Misinformation & Disinformation

Tucker Carlson fans turn anger toward Kzoo city commissioner

Chris Praedel and the rest of the Kalamazoo City Commission stopped public urination from going on someone's criminal record. But because he used the term "equity" to explain his vote, a Fox News host featured him on his show, and fans from around the country bombarded Praedel with angry messages.

When the Kalamazoo City Commission decriminalized public urination and defecation last week, it sparked outrage among downtown Kalamazoo business owners who have seen an increase in such incidents, which are blamed largely on the exacerbating homelessness crisis in the community.

Criticism was so widespread that the city responded with a statement on social media clarifying that it’s still illegal and subject to ticket and fine.

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The ordinance was passed unanimously at the July 18 city commission meeting. 

A week later, Fox News star Tucker Carlson called out City Commissioner Chris Praedel by name. 

Praedel, first elected in 2019, was targeted by Carlson because he used the term “equity” in justifying the vote, arguing that the infraction wasn’t worth a permanent record, which can then hamper someone’s ability to rent a home or get a job.

“According to Kalamazoo commissioner Chris Praedel, equity means drug addicts get to defecate wherever they want,” Carlson said on the July 25 episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” The broadcast then played a clip of Praedel speaking at the meeting. 

“Let’s hope they’re defecating on his front lawn right now,” Carlson then says.

“Within minutes of that segment I got an avalanche of vile messages on just about every email and social account. It’s just nuts,” Praedel told NowKalamazoo. “From all over the country. His words instill a rage almost instantaneously.”

Most of the emails and social media messages that Praedel shared parroted Carlson’s lines, encouraging a bowel movement rally at the commissioner’s home. Many appear to be from people who don’t live in Kalamazoo and laced with anger.

A client at the home repair support non-profit he runs came into the office for no other apparent reason but to tell him off. 

“It’s not every day that that happens,” he said, criticizing Carlson’s show as “a further trend of polarization that is at a hateful and vile level” that is substituting for healthy disagreements on policies.

The aggressive and angry response for “just trying to explain to the public why we did it” is a disincentive for running for office, he said. There were no outright threats made, but he was asking himself “am I safe to go to the meeting tonight?”

“What happens to officials who are doing what we did? They are going to shut people down from running for office or speaking up.” 

Still, the underlying issue remains unresolved. The homelessness crisis in the community, which NowKalamazoo documented in an award-winning pop-up magazine in 2019, is worsening throughout Kalamazoo County. 

There’s been a visible increase in encampments and outdoor living and people asking for financial help on the street. 

It is concentrated in downtown Kalamazoo because that’s where most of the vital support services are located, though there is insufficient mental health and substance abuse help in addition to a dearth of affordable housing.

The result: increased instances of human vomit, urine, and excrement in public spaces and business doorways.

Critics of the city say the decriminalization will lead to more of that. The city says the same penalties remain, and that the threat of a criminal record ultimately did more harm than good.

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