There’s a new era at Fox News with the departure of Bill O’Reilly on Wednesday, but viewers may not see much change in on-air attitudes toward women.
His replacement, Tucker Carlson, has been criticized for promulgating tone-deaf views on gender and for being dismissive of female guests on his show for years.
The cable news network ditched O’Reilly as allegations widened that the top-rated host had sexually harassed several former colleagues. Advertisers had fled from his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” after The New York Times reported this month that he and the network had paid $13 million to settle complaints from five women.
Into that prime-time void steps Carlson, a pundit with a chauvinistic persona in front of the camera, though he faces no allegations of misconduct off the set.
In a December episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” he famously clashed with Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca over her tweets about Ivanka Trump. The segment ended with Carlson essentially mansplaining that Duca should cover fashion, not politics.
“You should stick to the thigh-high boots. You’re better at that,” Carlson said, a parting shot that became a viral moment.
The liberal group Media Matters for America admonished Carlson over his February interview with a transgender woman. The organization said he insulted Jillian Weiss of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund by suggesting people pretend to be transgender to slip into opposite-sex bathrooms or to defraud government programs.
A scandal started in 2015 by his brother further built up Carlson’s reputation for tolerating intolerance. Buckley Carlson, who writes for The Daily Caller, which was co-founded by Tucker Carlson in 2010, described a spokeswoman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as a “whiny little self-righteous bitch” in an email sent to her and others. The spokeswoman, Amy Spitalnick, had emailed seeking a correction in a Daily Caller story about de Blasio.
When asked about the comments, Tucker Carlson came to his sibling’s defense. “I just talked to my brother about his response, and he assures me he meant it in the nicest way,” Carlson wrote in a 2015 email to HuffPost.
Then there was the time in 2014 when Carlson disputed that women do not get equal pay. “This idea that women are suffering, that’s just ridiculous!” he said. “Men are suffering.”
While waging his ongoing rhetorical war against former President Barack Obama and Democrats in 2013, Carlson conflated women serving in the armed forces with domestic violence. He suggested that the Pentagon’s announcement allowing women to take on combat roles somehow conflicted with the goal of protecting women from physical abuse through the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
That’s not to say that Carlson doesn’t appreciate women. The conservative Daily Caller website has its own provocative history. Along with right-wing opinion pieces and news, Carlson’s site offered readers liberal doses of scantily clad ladies in slideshows with titles such as “Hot Women Eating Cereal.”
Carlson justified the photos when rebuked by a caller to his show in 2014.
“But I also believe that beauty is important, and we’re not embarrassed to put things that are beautiful — not necessarily sexual or debased,” Carlson said to the woman, according to Raw Story. (To be fair, some HuffPost readers became accustomed to attentive “side boob” coverage on this site.)
Taking over for O’Reilly is Carlson’s second recent promotion while a sexual harassment scandal has reshaped Fox News since last summer. Carlson got picked to fill Megyn Kelly’s time slot after she left for NBC. Kelly, who will host a daytime weekday talk show, was among the women who accused former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment. Ailes left Fox News last summer.
Despite Carlson’s past pronouncements, Kelly vouched for him in an interview with The Washington Post.
“As far as Tucker, though, I don’t think you can sum up the man based on a comment here, a comment there. My experience with him has been nothing but delightful and respectful, and I think he’s a huge talent,” Kelly said.