Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Tucker Carlson spoke on Wednesday. The article has been updated with the correct information. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
Tucker Carlson juggled race, sexual violence and other dicey topics Thursday morning at the Roy H. Park Lecture on campus. Carlson was the second Fox News commentator in two years.
When it was announced Carlson would be speaking among a panel of student journalists, some graduates of the School of Media and Journalism spoke out against the selection, calling it unrepresentative of today’s brand of journalism.
“I know people at UNC aren't convinced I’m a journalist,” Carlson said. “I don’t care.”
After his introduction by Susan King, dean of the MJ-school, Carlson spoke for a few minutes about the flaw he perceives in today’s journalists — they’re too trusting of what they are told. He said credulousness is the media’s greatest mistake, and his role is to question what others will not question and say what others won’t say.
He told a story about the skepticism he felt when it was announced the Assad regime was responsible for a recent chemical attack in Syria. Not buying the official story, Carlson said he asked a source for the evidence behind the claim.
“I asked him, ‘How do we know this?’ And he looked at me like I was a loathsome unpatriotic tool of a foreign power.”
There’s too much pressure, Carlson said, to take information at face value in an untrustworthy world. He compared the ruling class to parents — two bodies of authority learning their respective jobs on-the-go, and trying to use common sense to get by. He said people in power fundamentally don’t know what they’re doing.
“In order to hide the fact that they don’t, they construct systems to keep you from finding out that they’re terrified," he said.
After Carlson spoke, a panel of student journalists asked him questions. The toughest ones came from Jordan Fieulleteau, who asked Carlson if he’d witnessed sexual harassment in Fox News and wanted him to comment on the #MeToo movement.
After saying he had never witnessed sexual harassment personally, Carlson said he didn't have many thoughts on the movement but struggled with how new developments had eroded the integrity of due process, in that too often people are assumed guilty as soon as they are accused.
Carlson said he was wrongly accused of rape once, and even though he was able to prove he was in a different state at the time, the accusation had a haunting effect on him.
“I had a cigarette on the front steps and thought I had a brain tumor. I actually doubted my own sanity,” Carlson said. “That’s how much I’d internalized the idea that everyone who’s accused is guilty of what he’s accused of.”
Fieulleteau then asked Carlson a question about the disenfranchisement of African Americans, sparking discussion on race and immigration.
Carlson said he saw identity politics as a threat to democracy because it removes focus away from the individual in favor of a larger group.
“Anyone who’s encouraging you — left or right — to think of yourself primarily as a member of a racial group, is committing a sin,” Carlson said. “And is pushing the country evermore toward where it’s going: tribalism.”