The “Tucker Carlson Tonight” personality showed footage of the demonstrations against police brutality, which began peacefully on Tuesday but escalated into violence and looting in some areas. Protesters clashed with police, who were seen deploying tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
Demonstrators were calling for justice in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died Monday after a police officer kneeled on his neck while he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.
“So that’s what rioting looks like,” Carlson announced. “It happened last night, as you can see, it’s happening right now.”
He insisted he wasn’t showing the videos to defend the behavior of Minneapolis police involved in Floyd’s death, but because he was calling out rioting and “defending society itself.”
“Ugly opinions, police brutality, officious birdwatchers, rude entitled ladies walking their dogs in big city parks ― all of that is bad, but none of it is nearly as bad as what you just saw,” he said.
“The indiscriminate use of violence by mobs is a threat to every American of all colors and backgrounds and political beliefs,” he continued, adding: “Democracy cannot exist when people are rioting. Rioting is a form of tyranny. The strong and the violent oppress the weak and the unarmed. It is oppression.”
Carlson, who routinely gives airtime to white nationalist talking points, also accused CNN of encouraging tensions by referring to “protesters,” not “rioters,” in its coverage. He claimed the network works hard to “fan racial resentment to make different groups distrust and hate one another.”
Carlson’s comments follow weeks of protests across the country from largely white groups ― with some armed with assault rifles and bearing Confederate flags and swastikas ― demanding governors lift stay-at-home orders imposed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus that has now killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S.
Commentators have noted the markedly milder police reaction to those protests ― none saw police arrive in riot gear or disperse crowds with tear gas. By contrast, the police appeared from the outset in riot gear in Minneapolis, where protesters were unarmed.
“This is America. We’re allowed to disagree with what our leaders do however we like,” Carlson said of the anti-lockdown protests at the time. “And we’re allowed to express that disagreement in public. That’s our birthright.”
Carlson’s comments about Minneapolis were met with swift condemnation online.