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On July 10, 2019, Democratic congressman Adam Smith wrote on Twitter that Fox News host Tucker Carlson “spews racist, bigoted, and xenophobic views that make our country worse.”
On Wednesday night, the Washington State congressman appeared on Carlson’s primetime show to advocate for the expansion of coronavirus testing and the mass production of personal protective equipment.
“What I really hope that you and other leaders at Fox News, within the Trump administration, focus on is really marshaling the power of this country to get the testing regime that we need, to get the production of PPE and all of that,” Smith told Carlson.
When Carlson told Smith that he advocates for more testing, the congressman replied, “I hope you continue, and I hope you deliver that message to the president, because the president needs to hear it.”
Smith explained his decision to appear on Carlson’s show in an interview Thursday with The Hollywood Reporter.
“I am on a mission to get the White House to respond to the crisis the way that they should, by massively ramping up our production capability,” he said. “I’ve been told by a lot of people that nothing gets his attention faster than Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson.”
Smith said that a former cabinet-level official in the Trump administration told him last year that “the best thing you can do is try to reach out to Sean Hannity” if he wanted to get a policy message across.
Smith said his effort to sway Carlson — and the president — was “too important not to try.” He added, “I don’t take a partisan approach to this. We gotta get shit done.”
“It’s an enormous uphill battle,” Smith said of his effort to sway the Fox News audience. “I always think it’s worth it, because a broader group of people watch those shows than people realize. … I’m not trying to convince the Fox News audience that Trump is a bad guy. I’m trying to convince the Fox News audience that he needs to do things differently than the way he’s responding to the coronavirus crisis.”
Carlson opened the interview on Wednesday by asking Smith if Seattle residents should “call 9-1-1” if they hear someone using the phrase “Chinese Coronavirus” to describe the virus.
Smith said that his goal in parrying Carlson was “so that he can stop running stupid fucking stories on what the police chief said about how to respond to bigotry and start producing stories about how we are not producing the personal protective equipment we need.”
Grading his Wednesday night appearance, Smith said it went “better than usual.” He added, “I think I surprised him. Every once in a while you can do that. … He did not interrupt me and badger me as much as he usually does.”
Smith said that he appears on the Fox News Channel because he’s “not afraid of anybody” and wants to talk to the other side. “If I say I won’t go on Sean Hannity because I disagree with him, then I’m just cementing that way of looking at the world.”
Smith, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, also spoke broadly about the impact of the Fox News Channel, particularly amid the coronavirus crisis.
“I think they have an enormous impact on our society, and I think there are people who watch it all day long and get angrier and angrier watching it,” he said. “Because they initially viewed this pandemic purely through a partisan political lens of, ‘We must support Trump at all costs, I think it did hamper our response.”
Smith said that “Fox News has a profound impact on a huge segment of the population” and said he believes that Fox News hosts want to “distract from the fact that their president is doing a shit job on the most important crisis we’ve faced in a lifetime.”
The Fox News Channel has steadfastly defended the network’s coverage of the virus, and said Wednesday in a statement to THR, “We are extremely proud of our coverage and the public service we’ve provided to millions of Americans.”
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