Tucker Carlson and BuzzFeed's Ben Smith face off on bias in the newsroom, BuzzFeed reporters triggered by a Justin Bieber comment, how many reporters at BuzzFed are Trump voters and more on the Wednesday broadcast of Tucker Carlson Tonight.
"How many Trump voters you think you have on staff at BuzzFeed? What would you say?" Carlson asked the BuzzFeed editor-in-chief.
"I don't know. I don't ask people about their ideology," Smith answered.
"You don't think if someone came out in the middle of BuzzFeed meetings and said, by the way, I mean evangelical and I think abortion is murder and I'm voting for Donald Trump, they were like, oh, yes, that is cool. It is like another diverse number of our staff. You think they would say that?" Carlson also asked.
Carlson asked what would happen if a BuzzFeed employee came out as pro-life (and Planned Parenthood) and pro-gun. Read the rough transcript, via FOX News:
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Well, no outlet better embodies how journalism has changed in the past 20 years like kingpin Buzzfeed.com, one of the most valuable news organizations of the world. Are they part of the new news bubble? Who better to ask and the editor in chief of BuzzFeed, Ben Smith? He joins us tonight. Hey, Ben. Thanks for coming on.
BEN SMITH, BUZZFEED EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Thanks for having me, Tucker. Congrats on the show, the book, the memefication.
CARLSON: I don't know what that means. But I will accept your congratulations.
SMITH: I don't know if the kingpin thing means either.
CARLSON: I will respond with the obvious question which is, hasn't Politico just proved what the rest of us knew was true for a long time? Which is, basically, everybody who runs America's news organizations comes from the same world. According to Politico, 90 percent of all online news employees live in counties that voted for Hillary Clinton. You could have guessed that but doesn't that lead to a certain kind of coverage?
SMITH: Of course. I mean, I think what he showed was the kind of tragedy that you have seen over the last 20 years of the collapse of these great news organizations all across the country.
SMITH: You know, big regional papers in Cleveland and Chicago. I mean, I think, you know, we certainly, I think our staff come as more diverse than it has ever been. But we think about, you know, regional diversity, too. I think that matters. We just hired a political reporter in Cleveland, Henry Gomez, partly because I think it is important to kind of have people outside the beltway come outside New York.
CARLSON: Right. But it's not just New York and Washington and L.A. It's specifically liberal counties. It's places that voted for Hillary Clinton. And that doesn't mean that all those employees voted for Hillary Clinton but actually they did. Because survey after survey has shown it is overwhelmingly a one-party state.
SMITH: I think that Politico piece said that something like 75 percent of the people I looked out were registered independents or more registered voters.
CARLSON: Right. But registration not necessarily a marker for anything. I mean, another way to look at that would be the White House Press Corps has precisely according to Politico as well zero registered Republicans in it. Now, maybe you know, there are some Republicans floating around there, who knows. But it is still a much smaller number, I think it is safe to say, then the country at large. And so it doesn't actually represent the country it covers. And why is that not a problem?
SMITH: I mean, I think, you know, I mean, I think in a way, the deeper problem, polls from people like us, you know, educated people who live in cities who wanted to go into journalism as well. There are a lot of different ways. It's a homogenous group. I think the best you can do is try to be fair in your coverage and look at the coverage. I mean, but I think it was a great piece by jack, totally reasonable thing to observe.
CARLSON: No, but hold on. But you wouldn't say and it's not exactly the same thing. But you wouldn't ever say something like that about racial or ethnic diversity? He wouldn't say that my newsroom is 100 percent middle aged white man but we are going to kind of do our best to understand perspectives different from ours. You would say, no way man, we will going to diversify this newsroom. Why not do that with ideology?
SMITH: Well, I am not -- I think conservatives -- I've always look for conservative political reporters. We stole our political editor from the great "Washington Free Beacon." I actually think that is ideological. I don't disagree with you on ideological diversity at all.
CARLSON: So, there was this peace, I'm sure you saw this in business inside which was pretty unbelievable by one of your former employees who has gone on to become kind of a pro-Trump activist online. He didn't start that way. But he recounts what it was like to work at BuzzFeed. And I'm quoting. He says, "I was talking to my colleagues about the new Justin Bieber album and I said I love this album, I love Bieber, he is my spirit animal. And someone came up to me at BuzzFeed and said, hey, bro, you can't say spirit animal, that is culturally appropriating Native American culture. And it's not cool. And he said, I didn't really think this happened." But it does happen at BuzzFeed. That doesn't seem like a culture of free inquiry to me.
SMITH: So, that was -- he was an employee of our Los Angeles Entertainment Division.
