The recipe for a Swanson Hungry Man Dinner, so far as I can tell, isn’t all that complicated. Chopped beef steak. Turkey. Maybe some mystery meat no one quite knows, not even the Impossible Burger, folks. But I know someone fully qualified to tweak and tune up the ingredients list: Tucker Swanson, er, Carlson.
As his stepmom was Patricia Caroline Swanson, heiress to the Swanson Frozen Foods empire, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson probably knows more about Hungry Man epicure than he’ll ever admit on the air. At least one part of the recipe is bonehead simple: Eat real journalists for breakfast. Then spit them out. Then leave them to the mongrel dogs.
The proof positive, as reported in The Washington Post and elsewhere, came last fall. In front of more than 5 million viewers, Carlson gifted his on-air podium to Darren Beattie. A former Donald Trump speechwriter, Beattie was fired in 2018 for attending a conference with white nationalists. He was also at one point suspected of writing anonymously for a right-wing website that promoted conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden–theories as false as the allegations of election fraud that every petitioned court in the United States refused to entertain.
The reporter in question, NBC’s Brandy Zadrozny, wanted to ask Beattie a few questions about this Hunter Biden stuff, the way good reporters do. Hate on the questions if you will; don’t hate on the reporter doing her job, especially if you trade in words as well. Just refuse to comment. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
I don’t know if Beattie is of Italian lineage. (Swanson Carlson the Hungry Man is, at least in part.) But in my family we had this unwritten rule that the louder you yell, the more right you must be. Beattie went into a froth, shouting down Zadrozny in a blog post as an “ideologically-motivated hit-man.” Some grammar for a speech writer. A) Zadrozny is a woman. B) “Hit-man” isn’t hyphenated.
Then came Carlson, who provided a welcoming echo chamber for Beattie’s irresponsible claims that through her work on covering online extremism, Zadrozny was trying to “ruin [the] lives” of Trump supporters. That is, as the Post noted, “a fundamental misrepresentation of Zadrozny’s work.” It’s also the kind of victim-bully rhetorical strategy his former boss turned into a low art form.
This is just the beginning of the story, readers.
Hungry Man’s ravenous appetite for chaos
With a large photo of the reporter in the background–big enough for myopic viewers to see–Carlson took a page from the Rush Limbaugh playbook and joined in Beattie’s outrage: “Why would NBC News be doing something like this? Why would they be going after anonymous Twitter users?”
Then the death threats came in. So bad were these that “Zadrozny required armed security for two weeks after the Carlson show segment,” the Post reported.
Never mind that Carlson irresponsibly placed a fellow media member’s life in extreme danger. If it was Swanson Hungry Man-sized portion of poison that Tucker Swanson Carlson was trying to serve up as a TV dinner, Fox “News” viewers bought it. Then they unfolded their trays in front of their boob tubes. They swallowed it. They scarfed it. They loved it. If only it ended there.
Following the Fox segment, a select portion of the Carlson faithful–is it OK to call these thugs mothertuckers?–bellowed like bull seals in heat and decided to make Zadrozny’s life an unbridled, anxious hell.
This, I imagine, was great news for Carlson. I can just see him high-fivin’ it that month, as the episode helped him remain the highest rated cable TV host of them all: ahead of Sean Hannity, Anderson Cooper or Chris Cuomo.
A Chauvin apologist: Raw meat in Swanson Carlson’s food for thought
But if Swanson Carlson is an irresponsible f***, he’s not a dumb one. This Hungry Man dishes lots of raw meat, the kind Pavlovian, conditioned dogs and Foxes like. In discussing the guilty verdicts against disgraced former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, Swanson the Ratings Hungry Man has taken an unconventional, reprehensible, worse-than-tacky tack.
