Univision anchor Enrique Acevedo has, in the past, been willing to go on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s rage and white supremacy power hour, justifying the move as most nonconservatives who agree to appear on the network do: to expose the Fox audience to “a different point of view.”
Those days are over, Acevedo told CNN’s Reliable Sources guest host John Avlon this Sunday. After the El Paso murders, he says, “I think we have to have clear morality on this,” and that both Carlson and Trump are “in part responsible” for inspiring the gunman. “This is different in the sense that it’s now transcended into violence, into bullets, into loss of life.”
“I’m not going back on Fox News. I’ve been on his show, on Laura Ingraham’s show. I don’t think it’s—not only as a journalist, but as a human being right now, I don’t think—I have the moral responsibility to make it clear that this rhetoric is now being replaced by, again, violence and bullets. And in that sense, Latinos coming under attack, it is not responsible for someone like me to go on and expose myself to what’s happening at Fox.”
This is the balance that all opposed to Fox’s embrace of race-baiting, conspiracy-minded and tortuously spun coverage must weigh. On the one hand, appearing as the foil of the moment on Tucker Carlson’s, Laura Ingraham’s, or other Fox hosts’ programs ostensibly allows you to present the nonconspiracy, nonracist argument in an unfiltered manner, so that the audience may decide for themselves.
But on the other hand, there’s little evidence of this ever working, except at the barest margins, and the reason for this is that guest foils are not presenting their arguments in an unfiltered manner. They are presenting their arguments as circumscribed by the race-baiting hosts, who frame each discussion as they see fit, and sandwiched between other segments that reinforce the racist, conspiratorial, or false side of the argument ad nauseam.
On the contrary: Those that lend their names and faces to the latest Fox conspiracy-of-the-moment, such as its relentless framing of migrant “caravans” and asylum-seekers as an “invasion” of this country and a threat to its (white) “culture,” are more often serving to legitimize the conspiratorial content. Oh, if they have a prominent Univision anchor or a Democratic presidential contender disputing these points, a captured audience may believe, then the points are credible enough to require our enemies to dispute them.
If a host is seen as important enough to gain the attention of major figures in non-Fox journalism or politics, their credibility is reinforced. Their points, even the racist and conspiratorial ones, are considered by definition to be reasonable and plausible enough for “bipartisan” public discourse—after all, members of both sides are now discoursing on them.
Acevedo’s new estimation that his own efforts to win over an invisible audience are outweighed by a moral responsibility to reject host rhetoric that has again inspired “violence and bullets” is the correct one. Fox has long used opposition leaders and neutral journalists to prove to its audience that they are themselves respectable and influential. If they were denied this credibility-by-proxy, the more hardcore elements of their audience would no doubt deem it a conspiracy. But the network would look more like what it truly is: a small cabal of conspiracy-peddling, rage-stoking propagandists preening and egging each other on as circus act, not “news” network.