Every one of Fox News’ primetime shows on Wednesday night did segments on Roseanne Barr and ABC’s cancellation of Roseanne. And every one of them — Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle — tried to build a pro-Roseanne case. Sure, each of the hosts paid cursory lip service to condemning Roseanne’s racist tweets, but did so with such swiftness, you may have missed it. What they all dwelled on, at length, was the party line you can see now taking root on Fox News and in conservative media, which boils down to this: What about Bill Clinton/Hillary Clinton/Obama/Jimmy Kimmel/Keith Olbermann/Joy Behar/Alec Baldwin/pick-your-least-favorite-liberal? Sean Hannity even attacked Wanda Sykes, a consulting producer for Roseanne and one of the first people to quit the show after Barr’s tweets.
The argument laid out by Tucker Carlson, Hannity, and Laura Ingraham is that the real reason Roseanne got canned was because she was conservative — why else, they assert, do Kimmel, Behar, and Baldwin still have employment with ABC? But what are Behar’s and Baldwin’s sins that are comparable to Roseanne’s, you may ask? Easy, according to the nodding-head trio of Fox primetime hosts: Behar, Kimmel, Baldwin, and other celebrities disagree with President Trump’s policies, intensely. That’s essentially it: Fox News equates expressions of racism and anti-Semitism with instances of other celebrities being critical or mean about the president.
This is standard Fox News debate rhetoric: militant what-about-ism whenever anything negative is said about Trump, and it was used repeatedly on Wednesday night. What about Bill Clinton’s female accusers? What about Hillary Clinton’s missing emails? What about Obama’s friendship with Bill Ayers? It’s all about deflection, never sticking to the subject. Which plays nicely into the defense Roseanne Barr is starting to mount for herself. Earlier in the day on Wednesday, she started tweeting that she feels railroaded, that she’s going to “fight back.” And she’s finding a very receptive audience in Fox’s hosts, because her sin coincides with two of their obsessions: race and racism. None of the three Fox hosts, each of whom is white, can stand to have anyone suggest that there is a hefty amount of racism in America. This was the entire thrust of Carlson’s opening segment. As usual these days, the snowflakes fall most heavily inside Fox News studios.
You know who else all this helps? Trump, who loves nothing more than a nice, distracting culture war to take the spotlight off whatever he’s up to. Fox News is well aware of this and feels the same way: If the network can use up entire segments of its shows airing Roseanne’s grievances and taking pokes at its oldest enemies (here’s another punch, Hillary!), this frees it from doing what the rest of the news media is doing — covering domestic and foreign news in which the president may not seem all that effective a leader. Trump wins culture wars like this; Roseanne Barr may end up winning hers in some way we cannot yet foresee.
Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle air at 8 p.m., 9 p.m., and 10 p.m., respectively, weeknights on Fox News.
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