He argued on Monday April 19 that the media was “‘lynching’ Derek Chauvin.” The all-caps banner under his commentary read: “FACTS NO LONGER MATTER IN CHAUVIN CASE.” Lynching? Come on, Swanson. You can do way better than that. How about: “The media is putting its knee on Derek Chauvin’s neck for nine-plus minutes.” And let’s take a look at that “lynching” thing. Using a term applied to how blacks were murdered by vile, angry whites cannot be unintentional, though morally and “journalistically” it is a mistake of the worst kind.
And in his latest stunt, Swanson Carlson cut off former New York City deputy sheriff and corrections officer Ed Gavin in an interview about the Chauvin’s three guilty verdicts. Turns out he didn’t like how Gavin asserted that rogue cop used “excessive, unjustified use of force.” Just like the Minneapolis Police chief did in court. Anyway.
The Hungry Man closed the interview by effectively kicking Gavin off the air and declaring, “Nope. Done.” Haw, haw, haw! You tell him, Tucker! Makes you want to storm the Capitol building, doesn’t?
In defense of free speech–but not endangering reporters
Swanson Carlson apparently enjoys this Trumpian bullying, twisting of facts and promotion of borderline white supremacist views. Yet just as Tucker has sympathy for the Devil named Derek, I have some sympathy for this media succubus, emphasis on suc. Sure, he spouts a lot of incendiary nonsense, much of it laced in vitriol. That is the Hungry Man’s Chicken Shit dinner, I believe.
But every day when I worked at Chicago’s storied Tribune Tower, I walked past cathedral-sized walls emblazoned with immortal quotes that celebrated freedom of speech. Here’s one I embraced, and embrace still: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” It was incorrectly attributed to Voltaire. It also took liberty with the wording. But Col. McCormick, the eccentric owner of the Chicago Tribune in the early 20th Century, was never a stickler for accuracy.
So Carlson has a right to say what he likes. Even if I hate it. That said, I contend, stridently so, that nothing is more reprehensible in the media world than someone who betrays one of their own to the point of endangering them. Sure, Swanson Carlson did not call for the goons to descend on Zadrozny. But in best Trump fashion, he whipped up the crowd, walked away and disowned any consequences.
And not owning the consequences of dangerous words delivered to a millions-strong audience reeks of moral failure and reckless disregard.
Yet this is not how Tucker Swanson keeps score. For like the ample-bellied rancor twins Roger Ailes and Limbaugh before him, Tucker is a very Hungry Man. Being cable’s top dog, even if it’s a rabid Rottweiler, is hard work. Seizing the spotlight as Rush’s heir apparent is irresistible. And being an entertainer who treats reporting like pro wrestling, I suppose, makes one unique and special to a select group of loyal viewers.
Because Swanson Carlson is a medical examiner or EMT–it takes that kind of training for the Hungry Man to make his media dinner and keep the preservatives or mystery meat under wraps–he spent “months casting doubt on how exactly Floyd died.” This dovetails nicely with the baseless election conspiracy theories Fox peddled, which have resulted in two multi-billion dollar lawsuits.
Like reckless father, like reckless son
Tucker’s father could certainly identify and perhaps even would approve of his son’s bullying of NBC’s Zadrozny. As a fledgling freelance journalist, Richard Carlson co-wrote an article in Look magazine that linked San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto to organized crime. Alioto later filed a $12 million libel lawsuit against the magazine. After eight years and four federal libel trials, Alioto prevailed in 1977. The legal fees and eventual $350,000 award sealed Look’s demise.
“These allegations have heretofore been found to be false and defamatory. The Court now finds that they were made with actual malice, i e., with reckless disregard for their truth.”
Reckless disregard: Like father, like son. But hey, at least Daddy didn’t put a journalist colleague’s life at risk. In fact, he eventually worked his way up to the rather cushy job of United States Ambassador to Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands. He held down the gig for just nine months. Makes me wonder: How do you lose a job like that?
Not that Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson would want it. Because a diplomatic post in a sleepy island nation of 98,000 is nothing compared to being a Svengali to 5 million-plus viewers. Don’t count on those numbers to dip either. Because at the end of the day and tomorrow and perhaps ever after, this Swanson is a very Hungry Man.