On the Wednesday broadcast of his FOX News show, Tucker Carlson took on Noah Rothman of the magazine Commentary for his accusation that the host has "willfully misled his audience and advanced Russian geopolitical narratives" in his coverage of Douma, the Syrian city that fell victim to a chemical weapon attack.
Throughout the week, Carlson has questioned why "official Washington," Republicans and Democrats, have united behind the idea that the United States has a moral obligation to go deeper into war in Syria after a suspected gas attack. Carlson wondered why the Assad-accused attack would come right after President Trump announced he wanted the U.S. out of the region and asked how blame can be assigned within 48 hours of the attack.
"Merely asking obvious questions, we are told to shut up and just obey," Carlson said of people who want war.
Tucker Carlson's dissemination of undiluted Russian propaganda last night was atrocious. He did a gross disservice to Fox viewers. It should not be allowed to stand uncorrected. https://t.co/CSg3H2cFxV— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) April 10, 2018
Carlson said he is not defending the Syrian dictator, but instead thinking of the consequences of war with Syria.
For his part, Rothman denied ever writing that the FOX Newser supported Assad. However, Carlson quoted the scribe accusing him of "defending a bloodsoaked regime." Carlson said he is just being safe and questioning know-it-alls and anyone who states as fact what they actually don't know to be fact.
Rothman, a former blogger at Mediaite, wrote Carlson is "advancing pro-Assad narratives."
Carlson said Rothman and people like him are "tools of people who want" war.
"Actors like you and on many other channels all over the left you hear people say what you said which is it's unpatriotic or, in fact, treasonous to ask these questions and I am just saying how do you account for the fact that the Secretary of [Defense] is saying the same thing I said on Monday," he told the writer Wednesday night.
"This comes from Reuters, the Defense Secretary (Mattis) was just asked specifically the question essentially we asked on Monday, the one you called us traitors for asking, which is do we know Assad was behind the gas attack," Carlson opened the interview.
"We're still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies. We're still working on this," Mattis answered.
"So as with the gas attack last year, last April, the Secretary of Defense, who would know, has not confirmed that we know the Assad government did it. So why am I unpatriotic for asking the same question?" Carlson asked Rothman.
"Well, let me say from the outset that I have not called you a traitor. I did not call you unpatriotic," Rothman claimed.
"Yes you did," Carlson responded. "You called me, and I am quoting, 'an ostensibly patriotic opinion-maker who is advancing the geopolitical narratives of a bloodsoaked regime that threatens American interests.' I'm not attacking you, you were attacking me for asking the basic of all questions and it turns out that the Secretary of Defense has the same questions.
"Whether you know it or not, you are advancing pro-Assad narratives," a very sure Rothman told Carlson. "You should check out Iran TV, Press TV, and the Kremlin-funded network RT to see the favorable coverage you are receiving."
"Hold on, that's irrelevant to the question," Carlson said.
"So let's answer the question," Rothman retorted.
"I don't seek that coverage," Carlson said. "The Secretary of Defense has been asked twice directly on this. And in neither case did he in contrast to propagandists like yourself say unequivocally we know the Assad government did this. This is not an ancillary question, it's a central question."
"It's precisely the opposite," Rothman replied. "In fact, in those comments he made it very clear he is not questioning the outcome of investigations conducted by the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons or the United Nations joint investigative mechanism that went so far as to say not only do we find this to be sarin in 2017, but Syria was responsible for it. These are investigations that were conducted and very thorough."
"I don't want to be mean to you and I know that you are new to this," Carlson told the neophyte. "But here is part of the Q&A with the Secretary of Defense on the previous gas attack."
QUESTION: Is there credible evidence about sarin and chlorine?
MATTIS: No, I have not got that evidence, not specifically. I don't have the evidence. What I am saying is other groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters, have said that sarin has been used. We are looking for evidence. I don't have evidence, credible or uncredible.
"That was the response from the actual exchange. Is he an agent of Putin too for saying that?" Carlson asked the writer.
"I don't know why you would suggest that," Rothman said. "He is saying that we don't have assets on the ground in Western Syria which is frankly the truth. Those who have been on the ground in Western Syria, again, the OPCW, and the United Nations have established rather definitively that this 2017 attack was a sarin attack. Now, this most recent attack, there hasn't been a comprehensive report, it just happened."
Carlson said no one is contesting the attack but who carried out the attack. The exchange that followed:
CARLSON: Oh, stop. Nobody is contesting the nature of the attack. That is immaterial. We can determine what the chemical was. The question is who launched it? Because that is the question on which our action turns. If it was launched by rebel groups we probably wouldn't attack the Syrian Army in response. So who did it is the question. And the U.S. government has not definitively determined that. That's all I said on Monday and you accused me of defending a blood-soaked regime.
ROTHMAN: What I said actually is that this was a propaganda designed to manipulate American public opinion, essentially questioning the Trump administration, suggesting that they have misled the public into war. And that is a very strong accusation.
CARLSON: I am questioning anyone -- hold on, I am questioning anyone who states as fact what he doesn't know as fact. That's it. It is propaganda to say something that you don't know is true and pretend that you do know is true.
"Please don't speak of the political class as if you stand outside it," Carlson admonished a smiling Rothman who had just spoke about America's interest in Syria. "You are clearly acting as a tool on behalf of people who want the U.S. to proceed with war. And maybe we should. I keep an open mind because I don't know. But I do know lying when I see it and you've engaged in it and a lot of others have to pretend to know what you don't know. So now you tell me why it is in America's interest to wage war in Syria."
Rothman argued why America has an interest in involving resources in Syria to prevent future use of chemical weapons.
"There is some U.N. reports that suggest in 2013 that rebel groups, Islamist groups, did get their hands on chemical weapons as the result of the implosion of the Syrian state. And the lesson there is to prevent the implosion of a state that has chemical weapons. If you were to nip this in the bud as it were then you would want to make sure you interdict any future possibilities in which rebel groups that we no longer believe are reliable that can get their hands on these weapons," Rothman said.
"Right. They're not reliable which is exactly why I don't want them in charge of Syria which is why I am not calling for a war of Syria in contrast to you," Carlson rebutted.
"If you want to have an adult conversation about adult issues wouldn't you agree that it is helpful not to call names but engage with the actual questions?" Carlson asked Rothman about his behavior.
"I did, that's why I did not call you names and I did not dismiss you. I answered your questions directly," Rothman replied.
"Self-awareness is not your strong suit," Carlson said as he dispatched the writer.