Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Friday that he has shocked his segments this week about a South African land reform policy should be seen as a call to white nationalists – let alone cause an international incident.
Carlson argued against a proposal that allows the South African government to seize some white-owned farmland, part of an effort to deal with inequalities left over from apartheid. Whites have more than 70 percent of this agricultural land, despite being about 8 percent of the population.
Two hours after Carlson reported about it, a prominent viewer – the Republican president Donald Trump – tweeted that he asked the secretary of state to investigate the matter.
The South African government then turned to Trump and condemned his tweet as racially polarizing.
"The government of South Africa wants to warn against alarmist, false, inaccurate and misinformed, as well as – in some cases – politically motivated statements that do not reflect the policies and intentions of the South African government," said the government statement. .
"This is not appealing to a racial group," Carlson said in an interview on Friday. "This is a call for universal principles that protect all racial groups that are true regardless of the color of people. We do not justify justice on the basis of how people look."
Carlson has become an influential figure on Fox News Channel, his prime-time success, allowing the network to absorb the loss of Bill O'Reilly after sexual misconduct. The media veteran, who worked at CNN and MSNBC and founded the conservative website The Daily Caller, was the second most viewed figure in the cable news behind fellow Sean Hannity in July.
The South African segments, however, recall that its popularity extends to some white nationalists, where figures such as David Duke and the website The Daily Stormer have praised his work. He has, for example, broadcast repeated excerpts on criticism of immigration and multiculturalism.
A critic, Carlos Maza of the Vox website, said that white nationalists congratulate Carlson "not because they think he is one of them, but because he, as long as he teaches the public to consider differences as dangerous, makes his job easier. "
More hard, the Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple calls his show "White Grievance Tonight".
Asked about the support of these groups, Carlson said: "Joseph Stalin loved his daughter, I love my daughters, does that make me a Stalinist?" That is so silly question, I do not know what to say.
"I do not know anything about these groups," he said. "I have never had contact with them or read one of their things, I have no idea what they think."
He said he does not believe anyone should be rewarded or punished on the basis of characteristics he can not control, and pointed out that his Thursday show had a segment that criticized China for mistreatment of Muslims.
"It's an argument against tribalism," he said.
In his first segment on Wednesday, Carlson mistakenly said that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had changed the country's constitution to make it possible to steal people's land because they have the wrong skin color & # 39 ;. He also said that the government had begun to conquer land from people without compensation. A night later, Carlson corrected these statements without admitting mistakes. He noted that the proposed constitutional change was being discussed in parliament. No country has been seized yet, although Carlson said the government wanted to confiscate two game farms.
Trump's tweet was referring to & # 39; the large-scale murder of farmers. That is a story that has been spread among some white nationalists, although South Africa officially assigns the deaths of peasants to the high crime rate of the country.
Carlson's two stories on the subject this week did not cover killing farmers. He said it was due to a dispute about some of the statistics involved.
In the editorial of Trump's tweet, The New York Times criticized Carlson's "grossly one-sided report."
Carlson said that he had not spoken to the White House before the tweet and no longer since.
"It is confusing to me why it is considered controversial to say that it is wrong to understand group punishment on the basis of ethnicity," Carlson said. "It does not matter who it is, it's just wrong, I do not know why many of our journalists defend it, it says a lot about them and it's shocking."
Earlier this week, Carlson stepped into a social media battle against CNN's Andrew Kaczynski about a story about Darren Beattie, a Trump speechwriter who lost his job when CNN inquired about him at a conference in 2016, attended by some prominent white men. nationalists.
Carlson tweeted that CNN "chased this guy out of a job" for giving a speech that had nothing to do with race. Kaczynski said the Carlson tweet was unfair. The network asked the White House for commentary on Beattie who spoke at this conference, and never wrote about what he said in the speech.
This summer too, Laura Ingraham of Fox News was criticized for reporting on massive demographic changes in the United States in a show about immigration on her show "which none of us have ever voted for and most of us do not like it." Later she denied the support of white nationalists for what she said.
The prime-time audience of Fox News Channel is 91 percent white according to the Nielsen company. It is 69 percent white at MSNBC and 57 percent at CNN.