Indie-rock artist Ariel Pink, who came under fire and was dropped by his label after controversy arose over his support for Donald J. Trump, went on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Thursday night to answer the host’s questions about being “stripped of his livelihood,” telling Carlson he is “destitute” as a result of cancel culture.
In response to Carlson’s statement that Pink is “a recording artist who can’t record,” Pink said, “I can’t tour either at this point. So it pretty much leaves me destitute and on the street. I’m sort of overwhelmed right now and I don’t know exactly what to do.”
“You’re taking a huge risk coming on this show,” Carlson said, an implicit acknowledgement that receiving the support of the conservative host may not improve his battered status in his musical community. “Why are you doing it?”
“I don’t have any other recourse,” the singer-songwriter replied. “What am I gonna do? Am I gonna be able to get my statement out in magazines? Right now the narrative is being pushed, and there’s not very many people that are gonna let a counter-narrative enter into the fold. I mean there’s no nuance… I don’t know, man. I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” he said, appearing on the verge of becoming emotional. “I had no choice. There’s nothing else for me to do. I can’t even afford my lawyer right now.”
Pink does still have legal representation, according to a story that appeared earlier Wednesday in Pitchfork, which quoted an attorney for Pink, Thomas Mortimer. The Pitchfork piece was about a L.A. County Superior Court ruling against Pink earlier in the month. involving claims he and an ex-girlfriend — musician and video director Charlotte Ercoli Coe — have made against one another accusing the other of harassment. Pink’s bid to get a restraining order against his ex was denied by the court, which concluded her claims against him were “constitutionally-protected activities.” citing California’s “anti-SLAPP” statute, which is designed to protect against intimidation through frivolous lawsuits. The court also ordered Pink to pay Coe’s legal fees, according to Pitchfork.
Carlson did not bring up Pink’s legal slap-down in the seven-minute interview, nor did he bring up any of the other controversies that have swirled around Pink over the years, maintaining focus on the rocker as a typical musician whose career was destroyed solely as the result of attending the Trump rally on Washington, D,C. Jan. 6.
“When reasonable people like you are destroyed, all of us should take notice,” Carlson said in wrapping up the interview.
The Mexican Summer label did cite “recent events” as a reason for announcing it was dropping Pink from the roster Jan. 9 after a three-year run, although it had been under pressure to do so from some of Pink’s many antagonists in the music community long before the Trump controversy upped the ante, for past comments widely viewed as homophobic and other issues of personal behavior.
“When did you find out that your career had been destroyed?” Carlson asked at the beginning of the sit-down conversation.
“Two days later,” he replied. In the immediate aftermath of Pink receiving heat for attending the rally — but not the Capitol siege that followed — Pink said that “my label had written to inform me that they were getting a lot of heat and a lot of backlash for supporting me, and they reassured me that they were not gonna drop me.”
“They always reassure you first, don’t they?” interjected Carlson with a bitter laugh.
There were no such smiles from Pink. “I didn’t make any apologies,” he said. “I felt like I hadn’t done anything. But these articles obviously placed me at the siege, which I was not at. And of course I don’t advocate for violence at all… I was there for a peaceful rally. That’s all it was to me. but there was no fact checking or anything like that (as) 130 articles went out in the course of 24 hours. And the backlash was just… they succumbed to cancel culture. Twenty-four hours later they wrote back; they texted me telling me that they were going to go public and drop me at that point.”
“So for going to a political rally,” said Carlson, “not participating in violence, not seeing any violence, not even being aware there was any violence — you went to bed in your hotel (while the riot ensued) — for that, your career disappeared in one day. Your livelihood gone.”
“Yeah. No apologies, no support,” Pink said. “I mean, my family has been getting death threats. They don’t even know that I’m here. I had to sneak away because they were so terrified of me coming on TV. Because they’ve been getting (threats) all week… me too. I mean, the hate is just overwhelming. There’s new articles being written. People are so mean.”
Carlson: “You’ve lived in this country all your life. Do you recognize it?”
Pink: “Not at all. I mean, I’m terrified. I mean, this is what I voted against. I didn’t vote so much for Trump as against cancel culture and this environment that’s been blazing for about four years and is about to ramp up and get even worse.”
