I thought Carlson might use his show last night to briefly answer Shep’s criticism that it was “repugnant” of Tucker to let a Fox News guest call a Fox News contributor a “fool” unchallenged. I did not think he’d devote a seven-minute segment to it, replete with inviting back that guest, Joe diGenova, to double down on his attack on that contributor, Andrew Napolitano.
Granted, that’s what a good Trumpist should do in the era of Trump: Never let a slight pass without answer, especially a slight from a liberal. To do so would be redolent of cuckery. But I figured Fox executives would step in and either tell Tucker to drop it or to limit his response. Instead he all but accuses Shep in the clip below of being a left-wing hack. “It makes people cynical when you dress up news coverage, when you dress up partisanship as news coverage and pretend that your angry political opinions are news, you know, people tune out,” says Carlson near the end of the clip — never mentioning Smith by name, just as Shep never named him in his own segment yesterday. Even though he replayed the footage of Smith’s criticism during this same segment.
This Fox news/opinion civil war is going to be insane. Will Shep unload on Tucker on his own show today? I can sort of understand why management might be inclined to let them keep at it — I haven’t been this interested in Fox programming in years. Imagine the ratings.
A few points about the segment itself. At one point Tucker takes mild umbrage at Shep calling diGenova a partisan. I can see why — just because a lawyer takes a view of a legal matter that happens to align with his party’s interests doesn’t mean his view was distorted by partisanship. DiGenova, however, has been a sufficiently ardent and outspoken Trump defender in his Fox appearances that Trump tried to hire him as his attorney early last year. (Ultimately he declined due to potential conflicts of interest.) Accusing him of partisanship is a bit like accusing Laurence Tribe of Democratic partisanship because Tribe just so happens to take the anti-Trump position in all legal disputes involving the president. How unfair is it really?
Tucker also marvels at one point at how peeved Shep was at diGenova’s criticism of Napolitano considering that the underlying legal question, whether Trump committed a campaign finance violation in his chat with Zelensky, is a matter of debate among experts. But … that was Shep’s point exactly. It wasn’t Napolitano who implied that the matter was a slam dunk; it was diGenova in his first segment with Carlson, when he called Napolitano a “fool” for believing that Trump might be guilty of something. Tucker and Joe are the ones behaving as though there’s no good-faith position on the other side here, not Smith and Napolitano.
And really, nothing about this segment answers Shep’s most basic complaint: It’s fine to disagree with Napolitano — again, the legal issue is debatable — but there’s no need to disparage him on Fox’s own airwaves by dismissing him as a “fool.” DiGenova actually disparages him again in this clip, insisting that Napolitano’s criticism of Trump is a matter of personal pique at the president for not appointing him to the Supreme Court. It’s a petty grudge, nothing more thoughtful than that. It *has* been reported that Napolitano thought he might be in line for a SCOTUS seat, however surreal that might seem, but Napolitano is also a devout libertarian of longstanding who’s complained for years about the executive branch claiming powers that don’t belong to it under the Constitution. It’s possible that Napolitano has become a Trump critic because Trump’s behavior has irritated that libertarian sensibility, not because he’s mad at Trump for not giving him a job. If Tucker’s so indignant at Shep for assuming a petty motive (partisanship) to explain diGenova’s legal analysis, why would he let diGenova attribute a petty motive to Napolitano?
T-minus three hours and 40 minutes until Shep’s show as I write this. Can’t wait.