Tucker Carlson is the last person qualified to assess Biden’s mental fitness

by Kevin McDermott

We’re so accustomed to Tucker Carlson saying crazy stuff that his declaration last week that President Joe Biden should be removed from office under the 25th Amendment barely rippled through the national conversation. Because it was both silly and unsurprising. Of course this scowling hypocrite would suggest that Biden’s penchant for talking off-script is somehow worse, mental-stability-wise, than his predecessor’s four years of demonstrable and dangerous psychosis.

Alas, there’s no constitutional provision for removing a mentally unstable cable news host. But since Carlson has raised the issue, let’s review his own behavior — and that of a certain former president he still defends, which speaks volumes about his judgment.

Carlson’s diatribe last week centered on Biden’s comment about Russian leader Vladimir Putin — “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power” — which every rational person on the planet is thinking, but which, yes, a U.S. president probably shouldn’t be saying out loud.

So, saying the obvious is grounds for removal from office for mental instability — but not the various verbal dumpster fires from former President Donald Trump, who many serious people (but not Carlson) said was unfit for office?

During his diatribe, Carlson allowed that Trump “was often criticized, sometimes with justification, for not using words precisely.”

Is “not using words precisely” what Trump did when he personally fabricated a public lie about the meeting between his campaign and a Kremlin lawyer seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign? Or when, during that campaign, he publicly called on Russia to hack Clinton’s email (which Russia promptly did)? Or when, as president, he revealed classified information to Russian diplomats in a White House meeting? Or when he stood on a stage in Helsinki next to Putin and, in front of the world, sided with Putin and against U.S. intelligence?

If this is “not using words precisely,” you have to wonder what an out-and-out Kremlin script would sound like.

(Oh wait, we already know: Carlson himself has shown up in a Kremlin memo, his name written in Russian, that instructs Russia’s government media organs to replay Carlson’s shows because they serve Russia’s propaganda needs in its war on Ukraine.)

Even out of office, Carlson’s guy is still at it. Last week, Trump called on Putin to publicize alleged dirt against Biden’s family. This is a former president publicly asking a belligerent foreign leader, who is in a proxy war with the United States, to reveal … something (not clear what) … to damage America’s sitting president.

This was unprecedented and arguably treasonous. And yet there was, again, remarkably little public discussion about it. Why? Perhaps because much of America has come to understand that Trump isn’t, and never really was, in full control of his marbles. When you’re at a family dinner and your wild-eyed uncle babbles something incomprehensible about the Queen of England and chihuahuas, you don’t call him to task. You smile patiently and change the subject.

Which brings us to Carlson himself.

This guy who thinks Biden isn’t mentally stable enough to be president (but thinks Trump was) is a significant part of the reason Fox News has lost Chris Wallace, among the few credible journalists the network had.

Fox News’ own attorneys advise that Carlson’s rants be taken with a barge of salt. In 2020, they successfully defended him against a slander suit by arguing that any reasonable person would know that (as the judge ultimately ruled) he “is not ‘stating actual facts’ about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary.’ ”

Is “exaggeration” what Carlson was doing last year, when he falsely suggested that “roughly 30 people every day” died from coronavirus vaccines in a four-month period, totaling more than 3,300 deaths? The actual number of deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was … zero. Which means Carlson exaggerated by about 3,300%. Talk about “non-literal commentary“!

Then here was Carlson’s bizarre comment two days before Russia invaded Ukraine, in which he sided with Putin, using, in part, this rationale: “Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist?”

If Carlson doesn’t want to be called a racist, he might start by not promoting the white supremacist trope of “Great Replacement” theory. Or refrain from falsely suggesting immigrants are making America “dirtier.” 

But beyond that, consider the underlying thought process here, from this person who deems himself qualified to judge the mental stability of America’s president: Since Vladimir Putin has never personally called Tucker Carlson a racist, that means … Putin gets to invade Ukraine?

It’s OK, Uncle Tucker. Just have some more applesauce.

Kevin McDermott is a member of the Post-Dispatch Editorial Board.