Oct 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Tucker Carlson lashes out at GOP campaign chief in irate private call

Photo: Janos Kummer/Getty Images

An irate Tucker Carlson phoned Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Republican campaign committee, with an ultimatum on Friday:

  • Either reveal which staff member took a swipe at Carlson's son, a Capitol Hill aide, in an article about internal House GOP politicking — or the Fox host would assume Emmer himself was to blame for the quote.

Why it matters: Just two weeks before the midterms, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee — who is headed into a high-stakes leadership race if House Republicans win the majority — finds himself on the wrong side of the nation's most powerful right-wing TV host.

  • The inside drama illuminates the high stakes, divisions and power jockeying already under way as the GOP seeks to retake power.
  • Emmer also now finds himself under attack from two MAGA celebrities: Donald Trump Jr. and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

The backstory: The source of the Fox News host's anger was a Daily Beast article, published early Friday, detailing the already vicious backroom jousting over leadership slots in a potential House Republican majority.

  • Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) — who employs Carlson's son, Buckley Carlson, 25, as communications director — is expected to face off against Emmer for House Republican whip, which would be the majority party's No. 3 leadership position.
  • The Daily Beast quoted an anonymous "GOP strategist" as saying of Banks: "Deep down, he dies to be liked by the Establishment. He hires Tucker Carlson's son, a 24-year-old kid, to be his communications director."

The intrigue: According to four sources briefed on their Friday morning phone call, Carlson told Emmer he needed to name the staffer who brought up Buckley Carlson — or Carlson would have no other choice but to blame Emmer himself.

  • Emmer repeatedly asserted to Carlson that his office had nothing to do with the background quote about Carlson's son.
  • Carlson was unpersuaded. He made clear to Emmer that he now had a personal problem with him.

Behind the scenes: In an effort to pacify Carlson, Emmer worked to distance his office from the quote — and even to shift blame to another member of leadership's staff, according to two sources familiar with his private comments.

  • Carlson does not believe this and still blames Emmer for the story.
  • NRCC communications director Michael McAdams told Axios in a statement: "Chairman Emmer and his staff have never attacked any other members' staff. Period. These baseless accusations are meant to distract and divide Republicans. Our focus is on retaking the majority and firing Nancy Pelosi."

After the Daily Beast story published on Friday, Donald Trump Jr. publicly blamed Emmer for the background quote.

  • The former president's son tweeted: "Why did Tom Emmer tell his consultants to run to the leftwing Daily Beast to trash Jim Banks, Tucker Carlson and Tucker's family? Does he really think that's a winning strategy for a Republican House leadership race? Pathetic!"
  • This is not the first time Donald Trump Jr. and his allies have gone after a House GOP member for perceived attacks on Carlson's son. 

Then on Sunday night, Taylor Greene, a lightning rod on the hard right of the House GOP conference, waded into the fiasco. She tweeted: "I stand with Buckley Carlson."

  • Her follow-up tweet put an even finer point on it: "Consultants at national party political action committees should only focus on helping their party's candidates win. They shouldn't fund or not fund races based on candidate's conservative views. And they should never attack Member's [sic] staff to left wing activist bloggers. Ever."
  • Despite the heat on Emmer, it's unclear to what extent this will impact a secret-ballot vote among House Republican members.
  • Both Carlsons declined to comment.

Editor's note: This piece was corrected to show it was former President Trump's son (not President Biden's) who tweeted about Rep. Tom Emmer and the Daily Beast.

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