MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2022
Who is Tucker Carlson?: The latest episode began with a simple Q-and-A during a Senate hearing.
The question was quite straightforward. At least on its face, the non-answer answer was not.
The question was asked by Marco Rubio. During a March 8 Senate committee hearing, he posed the question to Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Biden administration.
Rubio's question was quite straightforward. At least on its face, Nuland's response was not.
For the record, Rubio showed no sign of dissatisfaction with Nuland's response, nor did anyone else on the Senate committee. The Q-and-A went like this:
RUBIO (3/8/22): I only have a minute left. Let me ask you, does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?
NULAND: Ukraine has biological research facilities, which, in fact, we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to gain control of. So we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.
Just for the record, Rubio's question was quite specific. Nuland's answer was not.
"Does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?" the Florida Republican asked.
In her response, Nuland didn't say yes—but then too, she didn't exactly say no.
As noted, Rubio didn't seem to be troubled by Nuland's response. The next Q-and-A went like this:
RUBIO (continuing directly): I'm sure you're aware that the Russian propaganda groups are already putting out there all kinds of information about how they've uncovered a plot by the Ukrainians to release biological weapons in the country with NATO's coordination.
If there is a biological or chemical weapon incident or attack inside of Ukraine, is there any doubt in your mind that, 100 percent, it would be the Russians that would be behind it?
NULAND: There is no doubt in my mind, Senator. And it is classic Russian technique to blame on the other guy what they're planning to do themselves.
To watch those exchanges, click here.
In that follow-up, Rubio lobbed the kind of softball question senators will frequently direct to allies, feeling confident of what they will hear in response. From there, Rubio moved on to one last question on a completely different matter.
All in all, he and Nuland seemed to be of one mind concerning events in Ukraine. All in all, they seemed to agree "100 percent."
There was no sign of any concern about what Nuland had said. Still, she'd been asked a very specific question—"Does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?"—and she hadn't said no.
In a rational world, Nuland's response, or lack of same, might have generated a bit of journalistic follow-up. It's normal for journalists to take note of "non-response responses"—misleading responses which may have been carefully couched by an evasive official.
In a rational world, there's no reason why a journalist mightn't have inquired further about the initial question Rubio asked.
In a rational world, that's what might have happened. In the world in which we live, Tucker Carlson hosts an hour-long TV program on the Fox News Channel.
On the following evening—on Wednesday, March 9—Carlson opened his program with a lengthy monologue about what Nuland had said.
As is fairly common with Carlson's monologues, he made so many different statements during his lengthy cri de coeur that it remains hard to say exactly what he said.
What did Carlson say that night? We can't exactly tell you! But we can tell you this—this is what some editor or producer at Fox News apparently thought he said:
Tucker Carlson: Someone needs to explain why there are dangerous biological weapons in Ukraine
The Pentagon is lying about this—why?
Those are the headlines which sit above the official Fox News transcript of Carlson's March 9 monologue. They seem to represent what Fox News believes that Carlson said.
Is that what Carlson actually said? Did he actually say that "there are dangerous biological weapons in Ukraine?" Did he actually say that "the Pentagon is lying about this?"
Because of the shrieking hysterics which routinely appear in Carlson's monologues, we can't necessarily tell you what Carlson actually said. But it isn't hard to see why Fox News believes that Carlson said those things. Those headlines provide a perfectly reasonable account of what it sounded like Carlson had said.
Those headlines emerged from Carlson's shrieking monologue on Wednesday, March 9. Pushback quickly emerged, much of it as imprecise and as hard to parse as Carlson's monologue was.
Result! On Monday evening, March 14, Carlson returned to the issue in another opening monologue. On this garbled occasion, he seemed to deny that he and one of his guests had ever said that Ukraine had nuclear weapons, or any other such thing.
Quite routinely, Carlson's monologues are a garbled, barely coherent mess. His hysterical shrieking on March 9 provides a good case in point.
We're going to spend the rest of the week examining what Carlson did and didn't say on March 9, and then again on March 14. Two major questions arise at this point:
Who in the world is Tucker Carlson? And what can be said about the news org which lets him shriek in such ways?
Not infrequently, attempts to paraphrase and criticize Carlson also leave a great deal to be desired. But we'll mainly focus on those other questions this week:
Who in the world is this shrieking person? What does Carlson tend to do, and how did he get this way?
Tomorrow: Carlson père et fils