About Tucker Carlson
Carlson’s white male supremacist rhetoric about immigrants, women and LGBTQ+ people first crossed into radical territory during Trump’s presidency, delighting authoritarians, fueling conspiracy theories and drawing attention from extremism experts. At that time, Carlson used his prodigious reach on Fox News to promote rhetoric consistent with extremist propaganda, dividing Americans between “they” – that is, perceived elites – and “you,” his predominantly white, male-skewed viewership. Even amid the other bigotry promoted on Fox News, the apocalyptic language Carlson used stood out because of how closely it tracked with the type of content found on such fringe, racist forums as 4chan or Stormfront. After Fox News fired Carlson in 2023, he became an independent content creator on X, the social media website formerly known as Twitter, where he interviewed extremists and authoritarians, leaning into the themes that made him notorious at his previous employer.
Carlson’s path to becoming an extremist stands out as an anomaly from other figures associated with the Trump era because he had already built up a nationally recognized brand as a libertarian-leaning conservative before he pushed his propaganda into more radical spaces. By the time his rhetoric reached its most extreme, Carlson commanded the aforementioned massive audience via his cable news platform, dominating his competition outside and inside Fox News in terms of ratings, and pulling in nightly audiences in the millions.
Carlson started his television career in 2000, working at networks that cater to moderates and liberals, such as CNN, PBS and MSNBC. This history of working with moderates and liberals buoyed the perception of Carlson as a reasonable conservative for years before evidence of his bigotry became too difficult for critics to ignore.
Carlson joined Fox News in 2009, during the rise of Tea Party politics. Although he espoused misogynist views in public, Carlson’s rhetoric did not stand out so clearly to the public as extremist during his early years at the network. There were signs of an affinity for radicalism – he appeared as a guest on Alex Jones’s Infowars and on Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes’s livestream. But Carlson’s reputation for mainstreaming radical-right talking points skyrocketed after Nov. 14, 2016, when his show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” replaced Greta Van Sustern’s “On the Record” (previously Bill O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor”) during Fox News’ 8 p.m. time slot. Carlson developed an almost symbiotic relationship with Trump’s fans from that day forward, leaning heavily into the era’s atmosphere of racist, anti-LGBTQ+ hate, while targeting the president’s critics with scorn.
Carlson’s most significant legacy as an extremist is the impact he had in mainstreaming the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which posits that elites are reengineering the population of Western countries through non-white immigration to weaken the power of white men. The New York Times conducted a study in 2022 showing that Carlson evoked the ruling class in more than 800 out of 1,150 episodes of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” from 2016 to 2021, portraying America as a place where unseen, wealthy forces victimize whites to further their own power. In 400 of those 1,150 episodes, Carlson pushed the idea that Democrats, or other perceived elites, sought to purposefully change the demographic makeup of the country, effectively destroying white people and their culture in the process. Carlson has sowed fear over immigration as it relates to declining American birth rates too, as he did in a 2022 segment with the anti-immigrant extremist Stephen Miller. Radical-right terrorists have cited propaganda just like this as justification for committing acts of mass murder. No contemporary extremist had successfully reached so many with “great replacement” conspiracy propaganda before Carlson promoted it.
While promoting extremist ideas and rhetoric, Carlson repeatedly downplayed the significance – or even existence – of radical-right ideologies. He notoriously once told his Fox News audience that white supremacy is a “hoax.” Carlson has appeared with publicly or platformed a wide range of radical-right figures outside the conservative mainstream, including Jones, McInnes, Darren Beattie, Curtis Yarvin, Chaya Raichik and Andrew Tate. Carlson has denied he’s an extremist and claims that his views are moderate.
Fox News let Carlson go in April 2023 after a series of scandals, including a former employee’s accusation that the host enabled a hostile work environment for his female staff. He has claimed that Fox News fired him as part of their defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, a company that Trump and his allies smeared with disinformation following Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Carlson announced in July 2023 that he is planning to form a new media company.
On Dec. 11, 2023, Carlson announced the formation of a new streaming service called Tucker Carlson Network on X.
In his own words
“We think Andrew Tate’s views about men very much deserve a hearing.”
– July 11, 2023, before introducing the misogynist and accused sex trafficker to his show on the platform X, which then went by Twitter
“People who believe they are God can’t stand to be reminded that they’re not. Christianity and transgender orthodoxy are wholly incompatible theologies. They can never be reconciled. They are on a collision course with each other. One side is likely to draw blood before the other side.”
