On Monday, hordes of demonstrators descended on Los Angeles’ City Hall and across the country as part of a series of heavily covered anti-Trump protests called #NOTMYPRESIDENTSDAY. The protests were organized primarily by Olga Lexell and Heather Mason, two LA residents who were in contact with organizers in each participating city. On Monday evening, Lexell says Fox News host Tucker Carlson invited her to be a guest on his show. Although Lexell declined the invitation, Carlson still managed to interview someone he pitched first as a protest attendee, and later as a protest organizer: an actor named Shane Saunders.
At the beginning of the segment, Carlson introduces Saunders as someone “who participated” in the protests, and asks why Saunders thinks “your protests will have an impact.” By minute four of the interview, the chyron across the screen read, “TUCKER TAKES ON PROTEST ORGANIZER.”
The interview demonstrates one of Carlson’s tactics—identify and isolate someone to speak for a certain side who is potentially unprepared to do so, and out-argue them until they’ve seemingly been defeated. But the inaccurate chyron isn’t a tactic—it’s incorrect information, and incorrect information that directly contradicts information Carlson said at the beginning of the interview.
In January, Carlson notably discredited Dom Tullipso of hoax website “Demand Protest,” which claimed to be a business that would stage mass protests across the US for money.
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In an email to Jezebel, Lexell denied that Saunders, who is a friend of several of her friends, was involved in the planning of the protests in anyway; she also doubts that he attended the rally in Los Angeles (“We saw pretty much everyone who was there,” she wrote). She believes he got involved when he responded to several of her tweets, in which she joked about not wanting to appear on Carlson’s show, urging her to do so and have her voice heard. “I told him that we had just organized a massive rally with ample news coverage and that we didn’t need to go on Tucker Carlson’s show to validate that,” she wrote. “I also told him it was weird that he was saying these things to me and he got agitated and blocked me.”
After the interview aired, Lexell says she emailed Carlson and his representative to let them know that Saunders was not affiliated with the protests. Lexell says the representative responded to her message with the word, “Okay.”
“It’s frustrating because with the exception of one person, all of the [nationwide #NOTMYPRESIDENT protest] organizers are women,” Lexell wrote. “For a man who knows nothing about the protests to go on TV unprepared, misrepresent our message, take credit for weeks of hard work, and make us look bad—and for Tucker Carlson’s team to go along with it—is just disappointing.”
“The past three weeks of planning have been very stressful and time-consuming—especially for those planning the NYC rally, which was huge,” Mason said in an email to Jezebel. “I feel that Shane undermines much of that work and the thousands of voices who showed up yesterday to protest around the country... Those who watched him on Fox News now have another reason to say that we’re all idiots who don’t even know what we’re protesting. And Carlson’s team either didn’t vet him or didn’t care that he wasn’t involved. [Instead, they chose] to just reinforce the narrative they wanted to create about the protests—truth be damned.”
Saunders has yet to respond to a request for comment. His Twitter is now set to private.
Four hours after Jezebel’s initial request for comment, a Fox News representative provided a statement from Tucker Carlson Tonight Executive Producer Justin Wells:
“This program incorrectly identified a Los Angeles based protest participant as a ‘protest organizer’ in a graphic during Monday night’s telecast. While he was correctly identified in the introduction to the segment, we regret the graphic didn’t accurately reflect his role throughout the segment.”