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Tucker Carlson is wrong — this is exactly ‘how white men fight’

The reported text message suggests that even in the midst of his being self-reflective, Tucker Carlson was still being awful.

In what counts as near-perfect timing, the day after The New York Times reported that then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson argued that outnumbering an opponent is “not how white men fight,” the group that publishes “the nation’s report card” reported that only 13% of last year’s eighth graders were proficient in U.S. history. Eighth grade was a long time ago for the 53-year-old Carlson, but his assertion that ganging up on an adversary isn’t what white men do suggests he doesn’t know U.S. history, either.

Overwhelming opponents by outnumbering them has been exactly how untold numbers of white men in this country have fought.

Overwhelming opponents by outnumbering them has been exactly how untold numbers of white men in this country have fought.

Fox News chose to settle with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million on April 18, just as Dominion was about to start making its case that Fox News hosts had defamed it by repeatedly telling the lie that its voting machines had been rigged to throw the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden. And on April 24, Fox News fired Carlson, its most popular prime-time host. The day before the trial was set to begin, the Times reports, the Fox board saw a text message from Carlson to one of his producers that it worried Dominion would bring up when its lawyers called Carlson to the stand.

The Times reports that on Jan. 7, 2021, Carlson texted one of his producers about a video he’d seen of a group he described as Trump supporters attacking “an Antifa kid.” It was, according to him, “three against one, at least.”

“Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously,” he texted. “It’s not how white men fight.” Even so, Carlson said, he found himself, at least temporarily, hoping the group of attackers would kill the so-called Antifa kid. Carlson’s main point appears to be that in rooting for his political adversary’s death he was “becoming something I don’t want to be.” He wrote that “I should remember that somewhere, somebody loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed.”

The Times says the content of the text message, which hasn’t been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, was confirmed in interviews with several people close to Dominion’s lawsuit. The newspaper also reports that concerns that the text message could get out contributed to Fox’s decision to settle and to its decision to fire Carlson. Attorneys for the network should have been aware of its existence before the week of the trial. It was one of the messages that had been redacted when private email messages and text messages from Fox News journalists and executives were released to the public the first week of March.

A representative for Carlson told the Times that he had no comment; Carlson’s attorney and Fox News didn’t immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

One wonders where on Earth he’s been or what history books he’s read to draw such a conclusion.

The text message is remarkable because it seems to reveal that even while Carlson was doing some self-reflecting and acknowledging the awfulness of wishing death upon someone with whom he disagrees, he was still expressing the awful (and easily disproved) thought that white men, by their nature, fight fair. One wonders where on Earth he’s been or what history books he’s read to draw such a conclusion.

If white men fought fair, then Ida B. Wells wouldn’t have been able to write “A Red Record,” which called out the horrible practice of lynching, and Mark Twain wouldn’t have ruefully called this country “The United States of Lyncherdom.”

If white men fought fair, then in 1900 in New Orleans, thousands of them wouldn’t have set out to attack one Robert Charles, a Black man who fought back against and then shot a police officer who had wrongly set upon him. Tulsa, Oklahoma; Rosewood, Florida; Colfax, Louisiana; Elaine, Arkansas; and East St. Louis, Illinois, are all places where mobs of white men slaughtered outnumbered Black people. And in Rosewood, a white mob wiped out the town.

Not that it’s all ancient history. Many of us are old enough to remember Yusef Hawkins’ being murdered by a mob in New York’s Bensonhurst neighborhood in 1989. And, of course, there are children who are old enough to remember that three white men in Georgia chased down Ahmaud Arbery and killed him in 2021. Add to that, in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, individual U.S. Capitol Police officers repeatedly found themselves facing a mob hopped up on then-President Donald Trump’s lies that he’d actually won the 2020 election.

Suffice it to say that there are plenty of examples from long ago and from the present day of white men fighting the way Carlson says that white men don’t. If Carlson were the only person who believed such nonsense, we could say that the threat has been minimized now that he’s been forcibly separated from his credulous audience. But according to Wednesday’s report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a smaller share of eighth graders have had classes focused on U.S. history, and last year’s eighth graders’ knowledge of the subject was the lowest that has been recorded since the first test in 1994.

Even as young people’s grasp on history becomes shakier, conservatives across the country are conspiring to make it shakier still.

And even as young people’s grasp on history becomes shakier, conservatives across the country are conspiring to make it shakier still. They are outlawing accurate accounts of our nation’s history using the argument that they would make students — and by this, they can only mean white ones — feel bad. The goal seems to be to create a population that, if it saw Carlson’s text message, would nod at it as if it were true.

That Carlson chose Jan. 7, the day after a spectacularly dirty fight led mostly by white men, to claim white men fight honorably suggests he may have been as good at deluding himself as he was at deluding his television audience.

After all, haven’t we decided that text-message Carlson is honest in ways on-air Carlson wasn’t? On-air Carlson professed love for Trump. Text-message Carlson wrote, “I hate him passionately.” On-air Carlson told his audiences that they needed to listen to Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. Text-message Carlson wrote that Powell “is lying” about voter fraud and that “it’s unbelievably offensive to me.”

Because the remark about white men fighting honorably came from text-message Carlson (again, the text hasn’t been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News), we can assume it’s what he really believes. That he may be representative of a growing number of Americans who share his racist, ignorant belief is terrible to contemplate.

CORRECTION (May 4, 2023 9:46 a.m. ET) A previous version of this article misnamed the Florida town that a white mob wiped out in 1923. It is Rosewood, not Rosedale.