– opinion piece on the Fox News website
“The overwhelming majority … were peaceful. They were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.”
– March 6, 2023, on Fox News, referring to participants in the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021
“The ideology leads to the castration of children, and therefore it’s bad. It’s a cancer on the country. Of course, that’s true.”
– March 6, 2023, on Fox News, referring to transgender people
“The Democratic Party has decided that rather than convince you, people who are born here, that their policies are helping you and making the country better and stronger, they will change the electorate.”
– May 17, 2022, on Fox News, citing the basis for the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, three days after one of its adherents killed 10 Black people in a Buffalo supermarket
“It may be worth asking yourself: ‘Why do I hate [Russian autocrat Vladimir] Putin? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?’”
– Feb. 22, 2022, on Fox News
“Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually. Let's just say it: That’s true.”
– April 9, 2021, on Fox News
“A couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington. A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living shit out of him. It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight. Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it. Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me. I’m becoming something I don’t want to be.”
– Jan. 7, 2021, texting an unnamed Fox News producer
“[The Potomac River] has gotten dirtier and dirtier and dirtier and dirtier. I go down there and that litter is left almost exclusively by immigrants, who I’m sure are good people.”
– to The Atlantic, Dec. 15, 2019
“The irony, of course, is that Putin, for all his faults, does not hate America as much as many of these people [in the media] do. They really dislike our country.”
– on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Dec. 2, 2019
“[White supremacy] is a hoax, just like the Russia hoax. It’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power. That’s exactly what’s going on.”
– Aug. 7, 2019, on Fox News, days after a radical right terror attack targeted at immigrants in El Paso
“Our leaders demand that you shut up and accept [immigration]. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided. Immigration is a form of atonement. Previous leaders of our country committed sins – we must pay for those sins by welcoming an endless chain of migrant caravans. That’s the argument they make.”
– Dec. 13, 2018, Fox News broadcast
“You should stick to the thigh-high boots. You’re better at that,”
– Dec. 23, 2016, to a female pundit who criticized the Trump family
“If I didn't like Canada, I wouldn’t consider it worth invading. I mean, Iraq is a crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys – that’s why it wasn’t worth invading.”
– Oct. 7, 2008, on the “Bubba the Love Sponge” radio show
“It’s true. It’s true. You debate politics with a woman and just go, just full-blown out there, especially feminism. If you’re talking to a feminist, and she’s given you, ‘Well, men really need to be more sensitive,’ [say]: ‘No, actually, men don’t need to be more sensitive. You just need to be quiet and kind of do what you’re told.’”
– May 2, 2006, on the “Bubba the Love Sponge” radio show.
Born in San Francisco in 1969, during the apex of the hippie movement, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson inherited a kind of luxury and privilege most Americans will never see.
Carlson’s mother, Lisa McNear Lombardi, was the daughter of a cattle baron heiress, and the great-granddaughter of one of “the largest landowners west of the Mississippi,” according to Insider. His father, Dick Carlson, worked as an investigative reporter, broadcaster, politician and diplomat at different times during his life.
Lombardi abandoned her family when Carlson was only 6 years old to pursue the life of an artist in Europe. Carlson later described his mother’s exit as “totally bizarre.”
“Totally bizarre situation – which I never talk about, because it was actually not really part of my life at all,” Carlson told The New Yorker in 2017.
Carlson’s access to privilege expanded when his father married Patricia Caroline Swanson. Swanson, heiress of the Swanson frozen-food fortune and the niece of Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, adopted Carlson and his brother, ensuring they would most likely be multimillionaires without ever needing to work.
“I had the happiest childhood of anyone I know,” Tucker told the Times of San Diego, referring to time he spent in an upper-class beachside neighborhood of La Jolla, California, near San Diego.
Tucker went to boarding school before enrolling in Trinity College in 1987. In a 1991 Trinity College yearbook, Carlson listed himself as being part of the “Dan White Society.” Dan White assassinated progressive San Francisco mayor George Moscone and gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk in 1978. In 1985, two years after his release from prison, White died by suicide.
Carlson also listed himself in Trinity’s yearbook as being part of the Jesse Helms Foundation, referring to the anti-LGBTQ+ and male supremacist senator who, during the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, fought to stop funding research of the disease on grounds that LGBTQ+ people were “perverted.” Helms, who is also notorious for being an outspoken racist, ran for office as a segregationist in North Carolina. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, calling it “the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.”
