Councilman Zeke Cohen Defends Baltimore in Immigration Debate with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson

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Still via “Tucker Carlson Tonight”/Fox News

Southeast Baltimore Councilman Zeke Cohen appeared on Fox News last night to talk with Tucker Carlson about immigration, and inevitably to defend the city’s reputation from a national pundit.

Carlson, a longtime talking head who now hosts his own weeknight TV show called “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” followed the lead of White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan by framing a debate about immigration around the horrific rape of a high school freshman in Montgomery County by two older students, one of whom was undocumented.

“This is the sign of a sick civilization at war with itself…in the U.S., too often we ignore our own laws and allow ruin to be visited on our own people,” Tucker opined in his introduction.

Carlson inaccurately introduced Cohen as a city councilman who proposed a resolution to “stop enforcing federal immigration law in the City of Baltimore.” The 1st District councilman corrected him, saying the resolution was “not to tell [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] not to operate, but to only target violent criminals, such as the young people who allegedly perpetrated this crime.”

On Monday evening, Baltimore City Council members unanimously adopted Cohen’s resolution calling for ICE agents to “not target anyone who merely lacks proper documentation” or students permitted to study in the United States under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The resolution also calls for more humane treatment of immigrants detained by ICE agents, such as notifying their family members, saying aloud they are ICE agents and not publicly detaining them in or around churches, hospitals, schools, and courts.

On air, Cohen condemned the sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by the Rockville high school students. He then offered a counter-example to that case of a Honduran immigrant with no criminal history living in his district who was recently detained after dropping his son off at school.

“He escaped violence in Honduras, just the same way that my great-grandmother escaped violence and persecution in Austria, and we welcome him here. Immigrants built the fabric of this country, and Baltimore is a place that will continue to welcome them,” Cohen said.

The exchange devolved from there. Carlson said that by referencing his family’s history in Austria during the Holocaust, Cohen was effectively comparing ICE agents to Nazis, and asked what Cohen would say to the 14-year-old girl allegedly raped by the two students.

“I extend my full sympathy to these parents. What they’ve been through is horrific,” Cohen responded. “And to trot their crime out publicly is really kind of shameful, Tucker.”

Cohen accused Carlson of utilizing a “Willie Horton-style, race-baiting dog whistle” type of political communication. “We don’t blame entire groups of people for the heinous acts of a few,” Cohen said.

Carlson became annoyed, mentioning the Nazi comparison again and later taking shots at the city for its crime problem. Baltimore “has got one of the highest crime rates in the United States, and some of the crimes are committed by people who are here illegally.…You’ve had something like 10 murders in the last week, and you’re spending your time telling law enforcement not to enforce the law,” he argued.

Cohen defended his hometown. “We are a city rebuilding, and the resilience in my city is incredible, and just because people like you go on TV and bash us doesn’t mean that Baltimore has to take it,” he said.

Keeping things relevant, Carlson then asked Cohen if he knows Baltimore’s crime stats. He responded that he knew there were more than 300 homicides in Baltimore last year – “each one is tragic,” Cohen said – and that he was previously a teacher in West Baltimore and knows the city’s school system and law enforcement are struggling.

“But it is not the fault of immigrants, and in fact, Tucker, what we’ve faced for a very long time is depopulation, and the immigrant community, particularly the Central American community which you continuously bash on your show, has actually come here and rebuilt.”

A minute later, Fox News panned away to Rockville High School again.

Online, reactions to the exchange were predictably mixed on both sides of the political spectrum. Council President Jack Young, for one, backed Cohen.

Councilman Cohen’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment on his experience being on Carlson’s show. Cohen did share some thoughts in a string of tweets this morning. Here are a few (out of order).

The full exchange is available for your viewing pleasure here.

This story has been updated with comment from Councilman Zeke Cohen via Twitter.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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