Tucker Carlson, the 49-year-old Fox News primetime star, does not believe in treating women like men. In particular, as he told the founder of a designated hate group, he does not believe adult women who have sex with underage boys should be considered rapists.
“Here’s what I’m for,” Carlson told Gavin McInnes, founder of the Proud Boys, in a 2015 podcast interview (the video of that chat was uploaded in Jan. 2017). “I’m for treating women differently from the way we treat men. I’m not for playing along at all.”
Accordingly, Carlson argued, statutory rapes committed by men and women are incomparable.
It was an argument he also made in 2009 recordings revealed Sunday by liberal watchdog Media Matters—comments which he and his defenders have dismissed for being from “more than a decade ago.”
“It’s not even in the same universe, actually,” he told McInnes, of statutory rape committed by women. “There are lots of things you have to play along with in life, and I understand society demands compromises,” Carlson continued. “But there is a limit beyond which I can’t pretend anymore. And calling—in this case, it was a 17-year-old kid—a ‘rape victim’ because a teacher, who wasn’t even that old, or married, was kind enough to initiate him into the ways of adulthood. I’m not just going to sit there.”
Teacher-student statutory rape is better than the alternative, Carlson explained, noting “my best friend was involved in a relationship like that when we were kids. There are not that many options. So you’re a 15-,16-, 17-year-old boy. You are driven by biology to procreate, so you are either going to be inflicting your attentions on one of your peers, who let’s be honest is not ready for it; she’s going to get hurt emotionally—90 percent, I mean I’ve never seen a woman—girl—not hurt at that age.”
“Or,” he continued, “you can have a safer, albeit technically illegal outlet, with a woman who knows what she’s doing. You’re not going to hurt her feelings. You know what I mean? This is harm reduction. This is like a needle exchange.”
“I’m not going to pretend that’s rape, because it’s not,” he added.
Carlson was referring to a case in Queens, New York, while getting a number of the facts completely wrong.
In that instance, a 38-year-old teacher, who was married and had four children, repeatedly raped a 16-year-old student on school grounds. According to prosecutors, she also raped another 16-year-old student in revenge, after learning her first prey was going to prom with a girl his own age.
Defending statutory rape committed by women has been a recurring theme for Carlson.
In a 2014 appearance on Fox News daytime gabfest Outnumbered, he discussed the same case. “It’s ludicrous we are calling this a rape. Are you serious?” he commented before blaming the teenage victim: “I’ll tell you what’s wrong to this extent—he went and tattled to the police and destroyed her life.”
In another appearance that year on the same show, he described a teacher giving a 15-year-old student a lap dance as “the greatest thing that ever happened” from a 15-year-old boy’s perspective.
These comments, from within the past five years, are even more recent than the ones exposed by Media Matters on Sunday evening.
In one 2009 radio exchange unearthed by Media Matters, Carlson defended Warren Jeffs, the cult leader convicted of arranging child marriages. “I am not defending underage marriage at all,” Carlson said, speaking with a shock jock known as Bubba the Love Sponge. “I just don’t think it’s the same thing exactly as pulling a child from a bus stop and sexually assaulting that child…. The rapist, in this case, has made a lifelong commitment to live and take care of the person. So it it’s a little different. Let’s be honest about that.”
The remarks prompted a co-host of the show to declare: “That’s demented.”
He also once again defended women teachers having sex with boys as young as 13, arguing that “they are doing a service to all 13-year-old girls by taking the pressure off. They are a pressure relief valve, like the kind you have on your furnace.”
Elsewhere in the newly unearthed audio—that ranged in origin from the years 2006 to 2011—Carlson referred to women as “extremely primitive” people who “just need to be quiet and kind of do what you’re told.” He also mocked Elena Kagan, then a Supreme Court nominee, as being “unattractive,” and referred to fellow TV host Alexis Stewart as being “cunty.”
In a statement on Sunday night, Carlson dismissed the comments as him “saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago.”
But as the more recent clips demonstrate, he has kept saying much the same thing.
And the venue for Carlson’s more recent defense of statutory rape is itself a matter of controversy. Gavin McInnes has a long history of provocative racism and misogyny, and months before the interview announced in a column for white-nationalist outlet Taki’s Magazine that he was founding a group for “Western chauvinists” called the Proud Boys.
McInnes was previously a columnist for The Daily Caller, which Carlson founded; and in their conversation, McInnes discussed how an editor there once deleted the phrase “fucking Jews” from one of his articles. (“Don’t tell me that!” Carlson responded.)
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has designated the organization a hate group, “rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white-nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists.” Last year, several members were arrested for assaulting an anti-fascist protester outside a talk McInnes delivered in Manhattan.
McInnes has since quit the group and filed a lawsuit against the SPLC over its “hate group” designation.
In their conversation, Carlson told McInnes about discussing college hook-up culture with his babysitter. “The irony is all this female empowerment has left a lot of girls hopelessly unempowered,” he said. “I was talking with one of our babysitters about it the other day. And she was saying in college the expectation is some guy texts you and you go over and service him and leave. No dinner, nothing. There’s no expectation you’ll get anything in return. You are just a commodity, and if you don’t do it someone else will.
“And I said, ‘But that doesn’t sound like empowerment to me.’ And she said, ‘No, we’re very empowered.’ I said, ‘Boy, that sounds like disempowerment. It sounds like you are powerless.’ And she looked at me inquisitively, kind of like ‘Really?’ I think I hurt her feelings, but it seemed true.”
Carlson, for his part, told McInnes he had slept with “a hundred” women in his lifetime. “It was a short window,” he said of his unmarried sex life, “but I packed it full.”
At another point, the conversation turned to Carlson’s employment history.
“One thing I find inspiring about you is you have like 30 different careers,” McInnes commented.
“Yes, I keep getting fired,” Carlson said.
A spokesperson for Fox News did not immediately return a request for comment.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that Carlson was interviewed by McInnes in 2015. An official YouTube video of their conversation was not uploaded until January 2017. We regret the error.