From bow ties to bitterness
Carlson’s career in journalism took off through such right-leaning print publications as The Weekly Standard, where he positioned himself not as a radical, but as a conservative reporter who stuck to facts. He affected an Alex Keaton-esque stereotype of a young Republican, almost always appearing in public wearing a bow tie. Later in his career, after he switched to a necktie, Carlson claimed that he sincerely admired the bow tie, and wore it without any sense of performance.
Early in his career, Carlson also publicly opposed the kind of nativism that would come to define his tenure at Fox News. Nativism is an anti-immigrant ideology that privileges the rights of native inhabitants over immigrants and demands the cultural assimilation of all foreign-born people. On Oct. 2, 1997, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed he authored criticizing the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR and its leader Dan Stein.
“There are reasonable critics of immigration, but Dan Stein is not one of them. Which makes it all the more puzzling that a number of otherwise sober-minded conservatives seem to be making common cause with Mr. Stein and FAIR,” Carlson wrote of the anti-immigration group that later gained influence under Trump.
Thanks in part to Trump adviser Stephen Miller, groups like FAIR influenced Trump’s racist immigration policies and rhetoric. Carlson hosted Miller as a guest on Carlson’s Fox News show more than a dozen times, and the men pushed the same nativist rhetoric Carlson denounced as a younger man.
Carlson also authored a profile of George W. Bush for Talk magazine in 1999 that generated controversy because it reported the then-presidential hopeful freely used expletives in private. Bush’s campaign denied Carlson’s claims. The conflict between the two men drew positive attention to Carlson in the liberal press.
“It sounds disingenuous and naive, but my feelings were hurt,” Carlson told The Washington Post then of Bush’s claim. “That’s totally beneath me. Why would I make up a quote? It’s outrageous.”
CNN then brought Carlson on as a conservative pundit in 2000 for a show called “The Spin Room.” One year later, he started co-hosting “Crossfire,” the CNN show that ultimately made him a recognizable celebrity. Positioned across from liberal pundit Paul Begala, Carlson argued conservative positions on contemporary issues, always clad in his signature bow tie.
Liberal comedian Jon Stewart appeared as a guest on Crossfire on Oct. 15, 2004, and clashed with Carlson, mocking his bow tie and the show’s journalistic merits. At the close of Stewart’s appearance, he described Carlson as a “dick.” The incident came to overshadow “Crossfire.” Less than three months after Stewart chastised Carlson, CNN canceled the show and cut ties with Carlson, citing Stewart’s criticism of him as the reason behind the change.
“I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart’s overall premise,” CNN president Jonathan Klein said then.
At least one “Crossfire” colleague recalled seeing early signs of Carlson’s extremism while working on that show.
“With his return to prime time during the Trump era, Tucker became notorious for overt anti-immigrant and often racist rhetoric. But this demagoguery didn’t sprout out of nowhere; it was present during the Crossfire years too, just as a sarcastic and even prank-like part of his future persona,” Josh Cowen, who served as a research producer for “Crossfire,” recalled to Slate in April 2023.
Carlson later worked for MSNBC. He hosted a show called “Tucker” from June 13, 2005, until March 14, 2008. MSNBC then canceled Tucker for a show called “Race for the White House with David Gregory,” which coincided with a growing national interest in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Tucker’s ouster from MSNBC signaled a change in the network, whose brand increasingly leaned into the mainstream liberalism of the Obama moment. In 2010, Carlson cited his criticisms of MSNBC as inspiration for him to create The Daily Caller, a news and opinion website known in part for its hiring of white nationalist writers.
“I think as a general matter the press has sucked up to Barack Obama in a repulsive way, and that’s wrong,” Carlson told Columbia Journalism Review in 2010. “It’s not just bad business; it’s also wrong. That’s not what you’re supposed to do to people in power. The coverage of Obama in the primaries, especially, was totally over the top. I was the chief campaign correspondent for MSNBC at that time, so I was right in the middle of it, and I was really disheartened by what I saw.”
Two years later, Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro heckled Obama during a Rose Garden announcement, referring to his immigration policies.
"Why’d you favor foreigners over Americans?” Munro yelled at Obama.
Carlson praised Munro after the writer left The Daily Caller for Breitbart in 2015.
