Look. You and I both know that Fox News's talking haircut Tucker Carlson is one of the most odious, dangerous, and altogether toxic media personalities since Father Coughlin. His nightly broadcasts are a favorite among neo-Nazis and President Trump alike, and his screeds against immigrants, minorities, Democrats, and beyond have played a crucial role in shaping our current descent into authoritarian dystopia.
Then again, if you're the Fox News legal team, Tucker Carlson isn't so much a lynchpin in the Trump administration-state TV-militia trifecta that currently holds sway across the United States. Instead, they argue in a recent court filing, he's simply a master of "non-literal commentary," which seems like an extremely lawyerly way of saying "bullshit artist."
Incredibly, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil agreed with Fox News's lawyers, citing their claim that Carlson should be taken seriously, but not literally, as part of her reasoning to toss a lawsuit filed by Karen McDougal against Fox News.
The suit, filed last year, centers around Carlson's on-air proclamation that McDougal's decision to accept a $150,000 pay off to suppress claims she'd had an affair with Donald Trump was part of "a classic case of extortion" — a statement McDougal said constituted accusing her of participating in a crime.
In her dismissal of the case, however, Vyskocil wrote that:
The court finds that Mr. Carlson’s invocation of “extortion” against Ms. McDougal is nonactionable hyperbole, intended to frame the debate in the guest commentator segment that followed Mr. Carlson’s soliloquy. As defendant notes, Mr. Carlson himself aims to “challenge political correctness and media bias." This “general tenor” of the show should then inform a viewer that he is not “stating actual facts” about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in “exaggeration” and “non-literal commentary.”
You see, when Carlson says things like white supremacy is "not a crisis" and that "Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country," and when he warns viewers that social justice protesters will "come for you," that's not racist fearmongering, that's just "non-literal commentary." Or, to put it in plain English, "making things up and then rambling about them."
"Fox persuasively argues that given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer 'arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism' about the statements he makes," Vyskocil continued in her dismissal of McDougal's case. "Whether the court frames Mr. Carlson’s statements as 'exaggeration,' 'non-literal commentary,' or simply bloviating for his audience, the conclusion remains the same — the statements are not actionable."
So there you have it, folks. According to Tucker Carlson's own network's attorneys, and now a court of law in the United States of America, Carlson is so notoriously and pervasively spouting nonsense that no one should take what he says literally. So the next time he goes on a racist rant about immigrants, or Black people, or any number of other marginalized communities he's been so fond of mocking, just remember: He's either mostly full of crap, entirely full of crap, or just goofing for his audience ... who are definitely in on the joke. Right?