(Not sure if Politics would be the appropriate page for this question, if not please point me to a better one.)

There are several times when a scandal flares up, and the person involved takes a "pre-planned vacation" shortly afterward. Most recently, it was discovered that Fox News political analyst Tucker Carlson's head writer, Blake Neff, has been posting extremely racist things in anonymous online forums, and as a result, Carlson is leaving the network for a few days in a "long-planned" fishing trip-- on a Tuesday.

Many if not most people aren't fooled by this excuse, and it's pretty clear the network wants to get Carlson off the air for a while until things die down. I would think it would be much more respectable and face-saving for Carlson to say "I'm postponing my show for a while to restructure my staff and reconsider the message that may have been conveyed to my viewers." Why would the network opt instead for such a flimsy lie?

Edit: I went looking for other examples of this behavior, since I knew I had seen it before, but it actually seems fairly unique to Fox News. My question still stands, but I've made it less generalized.

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    Worded like it is now, this question will likely be closed for asking for internal motivations/speculation, and all we could concretely provide is the same public statements you're asking about. However, maybe you could reword it to to ask if 'getting people in a scandal out of the spotlight' is a known/effective PR move, with a focus on its use in politics? Kind of the same question, and you can use your current links as examples.
    – Giter
    Jul 16 '20 at 17:23
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    scandal A scandal is an event that causes political embarrassment and/or intense press coverage of the event. Some political scandals end political careers, while others have little or no effect. Use this tag with the country, political body and/or any applicable politician tags. Fox News is not a political body, Tucker Carlson is not a politician, and it is not clear the event caused embarrassment, let alone political embarrassment. VTC.
    – Rick Smith
    Jul 16 '20 at 21:51
  • I mean I get that, but no one has suggested a better page. Movies & TV? Workplace? Jul 16 '20 at 21:57
  • What's the question? The alternative option you describe would be taking responsibility and admitting a problem and for whatever reason that we are unlikely to find out, they apparently have decided not to do that
    – Brian Z
    Jul 17 '20 at 2:19

Obviously, because a statement like "I'm postponing my show for a while to restructure my staff and reconsider the message..." would be tantamount to admitting that he might have been wrong.


As I've said in response to other, similar questions, this is a feature of political nationalism. Nationalists (per Orwell's Notes on Nationalism) are overwhelmingly motivated by competitive prestige: they want to make their group appear superior and other groups appear inferior in all contexts. When a prominent nationalist is caught in a scandal, error, foible, or other event that might lower his prestige — and by context, the prestige of the nationalist group as a whole — there are only three possible responses:

  • He is cast out of the group, brutally, peremptorily, and retroactively, as someone who was never a proper member and never should have been trusted: a traitor from the beginning.
  • He is defended — again, brutally, peremptorily, and retroactively — as someone of unimpeachably good character who is being maligned by 'nasty' and 'reprehensible' outsiders.
  • He is quietly shuffled into the background on some pretext, while the group tries to redirect attention elsewhere.

Which course the group takes depends on the centrality of the figure to the nationalist movement; the more central the figure, the more prestige the movement will lose if his character fails, and the more effort the group puts into defending his character and their own. Tucker Carlson is prominent and central enough in the US Rightist movement to be defended indirectly: shuffled into the background while everyone looks away and whistles softly to themselves. He is not as central to the movement as Hannity, Murdoch, or (God forbid) Trump, who were/are actively defended for their sins; nor is he as peripheral to it as Sessions, whom the movement turned on with real vindictiveness.

No one is expected to believe that Carlson had a 'long-planned' vacation. That is an open lie meant to save face, much the same way people say they are going to 'wash their hands' when they have to urinate. A non-nationalist might have the forthrightness to say s'he made an error and is taking some time off to reflect, but for a nationalist the loss of prestige (both personal and group) the comes with an admission of error is all but unthinkable.

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    This answer is partisan claptrap. Who knew Jimmy Kimmel is a "political nationalist": Jimmy Kimmel announces summer leave amid blackface controversy That article even includes "to spend time with his family". This Washington Post piece lists many pretextual likely-firings from across the political spectrum: washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/post/…
    – Just Me
    Jul 16 '20 at 18:01
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    @JustMe Yeah, I think I have to agree with JustMe here. The fake excuse to save face seems pretty universal. It might well be a feature of political nationalism, but if so it seems like a level of nationalism that's so deeply rooted in (US? Western? World?) culture that it applies across the political spectrum.
    – divibisan
    Jul 16 '20 at 18:54
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    @JustMe: I can't control the attitude you inject into what I write. There are nationalists on all sides, as well as egotists (who are concerned about personal prestige without associating it with any particular group). It's entirely possible Kimmel is nationalist in his own right — I've always found his humor overly pointed — but this question wasn't about Kimmel. It was about Carlson. I think it's clear that Carlson promotes a nationalist agenda within a news organization that's dedicated itself to a nationalist cause. Do you disagree? Jul 16 '20 at 19:34
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    @divibisan: We have to make the distinction between the face-saving behavior of individuals (which is fairly ubiquitous) and the face-saving behavior of movements (which is only typical of nationalist movements in the Orwellian sense). It's one thing for a man to try to weasel out of a compromising situation; it's another thing entirely for a loose group to collectively redefine reality in order to ensure its members are never seen as being compromised. Jul 16 '20 at 19:38
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    Sure, Tucker Carlson and his ilk are nationalists, but it will take more than just an assertion to convince me that this is characteristic of nationalists more than of other groups, or even exclusive to them. Most groups want to make their group appear superior: just witness the number of arguments about the IQ or education of Republicans or Democrats that are floating around. The difference is nationalists tend to define these groups in cultural or racial terms whereas others go for more philosophical categories.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 16 '20 at 20:36

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