This week Tucker Carlson called out Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf on his Fox News Channel show in a segment pegged to Brandon’s recent appearance on MSNBC. Brandon has now received death threats and ugly messages from Carlson’s viewers and others on social media. With all of the conversation about Michelle Wolf’s ‘attack’ on Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Brandon would like to respond to Carlson and call for Carlson to disavow the hateful and violent messages that his viewers have sent him.
In the op-ed below, Brandon Wolf responds directly to the incident on Tucker Carlson’s show.
This week I began receiving messages wishing that my house would catch fire and burn down with me inside. I was bombarded with comments from people who believe the Pulse shooting, in which my best friend was shot and killed, was an elaborate ruse concocted by myself and others in Orlando. And there have also been the insidious comments lamenting that I didn’t die in the club that night.
What did I do to warrant such unadulterated hate? I spoke ill of Vice President Mike Pence and exposed his history of anti-LGBTQ attacks on MSNBC. Then conservative media hack Tucker Carlson sat on Fox News Channel cackling at my Pulse trauma relived. He lambasted my comments about Pence and tried to discredit me as an activist, suggesting that I was getting paid for speaking out.
Thanks to Carlson, my social media feeds instantly became a cesspool of name calling and death threats.
For most folks, that kind of relentless barrage would be too much to take. The unending flow of profanity-laced Facebook comments and violent Twitter threats would force most people to shut off their phones and call up their therapists. But the sad reality is, this is everyday life in the LGBTQ community. Gay youth face bullies like Carlson every day in the hallways of their schools. They stare down that same sinister smirk from teachers and parents who would also laugh at their trauma and pain. To be LGBTQ in America is to be laughed at when your friends are gunned down. To have death threats hurled your way when you dare to speak your mind. To be LGBTQ in America is to be vilified for having an opinion while those charged with running the country put their hatred on parade.
Let me repeat what is on my mind and the minds of so many other LGBTQ Americans: Mike Pence is a homophobe. He has repeatedly staked his career on smearing and disparaging the LGBTQ community. While Fox News whines that Pence is being mistreated, the Vice President has spent over 15 years trying to mask his support for anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy, the discredited practice that falsely claims to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Every mainstream medical and mental health organization has rejected the practice and eleven states have banned it – but Pence’s 2000 campaign site proudly called for Congress to support “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” There’s also the 2016 RNC platform which Pence proudly supported. In it, Pence and his cronies include language alluding to their continued support for conversion therapy. Where is the news media’s pearl-clutching outrage for Pence’s outright homophobia? Where is Tucker Carlson screeching for protection for our youth?
Lost in the social media uproar and cable news’ feeding frenzy is the vile predictability of Vice President Pence getting a free pass on bigotry. In this version of America, holding our lawmakers accountable is a crime punishable by degradation.
And “speaking while LGBTQ” may earn you a turn on the Fox News and right wing news circuit. But if being a survivor has taught me anything, it is that life is short. And as a community, we are out of time to demand respect.
Carlson should feel ashamed of his trivializing of a national tragedy and should immediately issue an apology to the survivors and families that are forced through trauma again on his behalf. What’s more, the Fox News host should accept his personal responsibility for the indefensible harassment and calls for violence from his viewers and publicly demand that they end their social media assault.
Today, I also renew my calls on Vice President Mike Pence to publicly denounce conversion therapy once and for all. The LGBTQ community deserves to hear it from Pence that in this country they will be welcomed with open arms, not tortured and abused at their government’s behest.
Despite threats of violence, I have held steadfast in my belief that this country should be a place where everyone is safe. I have repeatedly taken our lawmakers to task when our needs fell on deaf ears. I have fought relentlessly for my community to be heard. Today that fight is more important than ever, and it is high time our Vice President step onto the front lines with us.
Brandon Wolf survived the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 but lost friends in the tragedy. He is a frequent guest on MSNBC and in other media outlets to speak about gun reform and LGBTQ issues. He also spoke at the March For Our Lives in D.C. and famously called out Florida Gov. Rick Scott for inaction after the Parkland shooting.
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