NEW YORK – Fox News' Tucker Carlson, no stranger to the hot seat for his commentary, is being criticized for suggesting that no one should be surprised by the killing of two demonstrators during social unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Authorities “stood back and watched Kenosha burn,” he said on Fox News Channel on Wednesday. “So are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?”
Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Illinois resident and police supporter, was taken into custody on suspicion of homicide after the killings of two people involved in unrest following last weekend's police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake.
Carlson's commentary drew an angry response online because it was seen as sympathetic to Rittenhouse or offering justification for murder.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich tweeted the Fox management “is complicit in Tucker Carlson's racist, murderous rants” if they take no action against him. Author Don Winslow called the comments disgusting.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland shooting, called Carlson a “lunatic who will get people killed. ... You should be removed for the safety of our kids.”
But presidential son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that “the left-wing media is willfully twisting Tucker Carlson's words to smear him. He never endorsed ‘vigilante justice.’ He just pointed out that when ‘leaders’ cede control of our streets to the mob, it leads to heartbreaking consequences.”
Twitter flagged a link in one of Carlson's tweets for sensitive content. Carlson's tweet had quoted words he used on the air.
Carlson, who usually competes with colleague Sean Hannity to be the most popular news host on cable television, has been criticized in the past for comments considered sympathetic to white nationalists. Last month his show's head writer quit after it was revealed he was posting racist comments online under a pseudonym.
When asked for comment Thursday, Fox provided a transcript of Carlson's segment from the night before.
Fox management infrequently comments on individual statements by its personalities. Instead, Fox is more likely to express displeasure by taking someone off the air — temporarily or permanently — and Carlson is expected at his post on Thursday.
He didn't stand alone in his commentary, either.
Conserative provocateur Ann Coulter tweeted about Rittenhouse: “I want him as my president.”
Three hours before Carlson's statement, Fox's Jesse Watters said Rittenhouse acted inappropriately and “unfortunately this is what happens when a governor abdicates his responsibility to keep the streets safe."
Former Fox personality Megyn Kelly trended on Twitter for a series of retweets, including one that said “Jacob Blake was armed with a KNIFE when cops shot him.” While authorities found a knife in Blake's car after he was shot by police, it wasn't clear if he had possession during the confrontation.
She also emphasized a quote in a Real Clear Politics article by Ben Shapiro: “The narrative has been set. The (police) shooting was unjustified, and racist at that. No evidence has been presented, none need be. And if the facts don't match the accusations, the facts will be put aside.”
Kelly declined comment on Thursday.
In an article on the website Outkick.com, writer Jason Whitlock wrote that professional athletes who have sat out competitions due to police shootings are “useful idiots” convinced that some police shootings were examples of racism when they were really about resisting arrest.
In the publication American Spectator, author Scott McKay said that while 17-year-olds should not cross state lines to carry rifles into demonstrations, protest groups like Black Lives Matter bear “total responsibility” for Rittenhouse doing so.
“What did you morons think was going to happen?” McKay wrote. “That you could continue to burn down a small city in middle America without any resistance?”
But “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace on Thursday rejected any notion that Rittenhouse's alleged actions are justifiable.
“Vigilante justice is a completely inappropriate response to rioting in the street,” Wallace said. “There is no justification for what happened in Kenosha and vigilante justice is a crime and should be punished as a crime.”