It’s rare that commentators from the same network engage in a fiery back-and-forth over an issue. But that’s what happened between Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Shep Smith.
At issue was Trump’s potential guilt or innocence. Smith was interviewing Judge Andrew Napolitano about the latest Ukraine revelations when the judge said that Trump’s actions that he’s admitted to constituted a “crime.”
This claim drew a strong rebuttal hours later on Carlson’s show from stridently pro-Trump lawyer Joe diGenova, who fired back at Napolitano, dismissing him as a “fool.” This volley was then returned on Wednesday by Smith, who called diGenova a “partisan guest” and decried as “repugnant” the previous attacks on Napolitano.
Carlson was at his sarcastic best in dismissing both Smith and Napolitano:
“Apparently our daytime host, who hosted Judge Napolitano, was watching last night and was outraged by what you said and quite ironically called you partisan,” Carlson noted to diGenova on Wednesday night, in the latest salvo of the rhetorical battle.
After running the clip of Smith’s “repugnant” comment, Carlson sarcastically over-enunciated the word in reply. “Not clear if that was you or me but someone is repugnant!” he said, before reiterating his doubts about Napolitano’s claim Trump committed a crime.
In truth, it’s too early for anyone — Democrats or anti-Trump Republicans — to say that Trump is guilty of a crime. But that didn’t stop Carlson from dissing his colleague on the daytime schedule:
After diGenova unsurprisingly said that Trump’s actions were not a crime, Carlson went on to again blast Smith, who is considered part of the network’s daytime news team, although not by name.
“Why do we find our selves in a situation where people aren’t willing to admit that their passions are guiding their news coverage?” Carlson then asked, again not-so-subtly trashing Smith. “Wouldn’t it be better if we just said out loud you know this is what I think? For example you will never hear me criticize Rachel Maddow. I never agree with anything she says. But she is straightforward, it’s her opinion. Why wouldn’t it be better if we were all that transparent about what’s driving our shows?”
“It makes people cynical when you dress up news coverage, when you dress up partisanship as news coverage and pretend that your angry political opinions are news, you know, people tune out,” Carlson added, in one final dig.
Carlson has a point. Napolitano made it appear he was giving a legal opinion, a judgment of the legal ramifications of what was on the phone transcript. In fact, he was voicing an opinion and should have prefaced his remarks by stating that.
You get the distinct feeling watching the video that the two genuinely don’t like each other very much. No doubt there will now be heartfelt apologies as network executives seek to mend some fences.
But what the feud reveals is the real divide between Republicans. There are about 15-20 percent of Republicans who don’t support the president. And that was before this most recent scandal erupted. There are another 25 percent who appear to support Trump conditionally, depending on the issue. That support is termed “soft” by pollsters.
How many of those “soft” Republicans will be swayed by the newest assault on the president? There’s a difference between “Never-Trump” and “Sometimes-Trump.” These voters will probably end up voting for the president in 2020, but their support remains conditional. If any incriminating evidence emerges, they could disappear in a heartbeat.
Make no mistake about the political danger Trump is in. He may not be convicted in a Senate trial, but the damage from the House impeaching him does not bode well for what promises to be an extremely tight election next year.