Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s face reflected deep puzzlement Monday night as he tried to understand Utah’s politics and how Gov. Spencer Cox and Sen. Mitt Romney, whom he called “wild left-wingers,” managed to get elected when they seem so far out of step with the Republican base.
Cox recently infuriated Utah Republicans with a veto of a ban on transgender athletes competing in sports that correspond to their gender identity. The GOP-controlled legislature overrode Cox’s veto the next day. Romney has recently drawn the ire of Republicans when he broke with the GOP and voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
Carlson’s working theory, which he discussed with guest Utah GOP Chairman Carson Jorgensen, was Cox and Romney were not Republicans but liberals who somehow tricked Utahns into electing them.
“Spencer Cox and Mitt Romney aren’t simply liberals who are working for the agenda of the Democratic Party. They have unmasked undisguised contempt for Republican voters,” Carlson said to Utah GOP Chair Carson Jorgensen, who joined the program to discuss Cox’s stances being out of step.
“I’ve spent the last several weeks at county conventions, and there’s a lot of people that are really upset with what’s happening. I don’t know if I’d call it buyers remorse, but we have to be careful with this kind of woke ideology,” Jorgensen said.
Right now, Cox is more reviled than revered by the party’s activist base in Utah. The transgender sports ban veto is just the latest perceived betrayal for the governor who drew more boos than cheers at last year’s Utah GOP convention. It’s not just Jorgensen who is not afraid of taking Cox to task in public. On Saturday, Jared Cahoon, the vice-chair of the Salt Lake County Republican Party, suggested Cox’s more moderate political leanings were the result of allowing candidates to gather signatures to advance to the primary ballot.
“We have a governor who gets elected with 36% of all voting Republicans in the state. That is not a representative democracy. Almost two-thirds of our membership did not have a say in that outcome,” Cahoon says, ignoring the fact that Cox won the delegate vote at the 2020 Republican Convention.
A behind-the-scenes battle erupted Monday over Jorgensen’s appearance on Carlson’s show.
Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson attempted to dissuade him from joining Carlson so as not to reinforce the perception that their administration is at odds with the Utah GOP. However, other Republican elected officials said it was important that he not cancel because it would show Utah Republicans are aligned with the rest of the party as a whole, and Cox is the outlier.
This all comes amid the latest dustup between Cox and Carlson. Last week, Carlson mocked Utah’s governor for sharing his pronouns after an altered video clip from last year was posted online.
“What a creepy guy,” Carlson said, calling Cox a “cut-rate Gavin Newsom imitator.”
Cox’s response took the passive-aggressive route as he liked a tweet calling Carlson “Putin’s favorite white nationalist.”
Jorgensen’s decision to speak with Carlson did nothing to relieve fears of a widening chasm between Cox and the Utah Republican Party.
“Does Cox ever call you? You’re the head of the party. Do you ever talk?” Carlson asked.
“I don’t receive very many phone calls from that side. We see each other. I try to be cordial, but we don’t tend to chat it up on the weekends,” Jorgensen replied.