Opinion: Should Smith be elevating American brand of misinformation?

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Premier Danielle Smith will appear with American pundit Tucker Carlson on stage in Calgary on Jan. 24. Despite the considerable controversial baggage Carlson carries, the premier has offered nonsensical reasoning for the meeting: given Carlson’s brand recognition, he will help publicize how plentiful oil and gas are in our province.

Seriously: does anyone not know about Alberta’s bounty of oil and gas?

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Her office later offered a not-terribly-artful dodge: “The premier participates in a variety of public and private events and does interviews with dozens of reporters, broadcasters and podcasters from across the political spectrum,” her press secretary stated.

But that doesn’t really let Smith off the hook. She is the leader of the province and, one assumes, has a busy schedule. As an elected leader paid with taxpayer dollars, she should answer questions regarding Carlson’s track record of political bile.

Carlson has repeatedly discussed the Great Replacement Theory on his various platforms. This far-right conspiracy theory suggests that Black and brown immigrants are being intentionally allowed into North America to “replace” white people. Does Smith agree with this theory?

Carlson has repeatedly argued that immigrants coming to America are making the country “dirtier.” Does Smith agree with this statement?

On numerous occasions, Carlson had guests on his show who questioned whether President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Despite his clear victory of both the popular vote and the electoral college, Carlson echoed Donald Trump’s claims that the election was somehow rigged. Carlson repeated lies that dead people were voting en masse for Biden, a widely debunked conspiracy theory. Does Smith believe that Biden is the legitimate president of the United States?

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Carlson called transgender people “a cancer on the country,” adding that teachers who discuss gender orientation with their students should face physical violence. Does Smith agree with these statements?

During the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News, a number of text messages between Fox News hosts were made public. Many were written by Carlson himself, revealing that despite his public endorsement of Trump, he hid disdain for the politician. “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights,” Carlson wrote in one text. “I truly can’t wait,” he said, adding “I hate him passionately.”

This perhaps raises the most damning questions for Smith. A frequent critic of the media and the institution of journalism, Smith has argued many members of the press simply can’t be trusted. It’s a common refrain for politicians on the right who want to sidestep questions and accountability.

But isn’t the fact that Carlson said certain things publicly that he clearly did not believe make him part of the problem? When people say they no longer trust the media, isn’t someone like Carlson the very reason for that lack of trust?

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So, Premier Smith, it’s obvious you don’t need Carlson to help publicize Alberta’s oil and gas reserves. Do you really think Carlson’s is a voice that needs elevating? Do you really think you should be dignifying his ideas around immigrants and the marginalized?

Are you at all serious when you say you want to be premier for all Albertans? Because by making the choice to stand beside Carlson on stage, you do not look like a unifying figure. Since being fired by Fox News, Carlson has lost much of his audience. You’re only helping him get much-needed oxygen for his dying career.

Albertans deserve better.

A former resident of Alberta, Hays now lives in Montreal where he teaches at Marianopolis College and Concordia University. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, The Guardian and The Globe and Mail

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