SMITH: You know, I did actually try to report out that anecdote because it sounds pretty preposterous. I don't think it happen. I was not there. More broadly, that story, he's a guy, his name is, he goes under the name baked Alaska, his name is Tim.
SMITH: I mean, I don't think he was not somebody who was I think persecuted for his conservative beliefs. This was somebody who I think obviously did not have a great experience at BuzzFeed. Left BuzzFeed, for a while hung out in the sort of pro-Trump movement. I don't really see a straight line between not having a great experience in our office and tweeting about the Jews.
CARLSON: He may be a wacko. But I am still pretty sympathetic. I don't know anything about him beyond this. But I am -- this sounds right to me having been around us a lot. He says, I got a lot of dirty looks and people stopped inviting me to meetings when I said I was voting for Trump. It was like I was a heretic. Nobody wanted to talk to me. All of their opinions about me change. That sounds right to me. How many Trump voters you think you have on staff at BuzzFeed? What would you say?
SMITH: I don't know. I don't ask people about their ideology.
SMITH: But I obviously agree with you. I don't think there are a lot of journalists voting for Trump.
SMITH: But again, you just told a story, I don't think that happened that he was left out of meetings where his ideology. That certainly doesn't happen in our news operation.
CARLSON: So, you don't think if someone came out in the middle of BuzzFeed meetings and said, by the way, I mean evangelical and I think abortion is murder and I'm voting for Donald Trump, they were like, oh, yes, that is cool. It is like another diverse number of our staff. You think they would say that?
SMITH: Yes. I think people are very respectful of the conservatives on our stuff. And they would have heated. I mean, you know, we are journalists. We yell at each other all the time.
SMITH: But nobody would -- we are not tricking pilots.
CARLSON: No, no, of course. But I mean, let's be totally real. If you said I'm going this afternoon to get my concealed carry permits, and then on Saturday, I am going to go protest the Planned Parenthood because I think Jesus wants me to, do you really think that people wouldn't say, maybe I'll loud certainly for themselves, this guy is a freak and I don't want him here?
SMITH: The question is whether I will be shown for going on your show. I think I will be all right.
CARLSON: (LAUGHS) Well, you are the editor. There's nothing they can do.
SMITH: Yes. There's nothing they can do. That's true.
CARLSON: That's right. Well, behind their back, they are probably saying, why is he on with that dangerous authoritarian Tucker Carlson? You see the point, though.
SMITH: You know, I think, I'm not saying that, I guess I'm not arguing with you about the way people vote, the way they lean. People just don't get into the business of reporting, I never did, because we are political activists. It's just not the first, second, or third things on our minds. My first gig was at a conservative newspaper in New York.
SMITH: I also worked for a left-leaning New York newspaper, I worked for Politico that has no particular ideology. But, you know, I came in because I wanted to report to find steps out, to tell stories. I think that is true for most reporters.
CARLSON: I believe that.
SMITH: And I think political activists who in good faith accused journalists of being activists are basically projecting. They say, I am primarily motivated by politics, and each journalist must also be. I don't think that is not the newsroom conversation. And I don't think any of these news rumors, not most of us.
CARLSON: I think there are some exceptions. I think you are generally right. The problem as you know is the problem that pro-diversity activist always .2, and that is an unconscious bias in taking your assumptions with you, and not examining them. And that is why employers and particularly you, spent so much time trying to, quote, "diversify" the way your newsroom looks. And I am just saying, are you making the same effort to bring diversity of experience? And we both know you are not. And my question is why?
SMITH: I mean, we think a lot about hiring people, you know, both who are based outside the big cities and who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. So, I don't know why you think that is not the case because it certainly is. And I do think that matters.
SMITH: I think one of the things he really see, and one of the places this come through most clearly in media, his TV coverage. You know, the show, the HBO shows that get all the coverage in "The New York Times," and then a lot of the media are just not necessarily, you know, the shows that are widely viewed, which might be "CSI." And I think that is a place in, you know, in a kind of broad sense, we think about trying to make sure we are writing about the culture that real people are paying attention to. But for sure, I think like most journalists are college-educated. I think most journalists have a certain set of experiences that leave them with huge blind spots.
CARLSON: But last question, have you ever heard anyone at BuzzFeed say, you know what? I just think abortion is murder and I don't think it should be legal? A lot of the country feels that way.
SMITH: Do I have colleagues who oppose abortion rights? Absolutely.
CARLSON: Not abortion rights. Abortion itself.
SMITH: Yes. Absolutely.
CARLSON: Good for you. Ben, thanks for coming on.
SMITH: Thank you.