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Lawmakers, operatives weigh in on Fox News’ rough weekend

The controversies hitting the cable news network elicited a series of reactions from people across the political spectrum

Tucker Carlson speaks onstage during Politicon 2018 at Los Angeles Convention Center on October 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Rich Polk/Getty Images for Politicon )
Tucker Carlson speaks onstage during Politicon 2018 at Los Angeles Convention Center on October 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Rich Polk/Getty Images for Politicon )

After a weekend of bad PR for Fox News, lawmakers and politicos offered a mixed bag of reactions to the series of controversies hitting the cable news network.

Host Jeanine Pirro questioned Rep. Ilhan Omar’s American allegiance because she wears a hijab during a monologue on her Saturday primetime show “Justice with Judge Jeanine.” And tape surfaced from 2006 where Tucker Carlson argues that facilitating child rape is not the same as raping children, uses the c-word to describe women and uses other inflammatory language.

Both the Pirro and Carlson controversies hit the network on the heels of a blistering article in The New Yorker that describes the cozy relationship between the network and the Trump White House.

The Media Matters watchdog group dredged up old tapes of Carlson from 2006 to 2011, when he routinely appeared on the “Bubba the Love Sponge Show,” a popular and irreverent talk radio show in Tampa, Florida.

In the tapes, Carlson calls federal charges against Warren Jeffs, the former leader of a Mormon cult who is in prison serving a life sentence for child rape, “bulls–t,” arguing against the seriousness of statutory rape laws.

“Now this guy may be . . . may be a child rapist,” Carlson said. “I’m just telling you that arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her.”

Carlson refused to apologize on Sunday for his past comments, which include calling women “pigs” and the c-word; jokes about college-age lesbians; and saying women secretly like to be told to “be quiet and … do what you’re told.”

“Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch,” Carlson wrote. “Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.”

Rep. David Cicilline, who has appeared multiple times on Carlson’s one-on-one debate-style program said he is “done” going on the program.

“Tucker, I’ve never had a problem going on your show before, but this is bulls–t. I’m done,” the Rhode Island Democrat tweeted in response to Carlson’s tweet.

The president’s son and 2016 campaign adviser, Donald Trump Jr., commended Carlson for his defiance in the face of the “outrage mob.”

“This is how to handle the outrage mob. Remember, even the most sincere apology means nothing to them,” Trump Jr. tweeted. “They want to break and ruin you. That’s their end goal.”

Freshman GOP Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida said he was “surprised” to hear Carlson’s remarks.

“He’s never said anything like that to me,” Waltz said in a CNN interview Monday.

The controversy surrounding Carlson’s comments, though, is not the only one brewing at Fox.

Jeanine Pirro, who hosts the Saturday primetime show “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” was rebuked by her own company after she questioned whether Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar adhered to Sharia law over the U.S. Constitution.

“We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar,” Fox News said in a statement. “They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.”

Pirro did not appear contrite in a statement she released Sunday night in which she claimed never to have said Omar was “un-American.”

“My intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution. I invite Rep. Omar to come on my show any time to discuss all of the important issues facing America today,” Pirro said in the statement.

Both conservative and liberal pundits denounced Pirro’s comments

Pirro is a “disgrace,” conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens said in a tweet. Stephens added that “every healthy democracy needs a healthy conservative movement,” but Fox has “become the chief driver in making that movement intemperate, idiotic, and illiberal.”

Pirro and Carlson both have good relationships with President Donald Trump, who has sat for interviews on both their shows.