Perspective: A totally factual, unbiased fact-checking of Tucker Carlson’s rant about Utah, Spencer Cox and Mitt Romney
How did Utah get such “awful, liberal leaders,” the Fox host asks in a segment about Mitt Romney and Spencer Cox. We’ve got answers
In his opening monologue on Wednesday night, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson unloaded on two Utah politicians, saying that Gov. Spencer Cox and Sen. Mitt Romney betray citizens of the “bright red state” with their nefariously blue-state positions.
For a full 10 minutes, Carlson hurled bon mots and insults in their direction, suggesting that Cox and Romney are tugging solidly-red Utah in the direction of Vermont, Massachusetts and California, states that have “fallen right off the ledge into the deep end of vacuous lifestyle liberalism.”
While some of his observations are actually true — for example, Utah having some of the nation’s highest birth and church attendance rates — others are a little more suspect, such as Cox perpetually auditioning for the role of “America’s guiltiest white guy.” (He’s just too far down the audition list to be spotlighted.)
As such, we thought it our patriotic duty to do a quick (ahem) fact check, which is all the rage in media these days. Here’s what we found:
Claim: “Utah is not a liberal place.”
Rating: True. Utah consistently votes red in national and statewide elections. And, according to voter registration records, 873,498 Utahns are registered Republicans, compared to 236,106 Democrats. But, to be fair, there are a few small pockets of liberalism. If you don’t believe me, try visiting Sugar House with a Trump flag.
Claim: Spencer Cox is a “cut-rate Gavin Newsom imitator.”
Rating: False. Gov. Newsom, if you haven’t heard, recently signed a bill that makes abortion less expensive and more accessible in California. And he was a COVID-19 restriction hawk throughout the pandemic. Cox is against abortion but for “rare exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother” and was relatively lax on COVID-19 restrictions compared with the likes of Newsom.
But what Carlson seems to be getting at here is Newsom’s embrace of gender-identity laws, since the Fox News commentator then segued into a tightly edited cut of Cox sharing his pronouns (“he, him and his”). A review of the unedited video shows that Cox offered his pronouns only after a high school student shared hers with him.
Cox, of course, enraged many conservatives by vetoing Utah’s controversial House Bill 11, which bans transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports. It was a position he defended in a letter that focused on kindness — the sort of missive you might expect to come out of Utah. (California, meanwhile, is fining stores that don’t have gender-neutral toy aisles.)
Claim: “Neoliberal interest groups control Spencer Cox’s brain.”
Rating: Possible. Unclear if Carlson’s writers understand what “neoliberal” means or what it means to control someone’s brain. This one was hard for us to verify.
Claim: “Mitt Romney is tired of representing the people of Utah so instead he is speaking for his neighbors in the state of California where he lives a lot of the time.”
Rating: False. Romney did have a California vacation home, but sold it last year, probably so he can spend more time in Holladay or Deer Valley or Lake Winnipesaukee or ... well, you get the idea. The man could live everywhere (and maybe does?) but he resides in Utah because he loves it and considers it home (and he has a gaggle of grandchildren in the state). A majority of Utahns actually support Romney, albeit across party lines — a rare, lamentable feat. Heaven knows we need many more strict partisans in Washington.
Claim: “Utah has the highest rate of church attendance in the country; it has one of the lowest crime rates.”
Rating: Yeah, sure. But you can’t find a good place to get a drink. That could have something to do with Utah’s lowest-in-the-nation DUI fatality rate. I don’t know, probably not. Plenty of dirty soda, though.
Claim: “When you think of Utah, you imagine ... a couple of very good ski mountains.”
Rating: Meh, probably true. I mean, it’s debatable. Sure, Utah-based Deer Valley, Sundance and Snowbird all take top five spots in Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards. But how do you mention Utah and not talk about Lagoon Amusement Park, or Utah’s “mighty five” national parks, or, most importantly, Utah’s world-class selection of nickel arcades?
Claim: “Utah is a perfectly normal state filled with perfectly happy normal people.”
Rating: Mostly true. Utah is the happiest state in America. Botox will do that, for sure. But I do recall a line at the end of the Coen brothers film “Raising Arizona” — something about a land “where all parents are strong and wise and capable, and all children are happy and beloved. I don’t know. Maybe it was Utah.”
And then there’s that other line from the musical “Jagged Little Pill” — “happy families only exist in orange juice commercials and Utah.”
So, sure, Utah may be “happy,” but “normal,” though? That seems like a peculiar claim. I guess it all depends on what you put on your fries.