Protesters outside News Corp. headquarters, the home of Fox News, in New York on Wednesday. (Justin Lane/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Erik Wemple Media critic with a focus on the ups and downs and downs of the cable-news industry.
Angelo Carusone, the president of the media watchdog group Media Matters, knows what will happen when his organization publishes a big scoop on a conservative personality. His detractors will dive into the recycling bin.
“Media Matters President Wrote Blog Post About ‘Japs,’ ‘Jewry’ and ‘Trannies’ was the headline on an article written for the Daily Caller by Peter Hasson, which was published late Tuesday. Here’s a look at one of the passages cited in the Daily Caller story, as screen-grabbed from Archive.org. It features commentary on Carusone’s then-boyfriend:
From Angelo Carusone’s old blog. (Erik Wemple/erik wemple)
There are other troublesome entries highlighted in the Daily Caller story, including the post wherein he calls his boyfriend “adorable,” “despite his jewry.” These snippets popped up on the Daily Caller site not long after Carusone’s group busted the co-founder of the Daily Caller, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, for a raft of misogynistic, racist, homophobic and just plain twisted statements he’d made while riffing on a radio show between 2006 and 2011. Carlson has resisted any contrition: “We will never bow to the mob.”
The bill of goods against Carusone in the Daily Caller’s story this week isn’t much different from the one in the Daily Caller’s October 2014 story under the headline: “Media Matters Executive Wrote Racist, Anti-Semitic, Anti-‘Tranny’ Blog Posts.” In 2017, Fox News host Sean Hannity got in on the act, ripping Carusone for “vile, vicious comments that he even admits that he made.”
You get the idea: The enemies of Media Matters are getting maximum mileage out of Carusone’s old blog posts. As well they should: Carusone’s postings are indeed offensive, and if he’s going to serve as president of an organization renowned for unearthing overlooked and objectionable comments from people’s past, he deserves to be called out on his own transgressions.
In a prepared statement sent to the Erik Wemple Blog, Carusone said, in part, “It’s true: I wrote some gross things on my blog while I was in college. A few posts parodying living my life as if I were a self-loathing, bigoted Limbaugh right-winger. And every time Media Matters takes some meaningful action, some awful people bring it up to try to stop us. And every time, I will acknowledge that the writing was gross and apologize because the context only explains; it doesn’t excuse,” reads the statement.
(Bolding inserted to highlight a disastrous departure from the Tucker Carlson Doctrine. Never bow to the mob!)
We pointed out that, in at least one case, Carusone had declined to comment to the Daily Caller about the posts. “I generally don’t respond to the Daily Caller because they’re a bad-faith actor,” he replied.
As for the idea that the offensive stuff stemmed from Rush Limbaugh mockery, Carusone explains that he grew up as a “fat, bullied gay kid” attending the same high school as former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly (Chaminade, an all-boys Catholic school on Long Island). “I grew up in a conservative environment,” he says, and later “started fighting back.” The complication with this explanation lies in the angelocarusone.com archive. Check it out for yourself. Are you feeling the parodic spin? On this question, a Media Matters spokeswoman says, “Limbaugh was his right-wing touchstone at time, so likely the one he had in mind then as he was writing.”
The Erik Wemple Blog has asked David Brock, the chairman of Media Matters, to comment on the Carusone postings. We’ll update when we hear back. Carusone was elevated to the presidency of Media Matters in late 2016, long after the offensive material was recirculated in conservative precincts.
“The blog posts don’t reveal some secret truth about me,” says Carusone, who also notes, “If i were really doing those things, they’d offer me a job at Fox News.”
But does this episode reveal secret truths about today’s media and politics? Indeed: Politically motivated actors sometimes, maybe even often, do important work. No one will ever mistake the Daily Caller for a neutral actor. Even though Carlson, in 2016, withdrew from day-to-day management of the site, it continues to prop him up, cheerleading for his hostile segments on Fox News and otherwise presenting a one-sided view of the news. If those allegiances prompt it to take a searing look at a player such as Carusone, so much the better. Screenshots from an ancient blog, after all, are screenshots from an ancient blog.
By the same token, Media Matters leaves little to the imagination. It goes after conservative misinformation in the media. In practical terms, that means it spends loads of time policing Fox News, but it also hammers CNN, MSNBC and other outlets for hiring clownish conservatives. Media Matters researcher Madeline Peltz, acting squarely within the organization’s mission statement, found a trove of old Carlson comments that surely would have delighted the Fox News host’s many chroniclers, including Brian Stelter, Andrew Kaczynski, the Erik Wemple Blog, the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, GQ, the Atlantic, Business Insider, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, whoever.
Those old Carlson comments are only half the story. The other half is the host’s churlish, vengeful and incorrigible response. From Carusone’s statement: “Fox News (or Tucker) hasn’t even acknowledged the troves of their own bigotry and misogyny, let alone apologized or corrected their behavior. These aren’t one off comments from Fox News — but a pattern of behavior stretching back decades and echoed in all of their work today. This pattern should serve as a major warning sign to advertisers — that there will be more to come from them, because it’s what they advocate for.”
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