Fox News host Tucker Carlson joined in on the right-wing mockery of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday night, gleefully calling Buttigieg one of the “dumbest people in the world” for saying “racism” was reflected in the design decisions of New York roads.
In the process, Carlson proved his own apparent ignorance of the historical example Buttigieg was citing.
During a Monday press conference touting the recently passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, the transportation secretary said the package would allow his department to address racial inequities in America’s highway design and transportation system. The Grio reporter April Ryan then asked Buttigieg to “give us the construct of how you will deconstruct the racism that was built into the roadways,” likely aware that he had mentioned the issue before.
“I’m still surprised that some people were surprised when I pointed to the fact that if a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a white and a Black neighborhood, or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach—or it would have been—in New York, was designed too low for it to pass by, that that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices,” Buttigieg responded. “I don’t think we have anything to lose by confronting that simple reality.”
While Republican politicians and conservative pundits wasted no time making fun of Buttigieg over his comments, he was actually referencing Robert Caro’s seminal biography The Power Broker, about former state and municipal officer Robert Moses and his efforts to reshape New York City.
Caro writes that Moses particularly wanted to prevent poor Black families from having access to Long Island’s Jones Beach State Park. Besides vetoing an expansion of the Long Island Rail Road for that reason, he sought to limit access to buses. Specifically, Moses built bridges across the new parkways that were too low for buses to pass. Furthermore, to enter the parks, buses needed permits, which were often denied to those carrying Black residents.
Although The Washington Post published a helpful explainer on Monday detailing the history that Buttigieg referenced, Carlson couldn’t help himself and once again launched into another attack against the secretary Monday night.
“You may have wondered what would happen of the dumbest people in the world gathered together in the same room and tried to have a conversation,” he sneered. “For one thing, hilarity would ensue. It happened today.”
After declaring it “truly insane” for Ryan to ask her question, Carlson said it’s “obvious” that “roads can’t be racist” but that the transportation secretary “didn’t know it.” He then went on to air a clip of Buttigieg’s remarks about New York’s past.
“Here we have news, according to the Department of Transportation secretary, overpasses in New York were designed to keep buses of Black and Puerto Rican kids from getting to the beach,” Carlson said. “And here’s the amazing part, those very same overpasses somehow allowed buses full of white kids to get through. How does that work?!”
The Fox News host then sarcastically wondered if perhaps the overpasses were “actually drawbridges manned by vigilant bigots with binoculars” who would lower the bridge whenever a “Puerto Rican bus” would approach. He also mockingly suggested that Black and Puerto Rican kids “are being herded into unusually tall buses.”
“Can’t get to the beach in a bus like that, and we don’t know exactly what’s happening, but we agree with Pete Buttigieg 100 percent that it’s morally wrong. It’s not who we are! So thank heaven he’s got a trillion dollars to get to the bottom of the racist road problem,” the Fox News star concluded, punctuating his quip with his trademark high-pitched laugh.