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What I Learned from Being on Tucker Carlson

When Jeff Sessions came to Long Island at the end of April, I was among a group of advocates who organized a rally for immigrant rights outside the Central Islip courthouse where he was appearing. Sessions was there because of a recent quadruple murder carried out, it is believed, by members of the gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). Sessions has used the recent killings by MS-13 to attack so-called “Sanctuary Cities.” Suffolk County, where the killings occurred, is not a “Sanctuary City,” but that seemed beside the point to the Attorney General. He wants police to become an arm of ICE to combat MS-13 by going after the entire immigrant community.

That afternoon I got a call from someone asking me to appear on Fox News to be interviewed by host Tucker Carlson. I had no particular interest in appearing on his show. I knew that Fox had called around to a variety of immigration advocates to see if they would go on and that they had turned him down. You can’t win by going on a Fax show if you support immigrants. The Fox audience is overwhelmingly white, native born, older, and conservative to Alt-Right in political leanings. You are unlikely to sway much of the audience even if you do a stellar job, and you are not likely to appear stellar in any event.

The Fox style is to confront the sacrificial “liberal guest” with a combination of insults and unverified “facts.” Fox hosts do what they do every day. They know the interviewee, typically a local activist or academic, will either spout angry rhetoric or melt like a snowflake in response to the  Fox fusillade.

I decided to do the interview when I found that no one else was willing to do it. Another advocate told me that Carlson has 4 million viewers and that even if I changed 1% of his viewers’ minds that would be 40,000 people. “When,” he asked me, “do you get a chance to influence how 40,000 people think about immigration.”

Fox sent a car service from New York to pick me up. The driver told me that he was a Muslim immigrant and he wished me luck in my interview. When I arrived at Fox, a young Australian immigrant escorted me upstairs to Tucker Carlson’s studio. A makeup artist made me look beautiful. She told me that she herself was an immigrant and she hoped I would do well.

Buoyed by these well-wishers I took my seat. Tucker was in Los Angeles. When my segment began, Tucker took the usual Fox approach of assigning blanket blame for gangs to the very immigrant communities the gangs terrorized. He also spent time insulting me. Nothing out of the ordinary for Fox. The network’s viewers are less interested in the facts of any given problem and more interested in seeing strawmen set on fire. I won’t describe the interview, but you can watch it below.

After the interview, I was the target of social media from Carlson’s fans, many of whom had apparently not watched the show. I was pilloried for defending MS-13, although I am, in fact, an outspoken opponent of the gang. I also received some strange messages containing the senders hopes that my wife (I am a widower) and my daughters (I have no daughters) are raped by MS-13 members.

I also received calls from immigrant friends who were gladdened that I had stood up to Carlson’s bullying tactics. 

If you want to watch the video of the interview Click Here.

Pat Young is an attorney at the Central American Refugee Center CARECEN on Long Island.

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