Here we go again. [Politician/celebrity/random person on Twitter] has been caught [saying/tweeting/wearing] something [racist/sexist/otherwise insufficiently woke], so everyone gather up your pitchforks and torches to join one of two mobs. Mob #1 will demand that the evildoer be excommunicated from society, fired from their job, banished from any club foolish enough to have them as a member, and publicly harassed until they’re afraid to leave their home. Mob #2 will defend everything that has been said and done, no matter how vile, and gnash their teeth and rend their garments at the mere suggestion that maybe it isn’t a great idea to defend Literally Hitler or child predators.
If you’ve had any sort of internet or cable access during the past twenty-four hours, you’re aware that the Latest Outrage™ is Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson making comments as a frequent call-in guest on the “Bubba the Love Sponge” radio show about various women, including political figures and his professional colleagues, as well as comments about underage rape victims.
Let’s establish a few facts here.
Yes, the audio was unearthed by Media Matters, a liberal group that exists for the sole purpose of criticizing conservatives (not merely a “media watchdog organization,” as The Daily Beast so adorably described them). But Media Matters has provided the recordings and transcripts, and no one is alleging they’ve been altered or edited in some misleading way. Carlson said what he said, and that isn’t disputed.
And yes, Bubba the Love Sponge’s show, for those of you unfamiliar with his work, was what’s commonly referred to as a “shock jock” program, where the (almost always male) host says outrageous things, encourages his guests to say outrageous things, all for the purposes of getting laughter and attention. Howard Stern is probably the most famous example.
Carlson is refusing to apologize, dismissing the story as just “saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago.”
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) March 11, 2019
The expected liberal mob is calling for advertiser boycotts and for Carlson to be fired, and many conservatives are coming to his defense, including my fellow RedState front pager, Brandon Morse, who wrote earlier today that Carlson was right not to apologize.
From the Media Matters transcript:
- He described TV host Alexis Stewart, Martha Stewart’s daughter, as someone who “seems extremely c*nty,” and said he wanted to “give her the spanking she so desperately needs.”
- Regarding an ad that featured Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, he called them the “biggest white whores in America.”
- During the nomination process for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, he said he’d never vote for her and then criticized her appearance: “I do feel sorry for her in that way. I feel sorry for unattractive women…physically, the problems with her are fundamental. She’s never going to be an attractive woman.”
- He described women as “extremely primitive, they’re basic, they’re not that hard to understand,” and said that “one of the things they hate more than anything is weakness in a man,” advocating for men to stop trying to “be more sensitive” and instead tell women, “you just need to be quiet and kind of do what you’re told.”
- The transcripts also include repeated examples of joking about abusing women, “choking her out” when she’s “acting up,” and other derogatory comments.
These aren’t great or enlightened comments, but are fairly standard fare for shock jock chatter. They’re grotesque, they’re offensive, but at least they are about adults. If this was all Carlson had said, I would be joining Morse and others in rolling my eyes at the pearl clutchers.
The real problem is Carlson’s comments about underage rape victims, in two specific situations: girls who were victims of Warren Jeffs’ polygamist cult and children who were victims of statutory rape by their teachers.
Jeffs is currently serving a sentence of life plus 20 years for his role as the leader of a cult who facilitated illegal polygamist marriages between adult men and underage girls, at least one as young as twelve, many who were 14 to 16 years old. At his trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Jeffs himself had 78 “plural wives,” including “12 girls married at age 16 and another 12 who were 15 or younger,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
When this case was discussed on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show, Carlson defended Jeffs, calling the charges against him “bulls**.” It got to the point that the show’s hosts — certainly no exemplars for proper etiquette or sexual prudishness — were shocked, as they repeatedly challenged Carlson’s comments but he kept doubling down.
As Bubba’s co-host (unnamed in the transcript) pointed out, “In the eyes of the law, people that are under 16 cannot consent to sex for any reason!” and Bubba chimed in his agreement, “Yeah, Tucker.”
Carlson’s response was a mumbling reply that “it varies by state,” and to claim that “I am not defending underage marriage at all,” but then to go on and minimize the severity of it:
CARLSON: Look, just to make it absolutely clear. I am not defending underage marriage at all. I just don’t think it’s the same thing exactly as pulling a child from a bus stop and sexually assaulting that child.
CO-HOST: Yeah, it’s — you know what it is? It’s much more planned out and plotted.
THE LOVE SPONGE: Yeah, it should be almost — you almost should put a premeditation —
CARLSON: Wait, wait! Hold on a second. The rapist, in this case, has made a lifelong commitment to [love]* and take care of the person, so it is a little different. I mean, let’s me honest about it.
CO-HOST: That’s twisted.
CARLSON: I’m sorry, I don’t know how I —
CO-HOST: That’s demented.
[*transcript says “live” but the correct word is probably “love”]
Carlson is saying that it is fine to have sex with underage girls as long as you are married to them and providing them with food, clothing, and shelter. He is literally defending underage marriage, despite his protestations to the contrary. Even Bubba and his co-host called his comments “twisted” and “demented.”