Early signs of male supremacy and racism
While working for MSNBC, Carlson also appeared as a regular guest on a radio show called “Bubba the Love Sponge,” hosted by Florida shock jock Todd Allen Clem. Clem had a reputation for producing vulgar, anti-feminist content during the time Carlson regularly appeared as a guest. He frequently had Carlson on for long stretches, allowing him to riff on current events.
Carlson often leaned into the debauched atmosphere of Clem’s show, laughing along while men talked about physically abusing women, according to reporting first published by Media Matters. He also expressed sympathies for racist religious leader Warren Jeffs, who has been convicted of multiple sex crimes involving children.
Jeffs arranged marriages between teenage girls and adult men, and Carlson compared him favorably to Michael Vick, a Black football star who later pleaded guilty to his involvement with dog fighting and served 21 months in prison. Carlson said he would exonerate Jeffs, the accused cult leader and child rapist, and execute Vick if given the authority to kill him.
“I should make the – you know what, I should make the laws around here, and Michael Vick would have been executed, and Warren Jeffs would be out on the street,” Carlson said on April 4, 2006.
Carlson appeared on Clem’s show six months later to again minimize Jeff’s crimes.
“Arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her. That’s bullshit,” Carlson opined on Clem’s show on Sept. 5, 2006.
Carlson said on Clem’s show that feminists “need to be quiet and kind of do what [they’re] told.” He also called Arabs living in Iraq “semiliterate primitive monkeys.” After Media Matters reported these details in 2019, Carlson mocked the scandal.
“Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago. Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch,” Carlson said in a social media statement on March 11, 2019.
When Carlson first moved to Fox News in 2009, he continued to make sexist and racist remarks. He called reporting statutory rape “whiny” in reference to an adult woman having sex with an underage boy. He talked down to a Latino attorney, saying, “I’m just going to speak really slowly so you get this.” But Carlson previewed the performer he would become when talking about Trump’s campaign. He called the journalists who noted the Ku Klux Klan’s enthusiasm for Trump “truly divisive” two days before the 2016 election.
“The whole thing is ridiculous. And they’re doing it with a straight face because they think they have to. It’s disgusting,” he said.
Carlson himself emerged as a hero to avowed, outspoken white supremacists in the years to come, as he ferried their racist rhetoric to an audience of millions during Trump’s presidency.
A shift toward nativism
Carlson finally ascended to the 8 p.m. slot on Fox News on Nov. 14, 2016, less than a week after Hillary Clinton conceded the election to Trump. He hitched his brand to Trump’s, mirroring the positions that appealed most strongly to the president’s base. Far from being the type of person to argue against nativism, as Carlson did in The Wall Street Journal back in 1997, he immersed himself in that worldview. Over time, Carlson also appeared to grow more comfortable with saying racist things about non-white immigrants.
“Everything I say on immigration is totally sincere,” Carlson told GQ magazine in September 2017. “That’s not a subject that I’m demagoguing on. Our immigration policy is insane and really hurting the country.”
Carlson generated widespread criticism after he associated immigrants with dirt and garbage in 2018, using the type of rhetoric found on white supremacist websites like American Renaissance. He made the comments during the height of a reactionary obsession with migrant “caravans” that coincided with the 2018 midterm elections. Alongside Trump and Carlson’s fellow Fox News hosts, Carlson pushed the caravan story relentlessly.
“Our leaders demand that you shut up and accept [immigration]. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided. Immigration is a form of atonement. Previous leaders of our country committed sins – we must pay for those sins by welcoming an endless chain of migrant caravans. That’s the argument they make,” he said on a Dec. 13, 2018, broadcast on Fox News.
Responding to protests from activists on social media, advertisers started to abandon “Tucker Carlson Tonight” following the remark. Carlson struggled to retain advertisers throughout the run of the show because of similar protests, but his ratings dominated the competition on cable news. Carlson reiterated his belief that immigrants dirty the U.S. in a comment to The Atlantic in December 2019.
“[The Potomac River] has gotten dirtier and dirtier and dirtier and dirtier. I go down there, and that litter is left almost exclusively by immigrants, who I’m sure are good people,” he said.
The president of the Potomac Conservancy, a non-profit focused on protecting and cleaning that river, issued a statement denouncing Carlson’s comment.
