Fox News host Tucker Carlson had Erik Wemple on his show Tuesday night and attempted to paint The Washington Post media columnist as a hypocrite for covering the media’s white-gloved treatment of Russia while neglecting to examine “Russia Behind the Headlines,” a pro-Russia advertising insert syndicated by The Post.
During the exchange, which lasted for 10 minutes, Carlson also accused Wemple of going easy on The Washington Post when it erroneously reported White House adviser Steve Bannon confronted Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly over President Trump’s executive order on immigration.
“Why don’t you cover your own paper’s shortcomings, is the question?” Carlson said.
In fact, Wemple — a veteran Post gadfly from his days at Washington City Paper — has written hard-hitting stories about The Washington Post from inside the paper’s newsroom. Last February, he published a piece about the lack of diversity in The Post’s upper echelons. In 2013, Wemple wrote a piece about friction between the business and editorial staffers at Washington Post Magazine. And he recently criticized The Post for its bogus story that Russians had successfully hacked a Vermont power grid.
Wemple’s coverage of The Post’s power grid story was a point of contention during the interview. Carlson characterized the piece as “brown nose-y” for including the line “the missteps mar an otherwise spectacular run for The Post, which nailed exclusive after exclusive in the presidential campaign.”
Wemple then asked Carlson to read the final paragraph in its entirety.
“Finish the post, Mr. Carlson,” Wemple said. “Read to the end, please.”
Carlson said “that’s actually the end of it, then you go on…” before pausing as Wemple asked him to finish reading the story.
That’s not how the piece concludes. In an email to Poynter, Wemple flagged the actual final line of the piece, which calls out upper managers at The Post for failing to grant him an interview:
With traffic surging and editorial ranks growing, The Post, you might suppose, would have the self-confidence to sit for an extensive interview about its occasional failings. Apparently not.
Wemple says Carlson’s omission of that final line, and his decision not to read the criticism that appears above it, amounts to a deliberate attempt to skew the facts.
“He intentionally mischaracterized my piece on the Vermont power story,” Wemple said. “I think that qualifies as a lie.”
Wemple also notes that Carlson’s team told him to be prepared for “a broad discussion of media performance in the 2016 campaign,” rather than a specific discussion on his coverage of The Washington Post.
Wemple says that, although the interview was “an ambush,” the setup “isn’t as big a deal as the way that he mischaracterized my work and declined to straighten the record even after I pointedly asked him to.”
Carlson called Wemple’s characterization of the interview “a bizarre response” in an email to Poynter.
“How is it an ambush to ask him about a Russian propaganda section that’s been running regularly in his paper for many years?” Carlson said. “He wasn’t aware of it? What a bizarre response.”
Wemple noted that Carlson doesn’t dispute that the interview was a setup.
“Notice he doesn’t deny the misdirection,” Wemple said.