The ratings are in, and Tucker Carlson’s debut in Megyn Kelly’s old 9 p.m. time-slot is looking fantastic. According to Accuracy in Media:
Overall, Tucker Carlson Tonight averaged 2.699 million total viewers, nearly beating the combined total of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show (1.369 million) and CNN’s town hall special (1.357 million).
Compared to Kelly’s numbers on the same day last year, Carlson was up 27 percent in total viewers and a whopping 45 percent in the key 25-54 demographic, showing that Fox News may not wind up missing Kelly as much as everyone thought.
Fans of Tucker Carlson are rejoicing on Twitter:
— Scott (@888Scott) January 14, 2017
The above tweet is a perfect illustration of why Carlson is doing so well on Fox News, and why many of his fans tend to hold a disdainful view of Megyn Kelly.
Tucker Carlson is a red meat feeder. He is rarely critical of Donald Trump, and he shoots down progressive guests with the precision of a skeet champion. However, Carlson’s formula is intellectually shallow. He brings progressive guests onto his show, and uses his prepared talking points to beat them down. The issues around which he forms his talking points are frequently indirect, often orbiting the real subject at hand, but rarely on point.
For example, when Carlson had Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca on his show, he skirted the main issue, opting instead to mock the writer, act befuddled by her arguments, and create a straw man.
Duca was, and continues to be, troubled by Ivanka Trump’s role in Donald Trump’s political life. She tweeted that Ivanka has a “sinister complicity in aiding the most aggressively anti-woman candidate of our time.” Duca said she was disturbed by Ivanka’s surrogacy for her father during the presidential campaign, given President-elect Trump’s misogynistic behavior, and allegedly anti-woman platform.
Now, one doesn’t have to agree that Donald Trump is “anti-woman,” nor does one have to agree with Lauren Duca on any of her political positions in order to understand her perspective regarding Ivanka Trump’s role in her father’s political life. Unfortunately, rather than argue with the Teen Vogue writer over her stated position, Tucker Carlson claimed Duca was using a “guilt-by-association” fallacy:
CARLSON: “Sinister complicity? She’s his daughter. I don’t, I mean…”
DUCA: “She was a surrogate frequently throughout; [she] represented him in terms of women’s issues. She had repeated interviews, and she did speeches on his behalf where she represented a platform of women’s empowerment. In terms of having it all, I think she’s an incredibly successful, brilliant women.
The fact that she was able to balance him out on these issues where he has talked about defunding Planned Parenthood, and being against abortion, and these typically liberal women’s issues that she sort of is a cushion for. I think we need to investigate those things a little more critically…”
CARLSON: “What exactly do you disagree with her on, specifically?…You said that she [has] sinister complicity in aiding the most–“
DUCA: “I absolutely believe that. I’m not backing down from that at all.”
CARLSON: “So it’s sinister for a daughter to support her father’s presidential campaign because you don’t like her father?”
DUCA: “It’s sinister for a daughter to capitalize on the power of feminism, and uniting women and empowering women, while supporting a candidate who is the most anti-woman candidate this country has seen in decades.”
CARLSON: “What does that even mean?…She’s guilty because he’s anti-woman. She’s complicit in his ‘anti-woman’ positions.”
DUCA: “To continue to stump and support his positions.”
CARLSON: “It’s her dad! So, I guess the point I’m making is: you’re drawing this kind of world where everyone who’s not on your side is evil, and, as you put it, fair game.”
This style of argumentation is a regular fixture of Tucker Carlson Tonight, and it’s intellectually dishonest.
Megyn Kelly, like her or not, is an equal opportunity fighter. She can be intensely critical of Donald Trump while being equally critical of his opponents. It all depends on the arguments being made by each side. She is intellectually honest. Moreover, Kelly doesn’t simply stick with talking points; she dissects her opponents’ arguments, and uses what she gathers through that dissection to undermine their assertions. There’s no better example of this than her debate with former University of Colorado Boulder professor, Ward Churchill, which you can watch here:
Tucker Carlson is an extremely intelligent individual, but the way in which he conducts himself on his show betrays that intellect. Instead of engaging with his opponents, carefully examining and deconstructing their arguments, he feeds red meat to the Republican base with shallow, tangential argumentation, and mockery. Considering that, it’s no surprise his ratings are booming.