Fox News’ Tucker Carlson had a hard time booking Olga Lexell, the creator and co-organizer of the nationwide Not My President’s Day protests on Monday.
So, after repeated refusals, Carlson’s show instead booked Shane Saunders, a Los Angeles-based actor and casting agent, who Lexell said “was not affiliated in any way with our rallies and was not an organizer.”
In the five-minute segment, Saunders was referred to as an “organizer” by an on-screen graphic and Carlson himself, who also asked Saunders about why “your protest is going to make a difference.”
“It's frustrating because, with the exception of one person, all of the organizers are women,” Lexell told The Daily Beast. “For a man who knows nothing about the protests to go on TV unprepared, misrepresent our message, take credit for our weeks of hard work, and make us look bad—and for Tucker Carlson's team to go along with it—is just disappointing.”
Lexell said Carlson’s producers reached out to “all of the nationwide organizers on Facebook and proceeded to Facebook message us” on Monday, asking them to be on the show. She initially said yes, “just to bide (our) time while I contacted everyone.”
“Once everyone was on the same page, I canceled (and) made some jokes about how I'd meet Tucker for brunch,” she said. “He responded by begging me to come on the show.”
Emails Lexell posted on Twitter and provided to The Daily Beast show Carlson sending two personal requests for Lexell to appear on his show, which she declined.
Carlson has been accused of “blindsiding his guests and keeping them from issuing fully formed answers” by reporters like the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, who wrote just that after appearing on Fox News in primetime last week. This led to other writers, like Alex Pareene at Deadspin, to implore potential Carlson guests to learn from Wemple’s appearance and “Don't Volunteer To Be Ambushed On Television.”
Saunders, who Lexell said saw her “post the jokes about not wanting to go on Tucker's show and replied with a bunch of comments he's since deleted,” was then booked in her stead.
“I told him that we had just organized a massive rally with ample news coverage and that we didn't need to go on Tucker Carlson's show to validate that,” she said.
She insists Saunders, who she says is “a friend of some friends of mine,” had nothing to do with organizing the protests.
“He was not involved in the planning of the protests in any way, at any point, ever,” she said. “Heather (Mason) and I organized the LA event that started the whole thing, and we had specific contacts in the other cities who had dealt with media outreach before. We know everyone who was involved on every team.”
Mason, the event's co-organizer, believes "Carlson's team either didn't vet him or didn't care that he wasn't involved."
"Shane wasn't involved in organizing the protests, yet inserted himself into the narrative for some unknown reason without authority on the subject. I don't know what in the world would make him think that was a good idea or even one that made logical sense," said Mason. "He didn't clarify his role in the protests and proceeded to lock his Twitter account after I asked him if he attended."
Saunders told The Daily Beast he went on the show “under the conditions that I wouldn’t allow my words to be twisted by Tucker Carlson.”
"They said it would be a very simple segment about you as a protestor at today’s rally," said Saunders, who said "works on the other side of (acting) now" in a writers room. "I never once said I was an organizer of the event."
Saunders said that Lexell, whom he says he's never met in person, has been "thrown off on this wild course of craziness right now" since the interview "blew up in a way that I never would’ve imagined."
After Saunders appeared on the show, Lexell emailed the show’s producers to let them know of the extent of his involvement in the protests, which totaled about 13,000 people in New York alone.
“Hey just so you guys know, that guy who you got on the show isn't affiliated with our event and didn't even attend any of the protests. I know him in real life and he's an aspiring actor,” she said. (Saunders said he attended the event and is now working in a writer's room.)
“Okay,” one of Carlson’s producers responded.
Update: Fox News' Justin Wells, Executive Producer of Tucker Carlson Tonight, has issued a statement to The Daily Beast regarding the segment.
"The program incorrectly identified a Los Angeles based protest participant as a ‘protest organizer’ in a graphic during Monday night’s telecast. While he was correctly identified in the introduction to the segment, we regret the graphic didn’t accurately reflect his role throughout the entire segment."
The story was also updated to include comment from Saunders.