'She got angry': Tucker Carlson just exposed a Trump lawyer's sketchy charade in the most bizarre way

'She got angry': Tucker Carlson just exposed a Trump lawyer's sketchy charade in the most bizarre way

On Thursday night, Fox News' Tucker Carlson got an impressive scoop. Unfortunately for him, it didn't fit with his ideological agenda. So instead of presenting it in the most straightforward and direct way possible, he skewed the news in such a warped fashion that an observer who wasn't paying close attention might not realize what the real bombshell was.

Here's what happened: Sidney Powell, an extreme right-wing lawyer, has joined the Trump campaign's efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election. She appeared Thursday afternoon alongside Rudy Giuliani to deliver a litany of wacky talking points and absurd conspiracy theories, all aimed at supporting that idea that President Donald Trump won a second term (he didn't). For her part, Powell alleged a massive conspiracy involving vote-counting software that manufactured votes for Joe Biden to prevent a Trump win.

To be clear, there's no reason to believe this is true, and it's hard to believe it could even possibly be true. States use different systems for their elections, and they typically use paper ballots as backups. Recounts and audits can check electronic counts by hand and verify their accuracy. And trying to mess with the voter tallies in a plausible way would be incredibly challenging to pull off, given the complexity of the system and the amount of scrutiny the process gets from all sides. (And apparently Democrats who were rigging the election, in her delusional account, apparently forgot to rig several key Senate elections that they lost.)

But conservatives, of course, are inclined believe it's true because Trump has told them the election was stolen. So on Thursday, Carlson revealed on his nightly show that his team looked into her claims. And she is completely unwilling to back them up.

"We took Sidney Powell seriously," he said. "We've no intention of fighting with her. We've always respected her work. We simply wanted to see the details. How could you not want to see them? So we invited Sidney Powell on this show. We would have given her the whole hour. We would have given her the entire week, actually! And listened quietly the whole time at rapt attention. That's a big story!"

He continued: "But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of requests. Polite requests. Not a page. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting. When we checked with others around the Trump campaign, people in positions of authority, they told us Powell has never given them any evidence either. Nor did she provide any today, at the press conference. Powell did say that electronic voting is dangerous, and she's right — we're with her there. But she never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another."

Like Carlson said — this is a big story! But clearly, it's not the one he wanted to tell. It's not the story he wanted to be true.

He refused to tell his viewers the straightforward take: One of the president's lead attorneys is positing an absolutely gargantuan conspiracy theory but refusing to show even a friendly news outlet any evidence for it. She won't even provide evidence to her own allies on the Trump campaign. The only reasonable inference is that she has little or no basis for her claims at all, which is what we should have assumed in the first place, because the theory itself is so absurd.

This is a massive scandal. The president's lawyer is in all likelihood completely fabricating a fanciful story about electoral fraud as he tries to cling to power.

But what Carlson wants viewers to take away from the story is nothing about presidential scandal at all. He even strained to avoid even mentioning Trump in the discussion. (Carlson often does this when covering topics that reflect badly on Trump.) Instead, Carlson focused on the fact that he took the story very seriously, even though Powell was unable to support it.

"So why are we telling you this?" he said. "We're telling you this because it's true. And in the end, that's all that matters: The truth. It's our only hope. It's our best defense. And it's how we're different from them. We care what's true, and we know you care too. That's why we told you. Maybe Sidney Powell will come through with details on exactly how this happened and precisely who did it. Maybe she will. We are certainly hopeful that she will. What happened with the vote-counting this month, and at the polling places in Detroit, and at the polling places in Philadelphia, and so much else, actually matters. It matters no matter who you voted for, it matters whether or not you think this election is already over. Until we can answer those questions conclusively, and we can agree on them, this country will not be united."

It may strike some as odd that Carlson said he is "certainly hopeful" that Powell can prove that a massive, world-historical fraud took place to steal the presidential election. Why would he be hopeful for that? But the point of the whole segment is that Carlson is delivering a bitter pill to his audience: It certainly looks like Powell is lying.

To make that pill go down easier, and to avoid turning off his fans who love the president, Carlson carefully reassures them that he's on their side. He does this by saying he wanted Powell to be true, because that would mean Trump could remain president, as both he and most of his viewers surely want. And he also tries to show he's on his viewers' side by trying to claim the mantle of righteousness — "We care what's true." He doesn't, actually. He lies to and misleads his audience all the time. But when someone goes so far over the line, as Powell has with her absurd statements, Carlson can use countering them to shore up his own credibility with viewers.

But he doesn't dwell on the fact that her claims don't add up — he focused on who the real enemy should be, in his eyes and the eye of his viewers. "It's how we're different from them," he says. "Them," of course, is Democrats and all non-conservative media. He wants viewers to remember that he hates the same people they hate, so they'll believe him when he says something they're inclined to believe may be false. "They" don't take Powell's claims seriously at all because, unlike me, he's essentially saying, they hate Trump.

And Carlson also gestures towards other vague, unsupported, and irrelevant claims that the Trump campaign and its supporters have put forward to undermine the election. That reminds viewers that, even if Powell's claim is false, they can be comforted that there are many more reasons doubt the election of Biden, which is of course what people tune in to Fox to hear.

The last sentence in the segment, too, is key. Carlson says the country cannot be "united" unless all "questions" he and others have raised about the election have been answered. Of course, many of the claims put forward by the Trump campaign have been tested in court, and they've been promptly thrown out or dismissed as irrelevant. Other insinuations are so unclear and unsupported that they'll never even make it to court. But Carlson wants viewers to believe they're important anyway, even though he knows these kinds of questions will never be fully answered, and he's happy to raise them and spread doubt about the election regardless. It's all fine with him, though, because he's doesn't want the country to be united. He wants it to be about us and them.

Watch the clip below:

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.