When Carlson asked Pink what he thought “the purpose” of his being canceled was, Pink responded, “I think it’s desperation and feat that’s driving this whole thing. I think there’s been a very big effort to unseat the president, or at least not let him have four more years — which I think is fair. He lost, and I think he lost fairly. I’m not disputing anything. Biden is perfectly fine with me as president. But I think that they’re still scared of something like that. It seems like they’re sore winners at this point. And people seem to want to kick me down as well, much like they have Trump. Kick us down when we’re down.”
The appearance of a one-time favorite of the indie scene on the top-rated right-leaning show on television was cause for cognitive dissonance for many.
“I definitely had Tucker Carlson pretending to know who Ariel Pink is on my 2021 bingo card,” tweeted Phoebe Bridgers. Wrote A.C. Newman of the group New Pornographers, “Ariel Pink is a guest on Tucker Carlson’s show. Sure, why not… Am I the only person that’s liked Ariel Pink’s music over the last decade, thinking it’s the great work of a disturbed mind? This truly feels ‘on brand’.” Other tweets included remarks like “Ariel Pink on Tucker Carlson used to just be a Cards Against Humanity winning combo; now it’s real,” and “We’re only TWO WEEKS into 2021 and Tucker Carlson is conducting a sit-down interview with Ariel Pink… Safe to say this year will be one massive fever dream.” Also: “The fact that MAGA people have to pretend to like Ariel Pink now is hilarious.”
Pink’s statements to Carlson about the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election, and his being “fine” with Biden as president, are at odds with contrary statements he made on the Wrong Opinion podcast in late December, which became more widely disseminated as the controversy over his rally attendance grew.
On the podcast, Pink characterized Jan. 20 as “the day of the guillotine” and expressed concern for the state of the country if Trump was not certified as president for a second term, against all odds. “I don’t see how things can go on,” he said then. “I think that Trump being in office right now is the only reason we’re up and running… We’ll never see another one like him (Trump).” He said the Democratic side “did cheat. They’ve been on the path toward acquiring these Dominion systems… in some sort of collaboration with China.”
He also disparaged the intelligence of all Democrats, telling the podcast host that anybody who can “still be a Democrat at this point… to me it’s like all of a sudden all their intelligence just got shown to be a complete farce. All the smarts in the world that they had, all their artistic fucking genius… was just window dressing… Literally everything the Democrats stand for, every single platform, is bullshit. So Trump for me is an indictment on anything bullshit,” He concluded, with some levity: “I’m so gay for Trump, I would let him fuck me in the butt.”
Those comments in and of themselves — along with other remarks Pink made about doubting climate science and COVID vaccines — may not have been cause for dismissal from a label, but Pink had already been under fire for years for earlier remarks in which he compared gay marriage to allowing pedophilia and necrophilia. As far back as 2014, Pitchfork had run an unsigned staff editorial urging fans and musicians to stop indulging Pink after “trollish” behavior.
Pitchfork’s Wednesday account of the latest developments in Pink’s legal proceedings retells the story of how Coe alleged that he “physically and mentally abused [her] during [their] relationship, including the 2017 incident at the San Francisco concert,” where she said he “physically attacked” her on stage. Coe initially called the encounter “having fun” but later claimed she was coerced to say so by Pink, and that it actually constituted “battery”; Pink later apologized for the incident. Coe’s statement to the court that ultimately ruled in her favor cited a “a tumultuous relationship, characterized by a power imbalance” because of their disparity in both fame and age (she was 19 and he was 38 at the time).
Coe acknowledged complaining about Pink to the Mexican Summer label in mid-2020 after learning the label “was adopting a zero tolerance policy toward abuse and harassment.” As part of his attempt to get a restraining order against Coe, Pink provided the court a copy of an email she wrote to his label in July 2020 saying that “he is 10000% a predator.”
In his petition for a restraining order, Pink told the court that Coe had “directly threatened… (and) attempted to blackmail him with false allegations of sexual misconduct to his record label and financial supporters, to the media, including Pitchfork and Variety, and to the general public.” (Variety staffers do not have any recollection of being contacted by Coe or her representatives.)