“We at Potomac Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust and leading clean water advocate in the region, feel compelled to respond to this groundless accusation not just because it’s factually incorrect,” Hedrick Belin stated on the group’s website. “Worse still, we’re seeing similarly degrading sentiments echoed on social media. These thinly veiled racist beliefs have no place in any serious public discourse.”
‘White Power Hour’ and ‘great replacement’ rhetoric
Liberals derogatorily branded Carlson’s show the “white-power hour,” as his rhetoric grew more openly racist. Following every controversy Carlson survived after making a racist remark, he seemed to dig in and push things further, even as he lost advertisers. In 2022, The New York Times studied Carlson’s shows and found that in more than 400 out of 1,150 episodes of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” from 2016-21, he pushed the suggestion that elites worked to change the demographics of the U.S. to disadvantage white people. This repetitive evocation of the “great replacement” narrative from such a widely viewed performer reshaped the landscape of radical-right extremism in America, pulling the most prominent white supremacist talking point out of the margins and into living rooms across the country.
Carlson made himself synonymous with the “great replacement” conspiracy theory on April 8, 2021, when he appeared to defend his promotion of the theory in the face of criticism that doing so inflamed political violence. At the time he made these comments, white, male, reactionary terrorists inspired by the “great replacement” had gunned down Jewish people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Poway, California. They had also murdered Muslim people in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Latine people, many of them Mexican citizens, in El Paso, Texas. Those mass murders happened across a 10-month span straddling 2018 and 2019, as anti-immigrant rhetoric peaked in conservative media.
“Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that’s what's happening, actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true,” Carlson said.
On May 17, 2022, three days after another white man who believed in the conspiracy theory murdered 10 Black people in a Buffalo supermarket, Carlson minimized the “great replacement” theory and claimed not to understand it. In the same segment, he appeared to endorse it once again:
You’ve heard a lot about the ‘great replacement’ theory recently. It’s everywhere in the last two days, and we’re still not sure exactly what it is. Here’s what we do know for a fact. There is a strong political component to the Democratic Party’s immigration policy. We’re not guessing this, we know this. And we know it because they have said so. They’ve said it again and again and again. They’ve written books on it and monographs and magazine articles, they have bragged about it endlessly, they talk about it on cable news constantly. And they say, out loud, ‘We are doing this because it helps us to win elections.’ That’s not something that’s said once, it’s something they’ve gloated about again and again and again.
Carlson repeatedly platformed anti-LGBTQ+ bigots and male supremacists while on Fox News. He helped propel the careers of anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Chaya Raichik, who posts online under the pseudonym “Libs of Tik Tok.” Raichik appeared on Carlson’s streaming show on Fox Nation on Dec. 27, 2022, under her own name publicly for the first time, and called the LGBTQ+ community “a cult.”
“The LGBTQ community has become this cult and it’s so captivating, and it pulls people in so strongly, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. And they brainwash people to join, and they convince them of all of these things, and it’s really, really hard to get out of it,” Raichik told Carlson’s audience.
Raichik has a history of flagging LGBTQ+ events on social media that are later targeted with disruption by extremists, like in June 2022 when the white supremacist group Patriot Front mobilized at a Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Pride event she highlighted. Carlson avoided questions about incidents like that when interviewing Raichik, allowing her to lean into bigotry. Carlson also platformed anti-trans activist Jaimee Michell, who founded the group “Gays Against Groomers,” in November 2022, allowing her to promote the bigoted idea that trans people, in broad strokes, sexualize children. Carlson also used his show on multiple occasions to platform the anti-LGBTQ+ bigot Matt Walsh, who describes himself as a “theocratic fascist.”
Following a mass shooting at a Christian school, perpetrated by a trans-identified assailant, Carlson wrote an opinion piece published on the Fox News website, where he suggested that trans people were predisposed to live in conflict with Christians, and that such a dynamic could likely lead to more bloodshed.
“Christianity and transgender orthodoxy are wholly incompatible theologies. They can never be reconciled. They are on a collision course with each other. One side is likely to draw blood before the other side,” Carlson wrote in the March 28, 2023, post titled “The Trans Community Is Targeting Christians.”
Male supremacism on air and off
Carlson has shown a similar disdain for feminism. One of Carlson’s first major scandals during the run of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” emerged around his treatment of a writer for Teen Vogue who expressed criticism of Trump and his family. Carlson hosted the writer on his show on Dec. 23, 2016. After calling her writing “moronic,” he dismissed her off the air with a comment.
