Dominating Tucker Carlson in a Debate: The Rutger Bregman Edition
If you like watching a cable-news host bully his guests, Tucker Carlson Tonight is the go-to show at Fox News. On a nightly basis, Tucker makes sure folks offering opposing viewpoints barely get a word in before cutting them off so he can lose another advertiser over something offensive.
Tucker’s game-plan has been in effect since at least early 2017. No matter what topic he asks a guest onto his show to discuss, Tucker will quickly change the subject, attack you from another flank, and sneer as you try to recover.
But Tucker doesn’t always book unprepared guests. Take, for example, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, who recently met with Tucker and ate his lunch. As Tucker prodded him to talk about something friendly (“elites”), Bregman simply ignored him and made his points about the U.S. tax code.
Tucker began to flail and, sensing defeat, started cursing wildly at Bregman. Whether because of the public humiliation or (Tucker’s excuse) the profanity, Fox News never aired the segment.
However, Bregman recorded the exchange and released it on his own. After a few watches, it offers a simple guide to neutralizing Tucker’s ambushes while making him screaming mad.
We offer these points for anyone planning to go on Tucker but not demonize immigrants or attack Robert Mueller.
1. Flip the table on Tucker.
As so many have pointed out, Tucker has no interest in a fair debate. He simply looks for a way to put guests on his heels so he can look superior and let his audience laugh at the person in question. Unfortunately, guests have to stoop to Tucker’s level to get the most out of an appearance.
Bregman demonstrated how to do this against Tucker. For example, Tucker had him on to ridicule billionaires and what he considers hypocritical tax-avoidance schemes. (Bregman bringing up the subject at Davos is what caught Tucker’s attention in the first place.)
However, Bregman quickly shifted his focus (from tax avoidance to raising taxes) and the forum (from Davos to Fox News). Tucker clearly wasn’t prepared for the change-up, and he quickly lost momentum.
2. When Tucker reaches for his safe space, cut him off.
Bregman quickly made points about the billionaire who owns Fox News — and the millionaire hosts who talk about lowering taxes for the rich on a nightly basis. But Tucker wanted to bring him back to tax avoidance.
“Many people have called for higher taxes,” Tucker began, “but very few–” “Not on this channel,” Bregman responded while he was in mid-sentence.
“Almost all of the Fox News pundits for years have been against higher taxes, right?” Bregman continued. “Even though the vast majority of Americans is in favor of it.”
“I mean, I would–” Tucker replied, fumbling. “I don’t, I don’t know, I, I…”
Basically, Tucker sounded like the guests he knocks back on their heels every night. He can’t take a punch and doesn’t respond well to being cut off.
3. Ignore the casual insults and non-sequiturs.
Tucker always has three-to-four insults prepared for each guest, as well as talking points he’ll raise when he wants to regain his footing. In this case, he tried a light insult: “…since you’re a historian, I guess you would know this…”
When Bregman brought up the lowering-taxes stance of Fox News hosts, Tucker questioned how much of the network programming he’d actually seen. Tucker wanted to score a point on saying he couldn’t watch Fox overseas (a lame point, anyway).
The insults and distractions just serve as ways for him to feel better and, if avoided, allow guests to finish off Tucker.
4. Land a knockout punch (or several, in Bregman’s case).
With Tucker stammering and Bregman continuing to jab away, you could feel the interview slipping away. At that point, Bregman began landing haymakers on Tucker.
“What the Murdoch family basically wants you to do is scapegoat immigrants instead of talking about tax avoidance,” he said in the first of these. From that moment on, Tucker raised his voice and departed from any pretense of politeness. Bregman struck again.
“You’re a millionaire funded by billionaires. That’s what you are,” he calmly told him. “I’m glad you finally jumped on the bandwagon of people like Bernie Sanders and AOC, but you’re not part of the solution, Mr. Carlson.”
“Moron,” Tucker replied. “You would have to be a moron… I wanna say to you, why don’t you go f*&k yourself, you tiny brain.”‘
Bregman simply laughed. “You can’t handle the criticsm, can you?”
As they say on Twitter: Concerned citizens should contact the authorities to report this murder.
But for future guests of Tucker, we hope you use this primer to prepare for your appearance.
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