Rich White Guys Complain About a Rich White Guy Going to Prison

Michael Caputo is a Roger Stone protégé who worked as a communications advisor for the Trump campaign. He recently joined Tucker Carlson to complain about how our criminal justice system is being totally unfair to a rich white guy. I kid you not!

Caputo and Carlson were, of course, talking about the fact that Paul Manafort is being transferred to Rikers Island to await trial on the charges he faces from New York state prosecutors. Here are some snippets from their conversation.

CARLSON: Right now though, Manafort is facing additional criminal charges in the state of New York, so prosecutors have decided to hold him in solitary confinement at Rikers Island, one of the worst detention facilities in the world. They don’t need to do that. They’re doing it because they can, because they want to hurt him and torture him…

Of course, the real motivation is not a mystery. It’s just cruelty…

CAPUTO: [T]o transfer Paul Manafort there now is only for torture — mental, physical, whatever — to torture him, because you don’t transfer Federal prisoners to states until just before their trial. I’ve actually never heard of it done before.

So to transfer him there now and put him into solitary confinement in the deepest darkest hole the United States has on the mainland, to me is just mental torture…

CARLSON: Just for some perspective, Manafort is not charged with national security crimes of any kind, with betraying the country in any way. He is charged with, as far as I remember not registering under FARA, which is almost universally here in D.C., well, tax evasion, which sounds like he committed to me and with making false statements to banks. He is not charged with bank robbery or stealing money from banks, but lying in loan applications to banks.

CAPUTO: Right.

CARLSON: Have you ever heard of anybody charged with those pretty prosaic crimes, getting solitary confinement in Rikers and spending the rest of his life in prison?

CAPUTO: No, you haven’t, of course.

Let’s break that down a bit, shall we? First of all, Manafort has already been convicted of tax evasion, bank fraud, failure to disclose a foreign bank account, and witness tampering. To Carlson, those qualify as “prosaic crimes,” by which he means “commonplace.” That sure makes it sound like Carlson’s world is full of people who commit what we often refer to as “white collar crimes.” Someone should look into that.

In one sense Carlson and Caputo are right, those people are rarely charged, much less go to jail. But that is a perfect example of how our criminal justice system stacks the deck—by going after poor people and giving the rich a pass. So spare me your crocodile tears for Manafort.

But the most fascinating part of that exchange is how they describe Rikers Island prison as “one of the worst detention facilities in the world” and “the deepest darkest hole the United States has on the mainland.” Both Carlson and Caputo used the word “torture” to describe what Manafort will face there.

Let’s be honest, this is probably the first time that any conservative has admitted that there are real issues with a prison like Rikers Island. They usually don’t give a damn what goes on there. Tucker Carlson never had a segment on his show about Kalief Browder, who was sent there when he was 16 years old on charges that he stole a backpack. Browder never stood trial, nor was he found guilty of any crime, but he spent three years at the prison, nearly two of them in solitary confinement. Tucker Carlson also never showed any concern for 19 year-old Andy Henriquez, who died at Rikers in solitary confinement as a result of a torn aorta because he never received medical care after crying out for hours. Of course, those two young men were poor and brown, so their suffering doesn’t matter to rich white conservatives.

These days, Tucker Carlson’s schtick is to sell himself as a “man of the people” who takes on the “liberal elite.” Given that he’s a favorite with white supremacists, the majority of his audience probably doesn’t care that he just devoted an entire segment to whining about how rich white criminals are treated. But for the rest of us, he demonstrated that he is a total fraud (as if we didn’t already know).

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.