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How Gov. Spencer Cox responded to Tucker Carlson's rant over preferred pronouns

Tucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio on March 2, 2017, in New York. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox called out Carlson for using a misleading video as part of his tirade last week against the Utah Republican for, among other things, sharing his preferred pronouns in an online conversation with high school students.

Tucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio on March 2, 2017, in New York. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox called out Carlson for using a misleading video as part of his tirade last week against the Utah Republican for, among other things, sharing his preferred pronouns in an online conversation with high school students. (Richard Drew, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox called out Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson for using a misleading video as part of his tirade last week against the Utah Republican for, among other things, sharing his preferred pronouns in an online conversation with high school students.

Cox, who took his family canyoneering in southern Utah over spring break, missed Carlson's going off on him and Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney for 11 minutes on the air last Wednesday.

"And it looks like some stuff happened while I was away this week," the governor tweeted late Saturday night.

"If you have to doctor a video to make a kind gesture to a nervous kid look bad, that says more about you than me: What did Tucker Carlson get wrong?"

Cox included a link to Deseret News opinion piece titled, "Perspective: Heaven help the peacemakers who threaten culture war profiteers." In it, Paul Edwards, a former Deseret News editor and deputy chief of staff to Cox's predecessor, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, details the exchange Cox had with the students during a virtual town hall, which took place a year ago.

"This piece responds better than I could," Cox said in his tweet.

On his program, Carlson showed a brief video clip of Cox telling a high school girl that his preferred pronouns are he/him/his.

"What a creepy guy," Carlson said, shuddering. "'My preferred pronouns are he, him, his,' Cox tells a room full of children. So, we've got that cleared up. Spencer Cox identifies as a male, at least to some limited extent."

What Carlson didn't show was the question leading up to Cox sharing his personal pronouns during the exchange with students. The girl introduced herself by stating her name and adding, "my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I'm in 12th grade at the Tuacahn School for the Arts."

She recited statistics gathered by Utah's Student Health and Risk Prevention survey regarding disproportionately poor mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth, identified herself as bisexual, and asked, "What is the state's plan to get more mental health therapists into each school?"

But before answering, Cox thanked the teen for her courage in asking difficult questions and then offered: "My preferred pronouns are he/him/his — so thank you for sharing yours."

Cox then summarized legislation that enhances funding and access to mental health resources in each school, including the expansion of telehealth resources that can support remote areas of the state.

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Carlson last week described Cox and Romney as "liberal Republicans" who are betraying Utah voters. He called Cox a "cut-rate Gavin Newsom imitator," a reference to the progressive California governor.

In January, Carlson railed against Utah and other states for giving greater weight to nonwhites among the risk factors for determining who qualifies for limited monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19.

Cox's office received about 50 calls about Carlson's claims on Fox News that COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are being denied based on race, pointing to Utah, New York, Minnesota and other states. The Fox News host cited Utah's scoring system.

Utah "triaged" COVID-19 patients using a scoring system that Carlson said "gives two points to anyone simply for not being white. You win if you're not white. If you have congestive heart failure at the same time, you get one point. So if you're a white, congestive heart failure patient, that's not enough for you."

Carlson went on to say that what Utah and other states are doing "is not health care, it's punishment, it's punishment meted out on the basis of skin color," which he claimed is being justified because "the United States has mistreated racial minorities in centuries past, they say. Therefore, whites must suffer now."

At about the same time, the Utah Department of Health announced it was reevaluating the risk factors but claimed it had nothing to do with Carlson's comments.

Tom Hudachko, the health department spokesman at the time, told the Deseret News he had "no idea what Tucker Carlson said" about Utah, so the decision to take another look at "not related to anything he said."

The department said in a statement that nobody automatically qualifies for treatment based on their race or ethnicity. The state uses COVID-19 treatment risk calculator created in 2020 to help determine who is at most risk for severe disease, hospitalization and death from the virus.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.

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