We can always count on a hardboiled interviewer like Tucker Carlson to ask the probing questions.
Josh Hawley has been pretty quiet since rioters took over the U.S. Capitol in an attempted coup.
The last tweet from his personal account was on January 7 to decry the "woke mob" at Simon & Schuster, the publisher that had decided it no longer wanted to publish his forthcoming book because of what it described as his "role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom." But Hawley re-emerged on Monday night for a brief appearance on the show of Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson.
In the days since five people, including a police officer, died in the Capitol riots, Hawley has been the subject of numerous calls to resign. An instantly infamous photo of him saluting pro-Trump extremists shortly before they stormed the building has gone viral and been memed in a multitude of ways, including a popular version in which someone has added a small mustache and Nazi armband.
His former mentor has abandoned him, political donors are bailing and St. Louis activists protested against him in front of the Old Courthouse. At the same time, more videos and accounts of the chaotic events at the Capitol have emerged, showing the actions of the mob were even more sinister, more violent than was initially understood.
That's the kind of week that can't help but make a man think. So what's Hawley been up to? What's been keeping Missouri's junior senator up at night?
Luckily, we can always count on a hardboiled interviewer like Carlson to ask the probing questions.
Carlson: "I want to ask you specifically about what happened between you and Simon & Schuster, and I should say I published with Simon & Schuster. I have a book contract for a future book with Simon & Schuster. It's making me very uncomfortable watching what they did to you. On what grounds did they cancel your book contract?"
Quick recap: Tucker Carlson has published a book with Simon & Schuster, which you can buy. And if you didn't know, Carlson has a book contract with Simon & Schuster for a future book, which you'll be able to buy in the future.
Hawley's response: "Well, they don't like the exercise of free speech, Tucker, I think ... at the end of the day. I mean this is really about the First Amendment."
He goes on for a bit: "I'll just say this, Tucker: At a time of division, we've got to rally around the things that unites us as Americans, and I think the First Amendment and free speech has got to be at the top of that list."
There is the small quibble that lawyers and free speech experts seem to agree that the First Amendment doesn't require companies to publish a politician's book. However, Carlson agrees that Hawley is getting the shaft here, and that this book deal problem is the important issue to discuss.
Carlson: "I get it, but a publisher is literally the guardian of the First Amendment. If you're a publisher, you exist because of the First Amendment. Your duty is to protect the First Amendment, but the people around Simon & Schuster are now so crazed with ideology that they can't bear to hear a contrary view expressed? I mean, what does that pretend for the country?"
Another quick recap: It is the people at Simon & Schuster who are "crazed with ideology." Also, we think Carlson probably meant "portend for the country," but we don't want to put words in his mouth.
Hawley: "Well, I think it really shows, Tucker, that we're in a period where the First Amendment values and principles of freedom of speech, also freedom of worship, freedom of religion — these things are really under attack by some quarters, by many quarters. And again, I come back to the fact that this is something, the First Amendment is something that unites us as Americans. And in this time of division, in this time of chaos, we've got to stand strong for that."
Hawley undoubtedly will stay strong. And one day, in the spirit of united America and healing divisions, he will get that book contract.