Income inequality isn’t typically a big issue at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But it was this year, partly because Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) proposed a 70 percent marginal tax rate on income over $10 million shortly before the conference began last month. Though the millionaires and billionaires in attendance didn’t take so kindly to the idea, a few historians made a point of explaining that high marginal tax rates were part of what made America so prosperous following World War II. “It feels like I’m at a firefighters’ conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water, right?” said Dutch historian Rutger Bregman. “Just stop talking about philanthropy and start talking about taxes … We can invite Bono once more, but we’ve got to be talking about taxes. That’s it. Taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit in my opinion.”
Bregman’s comments got the attention of Tucker Carlson, who has recently taken up the issue of tax evasion, particularly as it pertains to corporations like Amazon and Netflix. He decided to invite Bregman on Tucker Carlson Tonight to talk about it. It didn’t go well. The interview, which never aired, ended with the Fox News host lashing out at Bregman, who, as it turned out, wasn’t a huge fan of Carlson or his show. Footage of the confrontation made its way onto the Internet on Wednesday, and quickly went viral.
Watch Fox News host Tucker Carlson call one of his guests a 'tiny brain…moron' during an interview. NowThis has obtained the full segment with historian Rutger Bregman that Fox News is refusing to air. pic.twitter.com/kERYPUaGLY
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 20, 2019
Though the interview began pleasantly, it soon became clear that Bregman intended to press Carlson on the network’s reluctance to discuss the idea of taxing the rich. “The explanation is quite simple,” Bregman said. “Most of the people at Davos, and also here on this channel, have been bought by the billionaire class. You’re not meant to say these things.”
Carlson didn’t seem to process that he was being called out, and the two continued to discuss how the top marginal tax rate in America was as high as 90 percent in the middle of the 20th century. They also spoke about the need to address the issue of tax avoidance. When Carlson wondered whether high taxes on the rich would be as effective now as they were in the ’50s and ’60s, Bregman explained that they would. As he sees it, the issue is one of corruption and people being bribed into shifting focus away from the issues like income inequality. “What the Murdochs basically want you to do is to scapegoat immigrants instead of talking about tax avoidance,” Bregman said. “I’m glad you’re now finally raising the issue, but that’s what’s been happening for the past couple of years.”
Carlson’s demeanor changed immediately. “Uh huh,” he said. “I’m taking orders from the Murdochs, is that what you’re saying?”
Bregman continued to turn the screws. “You’ve been part of the Cato Institute, right? You’ve been a senior fellow there for years? You’ve been taking their dirty money. They’re funded by Koch billionaires.”
“You’re a millionaire funded by billionaires, that’s what you are” he added. “I’m glad you’ve jumped [on] the bandwagon of people like Bernie Sanders and AOC, but you’re not part of the solution, Mr. Carlson. You’re part of the problem.” Carlson began to short-circuit and eventually snapped. “I want to say to you, why don’t you go fuck yourself, you tiny brain,” he yelled. “I hope this gets picked up because you’re a moron. I tried to give you a hearing but you’re too fucking annoying.”
“You can’t handle the criticism,” replied Bregman, laughing.
Like Bregman’s comments in Davos last month, the footage of his interview with Carlson video quickly went viral, prompting Carlson to explain himself Wednesday night. Carlson claimed that the segment never aired not because he had a meltdown after Bregman dismantled him, but because that meltdown happened to include a profanity. “I called him a moron,” said Carlson, “and then I modified that word with a vulgar Anglo-Saxon term that is also intelligible in Dutch. In my defense, I would say that it entirely accurate, but you’re not allowed to use that word on television, so once I said it out loud there was no airing the segment.”
Carlson’s excuse isn’t very convincing considering he told Bregman the interview probably wasn’t going to air prior to telling him to go vulgar-Anglo-Saxon-term himself.
Here’s why we didn’t air that segment last week. https://t.co/cQHlfEQZT1
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) February 21, 2019
Outside of the profanity, the only part of the interview Carlson addressed on Wednesday was Bregman’s implication that Carlson is being told what to say. “He claimed that my corporate masters tell me what to say on this show, and that was too much,” Carlson said. “Whatever my faults or those of this channel, nobody in management has ever told us what positions to take on this show. Never. Not one time. We have total freedom here.”
This may very well be true, but as Bregman noted on Twitter well before Carlson’s show aired Wednesday night, if Carlson’s positions didn’t align with the agenda of his overlords, he wouldn’t be on the air. “I stand behind what I said, but there’s one thing I should have done better,” Bregman wrote. “When Carlson asked me how he’s being influenced by Big Business and tax-avoiding billionaires, I should have quoted Noam Chomsky. Years ago, when he was asked a similar question, Chomsky replied: ‘I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believe something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.'”
3/ Years ago, when he was asked a similar question, Chomsky replied: ‘I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believe something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.’
— Rutger Bregman (@rcbregman) February 20, 2019
Though Carlson teased it three times on Twitter, his segment addressing the interview with Bregman didn’t even take up two minutes of his show Wednesday night. He apparently needed to save time for a bizarre rant about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to provide free child care for families earning $50,000 or less. Carlson not only alleged that the plan is part of a plot to “justify more immigration,” he seemed to bash the general idea of day care, which millions of American rely on so they can work to provide for their families. “Raising your own kids, Elizabeth Warren is telling us, is a job Americans just won’t do.”
Tucker Carlson says government sponsored daycare is a nefarious Democratic plot to increase immigration pic.twitter.com/BE3R5Qcur2
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 21, 2019
This is, of course, is the exact kind of segment Bregman criticized Carlson for running, to which Carlson could only wonder how Bregman, being in Europe, could have any idea what kind of content airs on Fox News. Never mind that, though. It was the simple fact that Carlson slipped up and use a profanity that prevented him from running the interview with the Dutch historian.