Tucker Carlson has been dominating the most recent news cycle due to unearthed audio from his appearances on the "Bubba the Love Sponge Show" between 2006 and 2011.
These clips include uber-sexist comments referring to various women as "whores," racist comments referring to Iraqis as "semi-literate primitive monkeys," and Tucker's impassioned defense of a pedophile on the grounds that he married his child victim.
His advertisers have been dropping like flies, with his Monday show relying on direct-response ads and promos for other Fox News shows instead of national commercials. Fox News stands by him. And Tucker Carlson is decidedly not sorry.
While Tucker's description of his past words as "naughty" hardly begins to describe his defense of child abuse, his point on trying to destroy someone's career over decade-old comments might hold some water.
Should we be so fast to call for someone's proverbial head over something they said in the past?
Maybe. Here's a handy little guide for deciding.
Question 1. Were they serious?
As our collective social sensibilities shift over time, comedy does too. Adam Sandler movies used to be major theatrical releases; now they soft-launch on Netflix. From South Park to Family Guy to Superbad, everything that was once the height of popular comedy eventually loses its throne.
In the same vein, our senses of humor change as we mature. "Edgy humor" that passed as "funny" when we were kids in the 90s and early 2000s might no longer be so great in light of newfound social consciousness. And while not a good look, digging up a racist joke someone made when they were much younger does not necessarily mean they're a racist.
So when trying to decide whether or not to ruin someone's career over old comments, the question remains: were they serious?
If yes, jump to Question 2.
If no, they're still not off the hook just yet. Oftentimes "comedy" simply amounts to a humorous means of stating "the truth." So the real question isn't necessarily whether or not they were joking. It's "did they genuinely hold the sentiments they were the joking about?"
If yes, jump to Question 2.
If no, and you know the person was joking and does not hold the sentiments of the character they were playing during the joke, feel free to explain to them why their joke was upsetting or damaging. But there's no sense in ruining someone's career or livelihood over a sentiment they never even actually held.
Question 2. Do they still hold those views?
So let's say the person, whether serious or "joking," did genuinely hold the racist, sexist, or otherwise problematic views they expressed in the past. People change over time. People make mistakes. Viewpoints and belief systems are not necessarily static. Ignorance can be overcome through proper education and an open mind. As such, the person who made that comment ten years ago is not necessarily the same person in front of you now. So do they still hold those views?
If the person you're dealing with still holds those views, attempt to explain why they're wrong. Many people's ignorant views have never been properly challenged. Give them the chance to see reason and comprehend the gravity of their words. Are they open to changing themselves?
Jump to Question 3.
If the person is truly unrepentant and stagnant in their damaging ideologies, go ahead and boycott them. There's no reason to support someone who thrives on racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
Jump to Question 3.
Question 3. Are they genuinely sorry?
Sometimes you hold an incorrect belief, someone points it out, and you change your mind. Oftentimes, you look back at your prior views, from long ago or even just the other day, and regret ever having held them. That's part of being human. Again, people are not static.
When someone is genuinely sorry for their past views and shows a willingness to change, that effort should be celebrated, not punished. That's not to say people shouldn't be held accountable for their past wrongdoings or that not being racist or sexist is some kind of accomplishment. Rather, it's to say that willingness to change is a sure sign of progress, and progress should always be encouraged. So are they actually sorry?
Maybe someone said something problematic ten years ago, or maybe they said something problematic yesterday. If they're sorry, if they understand their error, if they truly try to change, let them. Don't ruin someone's life over an experience through which they're actively striving to grow.
Or are they just sorry they got caught? If their apologies are hollow and they continue to hold their damaging sentiments and push those beliefs, screw 'em. Boycott away.
Ultimately, the choice of what people you want to support is up to you. This holds true for entertainment, business, and even your personal life. You are under no obligation to support anyone whose views and beliefs align with violence, damage, and degradation against yourself, your loved ones, your friends, or other people in general.
At the same time, it's important to recognize that people can grow and that growth is a core element of being human.
Of course, if someone doubles down on their sexism and racism and homophobia and defenses of pedophiles and child abusers, well, by all means, boycott all their sponsors and #FireTuckerCarlson.
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