“You should stick to the thigh-high boots. You’re better at that,” Carlson said.
Carlson’s team cut the Teen Vogue author’s feed as she started to call him sexist. The host’s remark went viral on social media, fueling outrage and harassment. Carlson’s audience appeared to grow afterward. He subsequently highlighted on his show multiple female reporters who claimed to receive harassment from his fans after he did so. He did this to reporters working for The Washington Post and NBC News who cover topics like the radical right and viral disinformation campaigns.
“This was something where this woman didn’t have an argument, didn’t have superior knowledge, wasn’t impressive. I was kind of rude to her. Okay, I’m sorry that I did that. But I didn’t think it was that interesting or revealing a moment,” Carlson told GQ of the exchange with the Teen Vogue writer in September 2017.
Carlson’s Fox News output regularly played into narratives that denigrated women and femininity and portrayed men as victims of a corrupt system that undermines masculinity. One emblematic segment drew the ire of American military leaders, after Carlson attacked the introduction of tailored flight suits that could accommodate pregnant pilots. In the segment, he railed against an “out of control” and “feminine” military. In one of his strangest and most widely publicized crusades for gender essentialism, he accused the Mars Wrigley candy company of “wokeness” on his show for making the M&Ms’ green, female-coded anthropomorphic candy mascot “less sexy” when they swapped her footwear. When they debuted another female-coded purple character, he called the new character, “plus-size, obese” because she was a peanut M&M.
In 2022, he produced and hosted a special called “The End of Men,” focused on the idea that men are facing a crisis as society becomes less masculine. The trailer, which featured a muscular man tanning his testicles, went viral on social media, where liberals made jokes about it. The magazine Men’s Health described it as being anti-science on Nov. 21, 2022:
The message–sometimes explicit, sometimes implied–in Tucker’s show is that our limp constitutions and less-than manly social policies, diets, work, and recreational activities (do real men play Minecraft or write code for Microsoft?) have driven down our testosterone count. Tucker isn’t really concerned about tackling genuine public health challenges–there are, of course, legitimate, and very serious, issues with the American diet and sedentary lifestyle.
Tucker’s point here is to use cherry-picked data, anecdotal evidence (read: not actual evidence), wellness guru testimonials, and paradoxically homoerotic imagery, to encourage us to do something about our pathetic feebleness or we’ll be overrun by commie soy boy globalists! Apparently, we need “bro-science” to save us all from, well, real science.
While Tucker produced content like this special, women who worked for him behind the scenes accused him of creating a hostile work environment. Abby Grossberg, a former senior booker for “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” described the work environment around the show as being openly misogynistic. She filed a lawsuit against Carlson and Fox News in April 2023 that portrays men who worked for the show circulating an image of Nancy Pelosi’s cleavage. The lawsuit also details someone who allegedly polled staffers on which candidate for Michigan governor they would rather take to bed.
“I ultimately went and complained to one of my supervisors about the abuse and the bullying and the gaslighting and misogyny that I was putting up with at Tucker,” Grossberg told NPR. “And his response to me was, ‘We’re just following Tucker’s tone. That’s Tucker's tone.’ And I do really believe that it all trickles down from the top.”
Fox News settled the lawsuit for $12 million in June.
Daily Caller’s history with extremism
Carlson’s promotion of radical right figures and talking points on his prime-time show found an early model in The Daily Caller, the digital media company he co-founded.
Since Carlson and Neil Patel, a former staffer for Vice President Dick Cheney, founded the Caller in 2010, the website has served as a platform for over a dozen white nationalists and other radical right figures. Its employees skewed young, with many using The Caller as a jumping-off point for more conventional careers in mainstream media. But the company’s “free-for-all” atmosphere, its embrace of anti-immigrant rhetoric, and its youthful workforce’s tendency to reflect trends among young right-wingers, as The New York Times wrote about in 2022, offered fertile ground for staffers with more radical beliefs and associations throughout the run-up to, and during, the Trump era.
“When The Caller started, most smart young conservatives were libertarian. Within a few years after that, a lot of them were populist, nationalist types – which also meant that they were sometimes attracted to things that were much worse than that,” Jim Antle, a former editor and contributor to The Caller, told the Times in 2022.
