City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau appeared on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight last week to defend a measure he voted on for the city to recognize Indigenous People's Day on the second Monday of October, replacing Columbus Day.
Immediately Carlson, who’s developed a reputation for vilifying progressive movements ever since he took the prime time Fox news spot from Bill O'Reilly, conflated the municipal recognition of Indigenous People’s day with an attempt at offering an alternate history. He introduced Thibodeau by connecting his measure — which was initially brought forth by fellow Councilor Pious Ali — to a national “battle to cleanse history.”
“It sounds like the city council of Portland is sending the message it would have been better if the Europeans hadn’t come to America in the first place and that's why they are eliminating Columbus Day,” said Carlson during the start of the interview.
Thibodeau patiently explained that the history of Christopher Columbus is inexorably tied to the history of Indigenous peoples (specifically the ones living in the areas Columbus conquered and pillaged) and that the city of Portland didn’t vote to overthrow a federally recognized holiday (it couldn’t even if its voters wanted to) but instead simply voted to recognize Indigenous People’s Day, a holiday within an entire month dedicated to honoring Italian Americans.
“This allows people to recognize the holiday as they see fit,” said Thibodeau. “And I think it was a reasonable proposal that the council took up.”
Pivoting, Carlson then challenged Thibodeau to name some Indian tribes living in Maine, to which he responded with two — Wabanaki and Penobscot — before Carlson cut him off again.
Carlson’s last argument in the lively six-minute exchange with Thibodeau was a baffling example of “whataboutism” in which he suggested that Portland’s famous for “junkies” overdosing on opiates and that because Portland’s grappling with an opioid crisis, city councilors shouldn’t have “wasted time on symbolic stuff."
“Presumably, there are American Indians in Portland you could be helping but you guys spent a ton of time on this,” said Carlson. “There are also a lot of heroin addicts right downtown in Portland in case you haven’t noticed. For the council to spend any time at all on this nonsense when your city has become famous for people overdosing on opiates, it’s like, where are your priorities?”
Here was Thibodeau’s astute reply: “Our city is famous for lobster and Longfellow. We’ve struggled as many other cities do with opioids. But let me just say, we’ve spent time on this, 40 minutes, and then we moved onto the next issue, which is what we’re supposed to do on the municipal level.”
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