New York Times does a hatchet job on Tucker Carlson | RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2007 file photo, political commentator Tucker Carlson arrives for the 6 ...

As I read the New York Times’ 20,000-word reckoning of Tucker Carlson’s race hustle, my favorite part was when the lead writer — Times’ reporter Nick Confessore — described the network’s compulsive race baiting.

According to former Fox News employees, the network — following Carlson’s lead — has amplified stories of illegal immigrants or nonwhite Americans committing crimes to the point where employees refer to those stories as being about the “Brown menace.”

Speaking as a Brown person who liberals and conservatives alike label a menace whenever I say or write something true that offends them, I am stealing that line — and printing T-shirts.

One consequence of being in the political center, and alternating between detesting both parties and not being able to tell them apart, is having friends on both the right and the left.

The Latinos I’ve heard from who dislike Carlson agree with the article’s thesis that the host “has constructed what may be the most racist show in the history of cable news.” As one Latino said when I sent him the piece, “No, really — shocker! I can’t believe the NY Times figured that out. And it only took them what — 5 years?” A Latina said of Carlson, “He’s evil and dangerous. Because he believes that stuff.”

Yet, I’ve also heard from white males who think Carlson is the victim. “The left fears Tucker,” one wrote me. “He outperforms them, he exposes them (media), he mocks them on air.” Another wrote about the Times article, “typical one-sided stuff. No doubt much true, but not balanced. Plus, Tucker is an entertainer, not a journalist.”

Carlson is a journalist. And he’s been one for almost 30 years, since — as the article notes — he took a junior position at Policy Review, a Washington D.C.-based conservative journal, right after college. He’s also a good writer, an excellent communicator and a highly watchable presence on television.

Where the jury is still out is on the question of whether or not Carlson is a racist. The guy I met back in 1997 — when I was a general assignment reporter for the Arizona Republic, and with whom I remained on good terms for 20 years — didn’t seem like a racist.

Sure, Carlson is an embodiment of white privilege, and it’s clear that he doesn’t think people of color are in his league.

Still, I don’t believe I’ve ever called Carlson a racist. He can’t say the same. In October 2017, I was invited onto his show to defend a column demanding that police profile white men who stockpile guns.

I know what you’re thinking: “What? They don’t do that already?”

On the show, Carlson called me a “racist” five or six times in a segment that was over in less than four minutes.

Now that The Times has essentially done the same to him, I have mixed feelings.

A lot of what Confessore wrote — after watching 1,150 episodes of Carlson’s show so you wouldn’t have to — rings true. If Carlson isn’t racist, then he is at least fluent in the language of racism. He’s the “race whisperer” who speaks to the fear, anxiety and hostility that many white Americans feel toward Latinos as America is being transformed.

In the year 2042, whites are projected to become a statistical minority in the United States.

That’s right. If you think they’re angry, scared and frustrated now, just wait a couple of decades.

Also, while I’ve experienced racism on Fox News, I’ve also had a taste of it at a liberal network — CNN, where I appeared for 20 years.

A white CNN editor told me to stop writing about the soaring number of deportations by former president Barack Obama because “people are tired of hearing it.” A white anchor — shocked by my suggestion that some Latinos might, in the 2012 presidential election, support Republican Mitt Romney — blurted out: “Latinos aren’t stupid, are they?”

I doubt the Times is working on a mega-story about liberal racism in the media. I could write it. I have plenty of material.

The problem with hatchet jobs like the one the Times did on Carlson is that they wind up letting left-wing racists off the hook.

News flash: Cable TV news is a sandbox run by white folks that is plagued by systemic racism from both liberals and conservatives.

If we’re ready to confront that reality, great. But let’s do it fairly, lifting up rocks on both the right and the left to see what slithers out.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is