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October 5, 2003 Other Mail

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Liberals cannot take a joke (Fox News gets CNN) or are conservatives mean-spirited?



A friend in Atlanta used to be in the news business and I sent him this, with the question, "Is CNN in the wrong here?" 

CNN's Tucker Carlson Angry Over Phone Flap
Mon Sep 29,10:54 AM ET 

WASHINGTON - Conservative CNN commentator Tucker Carlson's snide humor backfired on him - and his wife. While defending telemarketers during a segment on "Crossfire" last week, the bow-tied co-host was asked for his home phone number. Carlson gave out a number, but it was for the Washington bureau of Fox News, CNN's bitter rival.

The bureau was deluged with calls. To get back at him, Fox posted Carlson's unlisted home number on its Web site. After his wife was inundated with obscene calls, Carlson went to the Fox News bureau to complain. He was told the number would be taken off the Web site if he apologized on the air. He did, but that didn't end the anger.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Carlson called Fox News "a mean, sick group of people."

Fox spokeswoman Irena Briganti said Carlson got what he deserved. "CNN threw the first punch here. Correcting this mistake was good journalism."

I added, "I like the idea Fox News is publishing the private unlisted home numbers of people on their "enemies list."  So Tucker's wife got obscene calls?  Maybe next they'll publish their home addresses too.  Heck, such postings kept more than a few abortion doctors in line.  The angry right can get you and your family.  Let the fun begin.  Our leaders got Wilson's wife but good.  And here we go."



The reply from Atlanta:

Carlson was being cute and it backfired on him. I think he should have taken it all in good humor.


Was CNN in the wrong?  No, unless they were in on it, which I seriously doubt.  I do, however, find it instructive of the mindset at Fox that their spokestype tried to turn it into a CNN thing rather than a Carlson thing.

I replied that it was an AP item posted on the YAHOO news site.



From Montreal:

For an individual to throw an organization's number is one thing, but for the unified media front at Fox to target an individual, and feel smug about it?  Isn't there a law against that?

I added, "I have no idea if there are such laws.  Two on our distribution list are lawyers.  Perhaps they know."



From Atlanta:

I imagine there are invasion of privacy laws that may apply in some states, but I also would think Tucker is not a real good candidate for victimhood in this particular case.
I do see your point, but in terms of nuisance value, I would think the distinction between, on the one hand, some big company's phone system being totally overloaded with cussing schmucks and, on the other, someone's home phone being totally overloaded with cussing schmucks, would be lost on a judge.  In both cases, someone's being put out of business until it blows  over.
In fact, I can see some court somewhere thinking that what Carlson did was worse than what Fox did, since his act effectively shut down a going concern - sort of like some hacker who got some website so overloaded with spam that "denial of service" shuts it down, whereas the court might not be so harsh on that company retaliating against the hacker by spamming his email box to death.

I thought this was still pretty low anyway and my Atlanta friend added, "Give me a moment -- I think I have Roger Ailes' home number here somewhere...."



From Hollywood:


Ah, send me the Roger Ailes number and I'll publish it in Just Above Sunset so all my angry readers can shout obscenities at his wife and family.


From the CNN transcript where Tucker Carlson and James Carville discuss this the next day -


CARVILLE:  You pulled a joke. If they want to go adult-to-adult, person-to-person, that's fine.  You're big enough to take it.  They have no right to be scaring the dickens out of children, out of little children, when their daddy's out of town.  And they ought to be ashamed of themselves.


CARVILLE:  Ashamed of themselves for doing that.

CARLSON:  Well, thank you, James.   Incidentally, we have Roger Ailes' home phone number, but we're not going to give it to you.

CARVILLE:  No, I wouldn't do that, because Roger Ailes has a small child.  He showed me the picture of it.  I think Roger Ailes is a good man.


CARVILLE:  I don't think he was behind this.

CARLSON:  All right.


From Montreal:

I'm sure if someone 'hacked' and spammed GW's boudoir phone number, it would be an act of terrorism.
The Washington bureau of Fox News is a number that is semi-known, and information channel of a media giant.  A malicious computer virus could overload a web site, but someone has to make a phone call, so what is deluged, an operator or two handling as many calls as there is time in a day?  Who there doesn't have another line to keep up the 'going concern' of Fox?  Obscene calls, on the other hand, are more of a personal assault.

I'd think Fox succeeded in getting Carlson's wife to give him shit in a way they could never have.  Still it'd be more funny if Carlson himself had gotten the calls.  Next time, do it right, give out his cell number.

From Atlanta:

Except for the speculation that Fox's DC bureau probably has enough phones not on the rollover to keep doing business-as-usual, I agree with everything you say here. (I've heard that Fox is maybe even a bigger cheapskate than CNN was in its early years.)


Yes, they should have given out his cell number! But I also like the fact, illustrated in his exchange with Carville in another post, that Carlson let it be publicly known he has Ailes' home phone but won't stoop to publicizing it.

And we left it at that.  Tucker shouldn't have given out the Fox number, but giving out an unlisted home number where the kids get the nasty calls, well, that seems more wrong.  Are families fair game in these political spats?  Maybe.  Ask Joe Wilson.


And I assume Tucker now has a new home number.  And he keep it to himself more than ever before.