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Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and conservative pundit Tucker Carlson exchanged barbs in a spirited interview on Wednesday night on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, where the pundit grilled Salazar over two issues that have divided parts of the conservative movement: immigration and foreign policy. The tense Salazar-Carlson interviews show some of the contradicting opinions within the conservative movement
Tucker Carlson grills Maria Elvira Salazar over no-fly zone and Ukraine military aid
Salazar came under heavy criticisms earlier this week after she was quickly asked her opinions of a no-fly-zone by a reporter of Grayzone News, when Rep. Salazar said that she “supports everything that has to do with punishing Vladimir Putin and helping the Ukrainians” and when she was asked about the potential consequences of a no-fly-zone she said that while she “did not know what it will mean but, you know, freedom is not free.”
The congresswoman said the clip out of the Grayzone interview was taken out of context and clarified that she thinks that while a no-fly-zone should not be taken off the table the United States should rather “give Zelensky exactly what he is asking for: no troops on the ground, let’s give him the MiGs and S-300 what he needs to defend his own airspace (…) he will create his own no-fly-zone.”
Tucker then highlighted that Zelensky had asked for the enforcement of a no-fly zone, and asked Salazar if the U.S. should accept the request and even arm the Ukrainian army with anti-air weapon systems.
Carlson, who has been extremely critical of the Ukrainian government and said it was not a democracy but a “client state” run by the State Department, made a series of tough questions over the Congresswoman’s foreign policy plans, asking her if selling weapons to the Ukrainians did not make the United States an active part of the conflict or if that she was afraid that nuclear-armed Russia will use nuclear weapons against America as a response.
Salazar, who sits in the House Foreign Affairs Committee said that “sure that we are taking that into consideration” but that such a scenario is a hypothetic question and that Putin “will not take that step if starting today the Biden Administration will send the message that we are in charge.” However, Salazar did not directly answer what was the level of concern over a potential nuclear response by Russia.
Tucker also asked her if she agreed with Zelensky’s statement that he would be willing to withdraw Ukraine’s application of NATO in exchange for peace in Ukraine, to which she answered that is ultimately up to the Ukrainian government to decide.
Salazar defends her immigration reform bill from Carlson’s attacks
The interview quickly changed to an even more heated debate over Salazar’s Dignity Act, which was introduced last month by the congresswoman and would increase funding for border security while also creating two processes (the dignity and redemption programs) to allow undocumented migrants to earn legal status and pay taxes to the American government as long as they maintain good standing and pay $10,000 in restitution during the time they are part of the program.
Tucker, who has lambasted the American immigration system in part because he says it dilutes the political power of Americans, said her bill “provides amnesty for tens of millions of people” as “people who came over our border illegally are not being punished, they are instead being rewarded” and accused Salazar of being more concerned over the integrity of the Ukrainian border more than the American border.
Salazar rebuked Carlson’s interpretation of the bill, saying that she is not pushing for amnesty and that “amnesty is when you have more than 30 million illegals (…) without paying for schools, for roads or for hospitals” and that she was pushing for giving “dignity” to people who have not committed crimes, who have lived for five years in the country and who are contributing to the economy and that she “is not talking of a path to citizenship” and then highlighted that “if we deport those 11 to 13 million (illegal immigrants) we might not have food by Friday.”
Tucker said that he “could not help noticed the contrast your desire to send MiGs to Ukraine to preserve its border but not here” and asked her if “should we send our military to defend the Mexican border” to which Salazar answered that is why her bill creates “a series of measures so we can seal the border because we, the brown, the latinos, the Hispanics of this countries are not in favor of open borders.”
The Salazar-Carlson interview showcases some of the fault lines among the GOP and the Conservatives
The tense exchange is a representation of some of the challenges and disagreements that exist within the conservative movement at a national level. Tucker’s restraint towards sending military help to Ukraine is in sync with a part of the conservative movement which is very wary of a muscular foreign policy after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while Salazar’s willingness to help Ukraine is more in-line with the hawkish instincts of the GOP, which have been in the retreat for years but are still present among many voters and politicians.
The Ukrainian crisis has brought these conflicting views to the surface again, as politicians like Senators Marco Rubio (FL), Ted Cruz (FL), and Josh Hawley (MO) have fully supported Zelensky’s calls to send military aid and weaponry, while other conservative commentators and politicians like Sohrab Ahmari or Matt Gaetz have been hesitant to do so.
The Carlson-Salazar contentious barb over immigration is also an illustration of the new issues the GOP will have to solve in order to consolidate their recent wins among Latino voters nationally, as they will have to balance both the desires of Latino and non-Latino voters on reinforcing the border while also taking steps to reform the immigration system and enhance their public image in the Hispanic community.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.