The National Security Agency has given Tucker Carlson a lesson in spycraft and fake news. One which looks certain to crank up the volume in the now war of words, real and imagined.
In a rare social media rebuke, the agency shot down the Fox News Channel host’s recent self-described “shocking claim” that he and his primetime show were caught in an intelligence web.
A statement from NSA regarding recent allegations: pic.twitter.com/vduE6l6YWg
— NSA/CSS (@NSAGov) June 30, 2021
Just now Carlson on-air called the NSA’s comments “an infuriating dishonest formal statement.” He went on to call it, “a entire paragraph of lies written purely for the benefit of the intel community’s lackeys at CNN and MSNBC.” Carlson then bloviated “the NSA has read my private emails without my permission, period. That’s what we said. Today’s statement from the NSA does not deny that.”
“The message was clear, we can do whatever we want,” Carlson exclaimed, citing the NSA’s alleged refusal to answer his staff’s questioning if their boss’ email was truly being combed over by intelligence agencies. “Orwellian does not begin to describe the experience, it was like living in China,” the former CNN and MSNBC frontman said in his standard outraged voice.. “Now that the Biden administration has classified tens of millions of patriotic Americans, the kind who served in the military and fly flags in front of their homes, as potential domestic terrorists, white supremacists saboteurs, we’re going to see a whole lot more of this kind of thing,” Carlson frothed, tossing red meat from the “recipe for tyranny” out to his Red State audience.
Like so much of the discourse in American public life, this clash between Carlson and the intel agency feels and reads like alternative universes colliding.
“Yesterday, we heard from a whistleblower within the US government who reached out to warn us that the NSA, the National Security Agency, is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air,” top rated rabble rouser declared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Monday night in his bombshell of sorts
In the hours that followed said bombshell, it did not escape notice that no one else on the Rupert Murdoch-owned conservative outlet backed up Carlson’s outlandish assertion. Nor did any other FNC show cover what would be a huge story in almost any other context. That is a contrast to the headlines generated in The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN when their reporters were informed that Justice Department attorneys had secretly subpoenaed their phone and email records as part of a leak investigation.
Then again this is the same Tucker Carlson that a federal judge penned last year shouldn’t be taken too seriously because the “‘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.'” The opinion by Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, a Donald Trump appointee, actually quotes from arguments made by FNC’s own lawyers in what was their successful attempt to have a slander lawsuit against Carlson from Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model and paramour of the Celebrity Apprentice host, tossed out.
Interestingly, Carlson himself did not mention the spying claim tonight until well into his show. Perhaps he wouldn’t have at all, if it hadn’t been for the well timed NSA tweet that dropped just as TCT went to air. Breaking news being what it is on cable nowadays, Carlson’s writing and production staff were likely scrambling to come up with outrage bullet points to get up on Carlson’s teleprompter following the missive from the agency.
Consequently, for most of the first half of his one-hour show, the Daily Caller founder pounded on about immigration at the nation’s southern border, corresponding drug trade and how it is “killing America.” Carlson also took swipes at VP Kamala Harris and somewhat surprisingly Texas Gov. Greg Abbot not sealing the border with the Lone State’s National Guard.
On the other hand, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Carlson’s claim during a press gaggle Tuesday. A reporter wanted to know if the Biden administration is “aware of any espionage of listening efforts on U.S. citizens by the NSA, and is Tucker Carlson one of them?”
Psaki said that the NSA “is an entity that focuses on foreign threats and individuals who are trying — attempting to do is harm on foreign soil. So that is their purview. But beyond that, I would point you to the intelligence community.”
“For their part, the Biden administration did not deny the story,” Carlson asserted over 20 minutes into tonight’s TCT in response. “They can’t, they know it’s true,” he added, clearly overlooking that the NSA’s tweet called his claim “untrue.” He also played audio of Psaki’s response: “It’s like she reading Wikipedia …no denial.”
In many ways, Carlson’s latest target isn’t exactly unexpected.
For one, it pulls from the Deep State chorus in Donald Trump’s hymn book.
Also Carlson, whose show now tops all other cable news programs, has in recent weeks unleashed a volley of conspiratorial claims and statements, seemingly designed to stir outrage among his viewers and draw the attention and pushback of public officials. Last week, he referred to Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as “a pig” and “stupid.” The week before, he pushed the claim that the January 6 insurrection was orchestrated by the FBI, a conspiracy theory that also has gained some traction among some Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.