Scott Greer, a racist pundit whom a reporter later exposed for writing under a pseudonym for white supremacist websites, launched his career at The Daily Caller in 2014. One of Greer’s friends, former Montana state Senate candidate Taylor Rose, wrote, “Sieg Heil!” in an email thread discussing his new job at The Caller from February 2014, according to a trove of documents provided to the Southern Poverty Law Center by former Daily Caller staffer Katie McHugh.
Carlson authored a blurb for Scott Greer’s 2017 book, No Campus for White Men, referring to it as “bracing.”
Jonah Bennett, who published a reactionary website with close ties to the organized white supremacist movement, worked for The Caller from 2014 to 2018 and described to members of a racist email listserv how he laundered antisemitic and “alt-right” figures in his reporting for the site.
Others hired during the same time period retained close social ties to members of the white supremacist movement, including former Caller managing editor Dave Brooks, former intern Ashley Rae Goldenberg, and onetime reporter Katie McHugh, who publicly renounced far-right extremism in 2019. Similarly, a CNN report in mid-2020 outed Blake Neff, a former reporter at The Caller who went on to write for Carlson’s Fox News show, as a prolific user on a forum inundated with racist, sexist and antisemitic content.
Carlson left The Caller in 2016, but the site continued to publish a range of different extremists. Peter Brimelow, the founder of the white nationalist website VDARE, published four op-eds at The Caller in 2017. Paul Gottfried, a paleoconservative thinker who is credited with helping shape the thinking of the mostly online, white supremacist alt-right movement contributed to the site, as did South African author Ilana Mercer, who has spoken alongside him at events.
The Caller contracted Jason Kessler, one of the main organizers for the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally, to contribute reportage on right-wing events in 2017. In one article, published on May 14, Kessler covered a May 13 torch-lit rally organized in part by Richard Spencer in Charlottesville, Virginia. Kessler’s coverage neglected to disclose his own involvement in the march and a demonstration the following day, as detailed in a ProPublica report from May 31 and an independent review of the “Unite the Right” rally and its run-up.
Hero of the white supremacist movement
As Carlson embraced more radical talking points on Fox News, like when he riffed on policies affecting white farmers in South Africa in August 2018, white supremacists across the movement celebrated him as a hero. Michael “Enoch” Penovich, a white supremacist podcaster, started to affectionately refer to him as “Tuckah.” Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer repeatedly praised Carlson. On Aug. 24, 2018, he wrote that Carlson had started blasting his talking points to an audience of millions.
“Tucker Carlson is basically ‘Daily Stormer: The Show.’ Other than the language used, he is covering all our talking points,” Anglin wrote.
The white nationalist website VDARE has repeatedly promoted and defended Carlson, as they did on Sept. 5, 2018, responding to an article about the TV host published in Columbia Journalism Review. VDARE blogger Steve Sailer highlighted the woman author of the report’s divorce and then called her “a loser” before explaining his perception of the negative response to Carlson from his critics.
“Much of Social Justice Jihadism is the losers’ hope that if only they could get their personal loserness Socially Constructed as winnerness, they’d be happy winners. That’s what they are taught in college, so why shouldn’t they believe it? It helps them get out of bed in the morning. The first step toward our new, improved culture Socially Constructing themselves into winners is of course to shut up anybody who points out that’s not really how the world works,” Sailer wrote.
In addition to lobbying Carlson to run for president, Anglin of the Daily Stormer has also called the TV host “the most powerful right-wing figure in the world.” Anglin described Carlson that way after he responded to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) criticisms of him espousing great replacement rhetoric. Carlson suggested that the ADL holds a double standard, promoting immigration into the U.S. and seeking to stop immigration into Israel.
“Tucker Carlson finally struck back against the Jews on Monday, dropping the ultimate truth bomb on his audience: Jews aggressively lobby for the same demographic policies in America that they openly declare would destroy their own country,” Anglin wrote on April 13, 2021.
Around the same time, white supremacist Nick Fuentes told his fans on Twitter that Carlson was radicalizing millions to his bigoted cause.
“This week Tucker redpilled 4 million people and there’s nothing liberals can do about it,” Fuentes wrote, using a far-right extremist term that refers to the process of adopting racist and antisemitic beliefs.
The white supremacist David Duke praised Carlson’s embrace of “great replacement” rhetoric in October 2021 on his radio show. Duke at one point asked, “How can I be an evil guy?” for espousing the same things as a mainstream Fox News host.