In a later appearance on the show, Carlson again defended Jeffs, saying that if he made the laws, Jeffs would be a free man. Once again, the show’s hosts pushed back, denouncing Jeffs for facilitation of child rape, and Carlson again stuck to his defense:
CO-HOST: Yeah, that’s what Warren Jeffs’ in prison for. He’s not in prison for polygamy, he’s in prison for child rape.
TUCKER CARLSON: Well, actually, he’s not in prison for that. He didn’t — Warren Jeffs didn’t marry underaged girls, actually.
CO-HOST: No, he’s in prison for facilitation of child rape.
CARLSON: Whatever the hell that means.
CO-HOST: That means that —
CARLSON: He’s in prison because he’s weird and unpopular and he has a different lifestyle that other people find creepy.
CO-HOST: No, he is an accessory to the rape of children. That is a felony and a serious one at that.
In another appearance, Carlson discussed a news story about a 13-year-old boy who had sex with his adult female teacher. Carlson defended the teacher’s predatory behavior, saying that 13-year-old boys “have one goal” — “to get laid,” as Bubba helpfully answered — and if their teacher isn’t having sex with them, then they’re going to “take that out on 13-year-old girls.”
Continued Carlson, “teachers like this, not necessarily this one in particular, but they are doing a service to all 13-year-old girls by taking the pressure off. They are a pressure relief valve, like the kind you have on your furnace.”
First of all, 13 years old is very young. Boys and girls are beginning to think about having relationships around that age, but decades of surveys show that most of them are not actually having sex.
Most Americans are waiting until around 17 years old (16.9 years old for boys, 17.4 years old for girls, according to the Kinsey Institute) — that’s just four years later but a huge difference in terms of physical, mental, and emotional maturity. Thirteen-year-olds are middle schoolers getting braces on their teeth; seventeen-year-olds can drive cars by themselves and are making decisions about college. There’s also the whole power dynamic difference between two 17-year-old high schoolers who are dating, and a 16-year-old girl who is forcibly married off to a thirty-year-old man because a religious cult leader ordered her to do it.
We have statutory rape laws for very good reasons. There are many, many studies showing the developmental harm that comes to children who are exposed to sexual experiences they are too young to understand and process. Legally, a 13-year-old boy cannot consent to have sex with his adult teacher, and a 14-year-old girl cannot consent to have sex with an adult man, even if he calls her his wife. Children cannot consent to sex, and sex without consent is rape.
There’s a growing movement around this country to further raise the age of consent for marriage, based on the the mounting evidence that far too often these relationships are havens for abuse and neglect, to cover up rape victims who got pregnant, and to conceal sex trafficking.
The issue with Carlson’s comments is that they deny the very real evidence of the lasting, serious harm these situations cause their underage victims.
It’s not just a “different lifestyle” or being a bit “weird,” it’s not doing those boys a favor, it’s not OK because the men married the girls; it’s permanently altering these children’s views on sex, attraction, communication, trust, and relationships. Comments dismissing the damage suffered by the victims supports the predators and makes it harder for victims to come forward, especially considering the many studies showing that they often blame themselves for what happened.
Conservatives used to be proud about holding ourselves to a higher standard. We used to promote the idea that while humans are not perfect, it is a valuable and noble goal to strive to be better people. We used to object to suggestions that kids were just going to have sex anyway, so we should just toss them some condoms and hope for the best. One of the strongest criticisms in recent years of the abortion industry is the clinics’ willingness, documented in multiple hidden camera stings, to cover up underage abuse victims who are brought in for abortions.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read an article on a conservative site decrying the pernicious influence of liberalism in our schools, sexualizing children and exposing them to adult sexual concepts before they are ready, denouncing the liberal teachers’ unions that defend teachers who are sexually abusing their students. We rightfully criticize these behaviors, and Carlson’s suggestion that teachers having sex with underage boys keeps them from sexually ravishing their female classmates is absolutely insane.
Why is it a show of weakness to admit that supporting the rape of children (again, remember they are too young to legally consent, and it is rape) is a bad thing?
It’s not, or at least it shouldn’t be.
You can say that Carlson was “just joking.” You can say that he was just trying to be edgy and gross and fit in with his “shock jock” hosts. But even those shock jocks were shocked by his comments.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones,” but words do hurt, especially when directed at abuse victims who have spent years being told that this is what they deserve, or what their religious cult demands, or what they must do to be good wives, or the myriad ways that predators groom their victims. Words do matter.
Tucker Carlson’s comments went too far. He should apologize.
UPDATE: Tré Goins-Phillips had a similar take at Faith Wire, writing that words do matter, and “regardless of where he made the comments or who found them, they are wrong.” Calling the abuse of underage victims “unjustifiable to defend,” even if Carlson was joking, Goins-Phillips argues that he should now apologize and seek forgiveness:
The reality is this: The words MMFA revealed are, in fact, Carlson’s words. Regardless of the source or the time, they are his comments, and offensive language doesn’t come with an expiration date.
Can he change? Absolutely. Do I think Carlson should lose his job? No. Do I think he should publicly admit he was wrong? Yes, because James 5:16 encourages Christians to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
Public confession has deep spiritual value; it’s not an admission for admission’s sake. The public confession of wrongdoing is both humiliating and liberating, and God promises to meet us in that space.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.