Former ABC News anchorman Sam Donaldson called Tucker Carlson's 10-year-old radio commentary "homophobic" and "hate speech" in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday.
"This is vulgarity. This is hate speech. This is homophobic speech. This is the kind of speech that if left unchecked, it will change this country forever. It's just as bad and it should be punished in the way that the men were punished for what they did. But as I say, I don't foresee it happening," Donaldson said.
ANDERSON COOPER: Today, Carlson hasn't apologized, neither has Fox. CNN's Brian Stelter says last night's program carried fewer ads than usual and he says big advertisers seem to be avoiding the show.
Carlson says the liberal organization media matters, which released the audio tapes has been working hard to kill, in his word, his show since it launched in 2016. With all of that, I want to bring in legendary ABC News Correspondent Sam Donaldson.
Sam, I'm wondering what you make of this. You know, when I first heard about it, I thought, wait, are these comments he made when he was, you know, a kid, when he was in high school, a teenager, in college, on some stupid radio show? You know, this was starting in 2006, I guess over a 10-year period on a shock jock show.
Should the fact that he was talking to, you know, Bubba the Love Sponge on a shock radio show, should that be taken into account when thinking about the remarks he made?
SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: No, why? Because it was a radio show or it was several years ago? How many guys now are taking the fall and properly so for having put their arms on the women several years ago. No one is saying, "Oh, that was in the past." This is in the past only to the extent that the guys that probably take the fall did it.
But Tucker Carlson is going to go on for two reasons. I think he appeals to the Fox audience. He's coming on strong. The king of cable, 3.3 million people a night is Sean Hannity, right behind him comes Tucker Carlson with about 2.9 million.
Do you think Fox is going to say, "Well, you've been a bad boy, we're going to have to let you go or we're going to have to reprimand you." I think his audience is there and they want the audience.
And if the advertisers do stick with him, well, of course if they leave him, then he's toast. Fox will suddenly discover that what he did was beyond the pale and let him go, but not now.
COOPER: It's interesting, I guess, he was on MSNBC when he started appearing on this radio show. So it's interesting that they, you know, seemed to be fine with it at the time. I want to play some of what Tucker Carlson had to say about this last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: The great American outrage machine is a remarkable thing. One day you're having dinner with your family imagining everything is fine. The next, your phone is exploding with calls from reporters. It's a bewildering moment, especially when the quotes in question are more than a decade old. There's really not that much you can do to respond. It's pointless to try to explain how the words were spoken in jest or taken out of context or in any case bear no resemblance to what you actually think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, I mean, he's not backing down or apologizing and he says, "Look, again, this was on a shock jock radio show, they were spoken in jest or taken out of context."
DONALDSON: Well, I hate to repeat myself, but can you think of Matt Lauer or any of the other people, Charlie Rose saying, "Well, wait a moment, it was just in jest. It was in fun. I mean, this was something that wasn't that important, was it?" Yes, it was important. It happened long ago but, yes, it's still important. Your character is important.
And that's what's happening today is a revolution when it comes to the way men treat women. Well, you say but this is not that. No, this is vulgarity. This is hate speech. This is homophobic speech. This is the kind of speech that if left unchecked, it will change this country forever. It's just as bad and it should be punished in the way that the men were punished for what they did. But as I say, I don't foresee it happening.
COOPER: It is interesting that we're in a time where it seem -- where at least among some people the idea of just -- of, you know, actually a heartfelt apology saying obviously those words don't represent the way I feel or whatever and saying, you know, I'm sorry, that's something that in some quarters is just not -- I guess not considered because it's a sign -- it's viewed as a sign of weakness by some. And I guess there are audiences which back that up.
DONALDSON: Well, Tucker says, as you just played, he says that he's the victim. I'm the victim, the great outrage machine. Tell it to the women. I'm the victim. They're coming at me. Yes, they are. Some people are at least because this is unacceptable.
Now, these people we're talking about are not news people. They don't pretend to be. They are opinion makers and they pretend nothing about I know how to do a story straight, I know how to do a story without twisting it because that's their business.
I mean, if in Fox & Friends talks to the President every morning, and we know from some good reporting that occasionally he listens to what they say, well, that's a good idea, just make it official policy. Great
Sean Hannity has said they talk to the President perhaps almost daily and the two of them cook over how do we do this? Then Sean Hannity, of course, and Tucker Carlson in their view, President Trump never does anything wrong, never makes a mistake, it's always right. His critics are always mean and maybe even un-American. And the Fox audience loves it. But I think there's good news. I say 3.3 million, 2.9 million, the ABC Evening News has 8 million people a night. Now, it's not opinion, I understand, it's straight news. But there are people who listen and want the facts rather than just want to be reinforced in, forgive me, their ignorance.
COOPER: Sam Donaldson, it's great to have you on the program as always. Thank you, Sam. And by the way, happy birthday, which I know was yesterday.
DONALDSON: Listen, 85 and I'm still alive. There's nothing more to say.
COOPER: You look great. Sam, thank you so much, always a pleasure. Thank you.