NEW YORK (AP) — Television’s most popular political host, Tucker Carlson, says leaders of the Democratic party should be disqualified from running the country because they “despise” it.
That led the Biden campaign to accuse the Fox News Channel host on Tuesday of using “hate speech masquerading as journalism” and acting as an accomplice to President Donald Trump.
Days after reports surfaced that some Republicans were discussing Carlson as a potential 2024 presidential contender, he delivered a monologue Monday night striking in its language and amplification of points made by Trump over the Fourth of July weekend.
Trump said at Mount Rushmore that the “radical ideology attacking our country” in protests that followed George Floyd’s death in police custody “would demolish both justice and society.” Trump has been critical of efforts to remove monuments to the Confederacy, which has led to reevaluations of other historical figures.
While some analysts called it divisive, Carlson praised it as the best speech the president has made in his life.
He played clips of cable TV hosts and analysts critical of some of the nation’s actions historically. Carlson said that “these people hate America. There’s no longer any question about that.”
“The leaders of today’s Democratic Party … despise this country,” he said. “They have said so. They continue to. That is shocking but it is also disqualifying. We cannot let them run this nation because they hate it. Imagine what they would do to it.”
He contrasted Trump’s speech with one made over the holiday weekend where former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said Americans had the chance to rip out the roots of systemic racism. Carlson said Biden was wagging his finger “in the face of the nation that promoted someone as mediocre as you to the position you held.”
“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,” said Biden campaign spokesman T.J. Ducklo. “It is the polar opposite of what Joe Biden stands for, and exactly what he means when he talks about a battle for the soul of America.”
Fox News did not immediately comment on Ducklo’s statement.
Questioning patriotism has long been a part of politicians’ playbooks, from suggestions that anti-Vietnam War protesters “love it or leave it” and harsh criticisms of Democrats after the Civil War, said Thomas Patterson, former head of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.
“Things are really heating up and I do think there is an air of desperation on the part of Republicans in this,” said Patterson, author of “Is the Republican Party Destroying Itself?”
Carlson has been among biggest television beneficiaries during the busy news period. He’s been reaching 4 million viewers a night and in recent months has pulled slightly ahead of Fox News colleague Sean Hannity.
Besides Biden, Carlson on Monday singled out U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a former military helicopter pilot who lost both legs during a 2004 attack in Iraq.
Carlson was critical of the Democratic senator for an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash where she was twice asked about whether or not statues of George Washington should be removed. Duckworth didn’t give her opinion, but said Americans should have a “national dialogue” about it.
“You’re not supposed to criticize Tammy Duckworth in any way because she once served in the military,” Carlson said. “Most people just ignore her. But when Duckworth does speak in public you’re reminded what a deeply silly and unimpressive person she is.”
Duckworth tweeted in response: “Does Tucker Carlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?”
The senator spoke Tuesday night at a fundraiser for Biden, where the former vice president referenced Trump attacking her patriotism.
“I found it sickening,” Biden said to Duckworth: “I know you can handle yourself, you’ve already done that. But I just think it’s a reflection of the depravity of what’s going in the White House right now.”
Associated Press Writer Will Weissert in Washington contributed to this report.