Fox News host Tucker Carlson drew the ire of Twitter users on Wednesday when he spoke of the deadly violence that erupted the previous night in Kenosha, Wis., where police have accused a white teen of intentional homicide.
The 17-year-old from a nearby town in Illinois was arrested Wednesday after two people were shot to death during Tuesday night’s protests in Kenosha over the police shooting earlier this week of a Black man, Jacob Blake.
“People in charge, from the governor of Wisconsin on down, refused to enforce the law,” Carlson said. “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?”
Carlson was among a number of conservative critics and politicians who criticized Democratic Gov. Tony Evers for not increasing the deployment of National Guard troops to help keep the peace after several businesses were burned and looted on Sunday and Monday after dark.
“Kenosha has devolved into anarchy; the authorities in charge of the city abandoned it,” the host of Tucker Carlson Tonight said. “They stood back and watched Kenosha burn.”
Kenosha devolved into anarchy because the authorities abandoned the people. Those in charge, from the governor on down, refused to enforce the law. They’ve stood back and watched Kenosha burn. Are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? <a href=”https://t.co/oul2KUiDi3″>pic.twitter.com/oul2KUiDi3</a>
Critics have pointed out that video footage appears to show the armed 17-year-old walking unimpeded past a number of police officers and vehicles, raising the question whether an increased presence of police and troops in numbers would have stopped vigilante violence.
In the wake of protests that have broken out across the U.S. over police shooting of Black Americans after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Carlson has frequently made the violence that has been seen in demonstrations in Minneapolis, Portland and New York City a focal point of his show.
Carlson has also taken criticism this summer for inflammatory comments about Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Purple Heart recipient who is in a wheelchair after her helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2004. As well, his show’s head writer was forced out in July after it was learned he made racist posts on an online forum under a pseudonym.
Carlson’s comments from Wednesday night’s show about Kenosha led to a trending hashtag on Twitter calling for his firing.
Robert Reich, a former Bill Clinton administration member, called on Fox’s executives as well as advertisers to take action or be “complicit in Tucker Carlson’s racist, murderous rants.”
‘Oh, hell no’: Sheriff says vigilantes not helpful
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said Wednesday militia members or armed vigilantes had been patrolling the city’s streets in recent nights and asked about being deputized.
“Yesterday, I had a person call me and say, `Why don’t you deputize citizens who have guns to come out and patrol the city of Kenosha, and I am like, ‘Oh, hell no.'”
He said once he deputizes someone “they are a liability to me and the county.”
Ray Roberts, a 38-year-old Black Kenosha resident and Army veteran, said men from “rural areas got in big trucks loaded up with guns and flags and got into town.”
“You would see them driving into town after curfew and cops not stopping them,” Roberts said.
Meanwhile, Facebook confirmed Wednesday that it took down a page called Kenosha Guard for violating its policy against militia organizations. The company said it also is in the process of removing other accounts and material tied to the shootings that violate its policies, such as for glorifying violence, and it is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the matter.
Facebook later said it removed the suspected shooter’s accounts from Facebook and Instagram.
The company said it had not found evidence on Facebook that suggests the suspected shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or was invited on its Event Page to go to the protests.
“However, the Kenosha Guard Page and their Event Page violated our new policy addressing militia organizations and have been removed on that basis,” the company said in a statement.
Multiple threads on Facebook and Reddit urged militias and other armed people to head to the protests, researchers at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab said in a blog post Wednesday.
The researchers said that 13 hours before the shootings, the Kenosha Guard Facebook page “actively solicited armed individuals to protect neighbourhoods that evening.”
“At 10:44 a.m. local time, the administrator of the ‘Kenosha Guard’ page asked if any members were willing to ‘take up arms and defend out (sic) City tonight from the evil thugs,'” the researchers said. “They continued, ‘Nondoubt (sic) they are currently planning on the next part of the City to burn tonight!”‘
The ability for social media platforms to react to fluid events of public violence has been brought into question before, including with the New Zealand mosque shooter, a white supremacist who was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for killing 51 people.
In the case of the Kenosha shooting suspect, controversial former San Francisco Giants player Aubrey Huff on Wednesday night went further than Carlson, characterizing him as “a national treasure” on Twitter.