Last week, social media lit up with screen grabs of Tucker Carlson's yearbook entry from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1991, which was confirmed by the college, listing the "Dan White Society" as a club to which Carlson stated he belonged.
It was a grotesque, homophobic and violent display, as Dan White was the anti-gay killer of gay civil rights leader and San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Mascone, both of whom White assassinated in 1978 at City Hall in a horrendous act of gun violence and a homophobic hate crime.
Dan White assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California,… https://t.co/WJpVCKoJeV— snopes.com (@snopes.com)1619368685.0
There is no Dan White Society, at least not any that any other student at Trinity listed as having been a member. Carlson also listed membership in the "Jesse Helms Foundation," referring to the late Republican senator from North Carolina who led a crusade against queer people in the 80s and 90s, exploiting fear and whipping up hate as AIDS came into the forefront of American society, preventing LGBTQ people from attaining protections amid rampant discrimination. The fact-checking site Snopes found no other reference in the yearbook to a "Jesse Helms Foundation" either.
Jeet Heer did an instructive deep dive last week that is worth a read, looking at why a 22-year-old college student in 1991 would be paying tribute to a homophobic hate crime over a decade earlier, noting the intense homophobia on the right at that time.
Indeed, Carlson seems to have been obsessed with homosexuality going way back, having co-written a letter in the college paper in 1990 stating that homosexuality is "unnatural and unhealthy," responding to an article in the paper that had detailed homophobia at Trinity College.
In 1990, @tuckercarlson took to his college newspaper to brand homosexuality “unnatural and unhealthy”… https://t.co/HOkhF1IwOF— Jeremy Hooper (@Jeremy Hooper)1619040954.0
I've written in the past about stories that surfaced in which Carlson expressed revulsion at homosexuality — and one incident in which he reveled in a violent response.
In 2007 Carlson told Dan Abrams on MSNBC that he smashed a man's head "against the stall" in a public rest room, claiming the man had "bothered" him, though not at first saying he was responding to a sexual advance — just that he was "bothered." In hindsight, it was stated with the zeal we've come to learn is a mark of heterosexual men who are insecure about their own masculinity and sometimes their own sexuality.
The discussion had been focused on Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho — a vocal homophobe, and a senator who voted consistently anti-gay — who was arrested for soliciting sex at an airport rest room from a male undercover cop in Minneapolis that year. And Carlson, with bravado, decided to go off on this tangent, heralding the gay-bashing he'd once committed. It seemed to be a way of normalizing a violent response by straight men to homosexuality to send a threat to gay men.
Even if it was a sexual advance that Carlson experienced — Carlson claimed the following day, in an email he sent out to the press after a lot of online criticism, that he was "assaulted" by the man — his action still was not an act of self-defense: Carlson said he left the rest room after the man had "bothered" him, and then went back with a friend, explaining that they then "grabbed" the man and "hit him against the stall with his head." (Interestingly, after Abrams challenged Carlson's action, Carlson went on to say, in what appeared to be a strange joke, "Let me be clear, I am not gay.")
In 2019, Media Matters released audio clips of Carlson making racist and homophobic comments, including using an anti-gay slur, telling shock jock host Bubba the Love Sponge in 2006, "I like you too...but I actually mean it in a completely f----t way."
Last year Carlson's top writer was exposed by CNN as having written bloodcurdlingly racist, misogynistic, homophobic comments in online forums for years, and resigned from Carlson's show and Fox News. Carlson had in the past publicly lauded Blake Neff for his contributions to Carlson's show, while Neff had told the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine regarding Carlson that "anything he is reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me." All the while, and right up until he resigned, Neff was posting vile slurs and promoting hate against women, Black people, queer people and others, actively involved in ongoing discussions with white supremacists.
While Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace put out a statement at the time claiming that, "Fox News Media strongly condemns this horrific racist, misogynistic and homophobic behavior," Carlson, after stating on the air that Neff's online comments were "wrong" and that Neff was "ashamed," defiantly defended Neff as if he was someone who made a minor mistake (at which he got caught) and was now being unfairly targeted: "We should also point out, to the ghouls now beating their chests in triumph at the destruction of a young man, that self-righteousness also has its costs. We are all human."
Carlson's many attacks on transgender people also further reveal how threatened he is by sexual and gender identity. Last year he said that it's "grotesque" for kids to identify as transgender, and just last month he stated that trans people "threaten the perpetuation of the species." With murders against transgender people in 2020 surging — and violence against transgender people reaching the highest level in five years, following the election of Donald Trump and his vicious anti-trans presidency — there's no question Carlson's words embolden those who engage in violence.
Carlson's defenders might say that Carlson's words are no different than many public figures who once made homophobic or transphobic comments, or promoted anti-LGBTQ polices, but "evolved" over time. But Carlson's comments on transgender people alone are coming in just recent weeks, and he's not apologized for past statements on gays or stated any changed positions on homosexuality. In fact, he refused in 2019 to apologize for the comments he made on Bubba the Love Sponge, responding on his show that he would "never bow to the mob."
And last week's revelation about Carlson's yearbook, coupled with his sick 2007 bragging about beating up a gay man in a rest room, sets Carlson apart as a pundit who has promoted and reveled in violence against queer people. In the case of the murders of Harvey Milk and Mayor Mascone, he celebrated assassinations motivated by homophobia. It doesn't get more hateful — or more dangerous — than that.
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