I didn’t want to write about Tucker Carlson.
When my editor KP* assigned the story, I threw a fit. “What new angle can I possibly bring to this guy who is over profiled? I’m not the fucking New Yorker?! He won’t eat pancakes with me!”**
But KP was like, “Okay, but think about it?”
So, I told my “friend” Elon, who immediately insisted I write the story. Elon is known for his bad ideas. And this was one of them. He’s also an enabler and he aided me in procuring Tucker’s email. (I am not going to tell you how that happened. I need secrets. Because I also need to keep procuring contacts so I can keep writing and earning money, so my children can be kept warm in the novelty cat socks they’ve become accustomed to.)
I agonized for months over this email. I wanted to be honest, but I also wanted Tucker to talk to me. And I did, I did very much want to understand his appeal to the people around me. I live in Iowa. I grew up Evangelical. And for the majority of my 12-year marriage I went with my ex to very conservative churches. I am surrounded by people who watch Fox News, who voted Trump, who think Tucker is a prophet. And to be very, very honest, the story of Tucker’s change felt so much like the story of the change in my marriage. I had married a someone who was a libertarian lite, and then just 12 years later was wearing a MAGA hat. Liberal bubbles sound nice at this point. SIGN ME UP! So, I wanted to know everything. Or at least hold it all up to the light and see it for what it was.
I had a lot of people I know look over the email. I workshopped it at my friend’s son’s birthday party. SORRY NOT SORRY KID’S PARTIES ARE BORING! And finally, Elon was like, “do you know how to hit send or?” So on May 9, 2018, I hit send. Within hours, Tucker had forwarded the email to the PR person, who replied.
I took the first PR phone call in a corn field while chaperoning a first grade field trip. And I was feeling like it wasn’t going to work out, because why even talk to me? WHO THE HELL AM I? I had nothing to lose. I was gonna go big or die in a field of corn trying. And I was probably gonna die in the field anyway, because I was surrounded by 22 second graders and had already been body slammed by one, while we were bouncing in the bounce house. So, while kids played in a pile of dried feed, goats bleated, and a llama looked at me attentively, I asked if Tucker could come to the Iowa State Fair and eat fried shit on a stick with me. I mean what is more “of the people” than fried shit on a stick? That clearly didn’t work out. But oh my god, it would have been way better than a swimming date with Eve and Bari. Can you even imagine? SOMEONE ASSIGN ME AN ARTICLE WHERE I EAT BAD FOOD WITH BAD PEOPLE. Thank you. Or can someone just make me pancakes?
(I did eventually go to the state fair and took my friend Chloe, who had her first funnel cake and she wasn’t impressed. She also refused to have a bite of my deep-fried snickers bar and it’s amazing our friendship survived. But we did see the world’s smallest horse and we’ll always have that.)
Back to Tucker. The PR person was in for a phone call. The interview was on. In the weeks prior, I sent him a follow up doubling down on my state fair offer and he told me he loves state fair food. He also loves Cheetos. I volunteered to send him some Chipotle Ranch Cheetos, but he declined. I almost sent them anyway, because they are very good and if you haven’t had them are you even living? I am beginning to doubt his commitment to trash food.
Then, we had our interview. The interview was weird. It felt like a malarial dream. Like if a pink elephant had walked through the wall and handed me a hamburger, I would have been like this makes sense in the context of all the things that are happening. Where is my quinine?! The entire transcript is just me interrupting large blocks of Tucker’s texts, with the occasional “um” or “yeah?”. When I hung up, I yelled, “Fuck!” The transcript has that “fuck” in there.
But then, two days later, the PR person called to make sure I knew Tucker wasn’t a racist and I was like omg what does he think he said? I knew I must have something. The story developed from there.
After the story published, the PR person threw a really big fit. But I had good notes and recordings. So it all quieted down. I think it’s kind of a thing Fox PR is known for—their tantrums. But I didn’t hear from Tucker, so I sent him another email. This is what followed.
Huge shout out to Google for those terrible canned replies to a Fox News host though.
It feels a little like negging. Like lol whats the big deal? Like we are all in on some sort of joke. But whatever the joke, I am not in on it. It was only two months later, he faked being the victim of some protests. Free speech though, right?
This has been the first episode of my newsletter. I have a lot of fun newsletters planned for you. The next one, I HOPE, will be about Richard Spencer, the dapper white nationalist. I’ve got some weird texts and emails and screen shots of some wild tweets. It’s all on the record, but did not make it into the story, which will be out on the HuffPost before the end of the year. If not, it’s gonna be Axios. So if you haven’t upgraded to a paid subscription, now is the chance! I’m keeping it low until 2019. But after that…I mean, my kids really love novelty socks with cats on them.
Of course, I’ll always do free newsletters as well. Those will have links and stories too because I love you and I am still in awe that so many of you signed up for this. I feel a little like a Taylor Swift accepting an award .gif. But with worse hair.
*KP is my editor, who I like to refer to by both first and last names, because it’s inexplicably delightful to me, but I’m gonna use initials because I should probably not drag his good name into every single one of these emails, because he’s very great and kind and I am very lucky to have editors who put up with my garbage and I honestly don’t know how that happened. So anyone who puts up with me is clearly worth keeping around at this point. Don’t fire me, KP. Thank you.
**Tucker Carlson made pancakes for TNY’s Kelefa Sanneh. But, who wouldn’t?