SIMON MALOY/Media Matters For America
Tucker Carlson has defended The Daily Caller's reporting on Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) patronizing prostitutes in the Dominican Republic as "traditional, straightforward journalism" as that story has come under fire. But when Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was accused of patronizing prostitutes in 2007, Carlson defended Vitter and lambasted the media for digging into what he described as private matters that were no business of theirs.
In their initial much-hyped pre-election bombshell, the Caller reported on allegations from two Dominican prostitutes that Menendez had paid them for sex. Menendez has repeatedly denied the allegations, and the FBI has reportedly found no evidence of their veracity.
This week the story has unraveled after the Washington Post and ABC News reported that one of the prostitutes who alleged that she had sex with Menendez has recanted her story in an affidavit and claimed that she was paid to lie about the senator. ABC further reported that they also looked into the story last year but decided not to run it because they doubted the women that they and the Caller had spoken to were telling the truth.
As Carlson comes forward to defend the journalistic value of his publication's deteriorating story, it must be pointed out that after Vitter was linked to prostitution and admitted to a "very serious sin", he had no more strident defender in the media than Tucker Carlson, who dismissed Vitter's personal life as immaterial to his performance as a senator and attacked the media for invading Vitter's private affairs and "destroy[ing] his life."
On the July 11, 2007, edition of his since-canceled MSNBC program Tucker, Carlson attacked Michael Rectenwald of Citizens for Legitimate Government, the group that first published the phone records linking Vitter to Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "DC Madam," demanding of Rectenwald: "How could you justify doing something like this? Why is it your business?"
Carlson said Rectenwald was taking a "sleazy shortcut" and insisted that if it were then-Senator Russ Feingold in Vitter's place, he would be "making the same argument that Russ Feingold`s personal [life] ought to be off limits from creeps and scandal mongers like you who profit from digging into other people's sex lives. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
Two days later, on the July 13, 2007, edition of Tucker, Carlson again insisted he'd defend a Democratic senator in the same position as Vitter, saying: "I wish David Vitter were a Democrat. I wish he were a liberal Democrat. I wish he were Russ Feingold, because then I would defend him every bit as zealously as I am defending not what David Vitter did, but his right to be unbothered by the rest of us for something that's none of our business." Carlson also specifically targeted the media for hyping the Vitter story:
CARLSON: It's not really the Democrats who are doing it; it's the press. It's us. It's the media. After humiliating David Vitter, putting his wife's picture on television, as many of us have, which is almost indefensible in my opinion, because she did not do anything -- the guy has four kids. We have helped destroy his life. We publicized this thing he did.
As for the criminal aspect of what Vitter is alleged to have done, Carlson dismissed it as not that significant: "It's against the law in the sense that double-parking is against the law. Let's be real here."