Carlson's continued criticism of Sen. Tammy Duckworth draws backlash
By JEREMY BARR | The Washington Post | Published: July 8, 2020
Fox News host Tucker Carlson has escalated his criticism of Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., lambasting the double-amputee combat veteran as a "coward," "fraud" and "moron" on his second night of attacks against her. While Carlson is no stranger to criticism, the reaction to his latest remarks has been particularly swift.
On the Monday night edition of his prime time show, Carlson called Duckworth "a deeply silly and unimpressive person" and suggested she and other Democrats “hate America,” taking issue with comments Duckworth made on CNN about having a "national dialogue" regarding monuments of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson amid the larger reckoning on race after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
In response, Duckworth responded on Twitter that Carlson should "walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America." In 2004, Duckworth lost both her legs when a Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down in Iraq.
On Tuesday night, Carlson intensified his criticism of the senator. "What a coward," he said. "Tammy Duckworth is also a fraud."
Two Democratic senators who have appeared recently as guests on Fox News criticized Carlson's comments in statements to The Washington Post on Wednesday afternoon.
"Tucker Carlson's comments were reprehensible, and I have no interest in appearing on his hateful, pro-Trump propaganda show," said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. "His baseless attacks on decorated war veteran Tammy Duckworth are just another attempt to distract Americans from the facts and the truth of Donald Trump's failed leadership."
"Senator Duckworth has made incredible sacrifices serving our country and for Tucker Carlson, who is not a veteran, to suggest she holds America in anything other than the highest regard is ludicrous," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. "I will continue appearing on Fox News with hosts that engage in fair and robust debates about the issues facing our country. I will not surrender to the political division people like Tucker Carlson are trying to sow."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized Carlson and President Donald Trump, saying in a statement that "President Trump and Tucker Carlson are clearly intimidated by strong female leaders like my friend Sen. Duckworth. She has more honor and love for our country in her pinky finger than they'll ever have."
In a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday night after Carlson's show, a Democratic National Committee spokesperson said: "Tammy Duckworth is a Purple Heart recipient and a hero who served her country in Iraq and continues to serve her country now. Tucker Carlson serves as nothing more than an accomplice to Donald Trump, content to sit behind the safety of a TV screen and attack veterans."
Fox News Channel has not responded to a request for comment about Carlson's latest remarks.
A spokesperson for Joe Biden's presidential campaign said "Tucker Carlson and his colleagues who traffic in hate speech masquerading as journalism are accomplices to Donald Trump's perverse mission to use division and bitterness to tear this country apart."
On Tuesday night, Carlson told viewers that his show had invited Duckworth to appear as a guest but that her spokesperson said she wouldn't consider appearing until he issues "a public apology" for his Monday night comments.
A person with knowledge of the exchange, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Duckworth's staff asked whether Carlson would apologize for his initial comments about her patriotism but did not say she wouldn't consider appearing on the show until he apologized.
Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served as a strategic analyst for Fox News until he quit in March 2018, criticized his former colleague in an email. "Tammy Duckworth paid her dues with her blood," he wrote. "Tucker just pays his platinum credit card bills."
In July 2019, Carlson faced criticism for comments he made about Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. But, amid escalating calls for Fox News management to take him off the air, the host said he wasn't going anywhere. "We want to reassure you that's not going to happen," he told viewers. "Why? Because we work at Fox News, and they've got our back, and we're thankful for that."
Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran who serves as chairman of the liberal veterans advocacy organization Vote Vets, directed his ire over Carlson's comments about Duckworth toward the leadership of Fox News.
"The executives at Fox have a real decision to make," Soltz said. "Do they want their resources to be used to slander legitimate war heroes and patriots? Do they have any lines they will draw, or is it now company policy that attacking the patriotism of double-amputee Purple Heart recipients is OK?"
Duckworth has appeared in the past for interviews on Fox News, and sat for a panel discussion at the 2019 Politico Women Rule summit that was moderated by Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner. "It is never enough, but having grown up the daughter of a colonel, thank you," Faulkner told Duckworth.
In November 2018, Duckworth defended Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a fellow wounded veteran, after he was the butt of a joke on NBC's Saturday Night Live. "This is absolutely appalling," she wrote on Twitter. "No one should ever mock a Veteran for the wounds they received while defending our great nation, regardless of political party or what you think of their politics."
The backlash against Carlson's comments comes at a time of record ratings for him, even as his show has lost a few large advertisers. In the second quarter of 2020, Carlson's show attracted an average of 4.3 million viewers per night, according to Nielsen Media Research data, a cable news record.