“It’s really interesting that all of these things that Tucker is talking about now – Tucker’s been around a long time, too,” Duke said of Carlson. “He’s been around from the 1990s, 2000s, and in his career, 2000s. And he finally in the last three or four years – somewhat also with the Trump campaign – but he’s finally come around to start even using the word ‘white people’ in any context.”
“Tucker is ultimately on our side. He can get millions and millions of boomers to nod along with talking points that would have only been seen on VDare or American Renaissance a few years ago,” Greer said on his podcast in the Spring of 2021, as quoted in an investigation by The New York Times.
Carlson responded to criticism about how white supremacists view him in an October 2018 interview with Playboy magazine. The interviewer asked Carlson what he thought of The Daily Stormer calling him “literally our greatest ally.”
“I don’t want to get into it, because it sounds disingenuous, but I’m 49 years old and I don’t think I’ve ever met a white supremacist. I’ve been to every state at least twice. I’ve traveled a lot and talked to everyone. I talk to every Uber driver and every bartender and every lady dropping off the dry cleaning. I talk to everybody all the time. I’ve never met anyone who’s like, ‘I want a white ethno-state.’”
Major node for the radical right
In May 2015, Carlson appeared on Infowars, hosted by the extremist Alex Jones. Using the type of conspiratorial language familiar to Jones’ audience, he compared the Obama administration to Nazi Germany.
“They categorize people by race in a way that, you know, you can't even imagine. Thirty years ago you would have said, ‘Wait a second, that’s like Nazi stuff,’” Carlson said to Jones.
Carlson texted the Infowars host years after making the appearance, based on material unearthed during Jones’s Sandy Hook lawsuit trial. When HuffPost published text messages showing the men to be friendly with one another, Jones told the publication that Carlson did not care who knew of their connection.
“He doesn’t give a flying fuck,” Jones told the digital publication.
On Dec. 7, 2023, Carlson hosted Jones on X for a 90 minute interview segment. Critics accused Carlson of flattering Jones and helping him clean up his image. Elon Musk reinstated Jones' X account days later.
“I want to thank Tucker Carlson for the below interview. It enabled me to escape the phantom zone and let the world know what I really stand for! Tucker broke the Matrix!!” Jones posted to X on Dec. 11, 2023, in reference to his reinstatement.
In 2016, Carlson appeared on a livestream with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. The men discussed what they perceive to be the differences between men and women. McInnes described what it would be like if women faced a Proud Boys initiation ritual of being punched while naming five breakfast cereals. Carlson laughed at McInnes’s description of the imagined scene. As they continued that line of conversation, Carlson defended remarks he made defending the statutory rape of a male student by a female teacher.
“I guess there are a lot of things you have to play along with in life, and society demands compromises. We have to live in close quarters,” Carlson said.
“A woman can win the Nobel Peace Prize for mathematics. No one is saying that’s impossible,” McInnes said.
“That’s right. And I’m not. I’m not good at math,” Carlson said. “But there is a limit where I can’t pretend anymore. And calling a … in this case it was a 17-year-old kid, a rape victim, when a teacher … was kind enough to initiate him into the ways of adulthood…”
Another extremist, Blake Neff, served as the top writer for “Tucker Carlson Tonight” during the era when so many extremists publicly praised it. Fox News let Neff go in July 2020 after CNN published a story detailing the virulently racist comments he made under a pseudonym in an obscure online forum. Neff also made comments belittling women and gay men on that forum, CNN reported. Neff resurfaced in 2023 working for a podcast hosted by the reactionary talking head Charlie Kirk.
Through his prodigious platform on Fox News and the streaming service Fox Nation, Carlson has platformed “Stop the Steal” leader Ali Alexander, Jan. 6 conspiracy pusher Darren Beattie, anti-Democracy blogger Curtis Yarvin, and junk-news peddler Andy Ngo, among other fringe, far-right internet personalities. Carlson has also platformed “Raw Egg Nationalist,” a pseudonymous masculinity-focused personality who writes books for the white nationalist publisher Antelope Hill.
In summer 2023, Carlson took to “X,” the social media website formerly known as Twitter, to feature two male supremacist figures, Andrew Tate and his brother Tristan Tate. At the time Carlson hosted the Tate brothers, they faced human trafficking charges in Romania. Tate, known for making over-the-top misogynistic statements, has boasted about pushing women into filming porn and keeping the money for himself. He and his brother have insisted they are innocent. Critics pointed out that Carlson’s interviews ignored key details about the accusations against the two men, and framed them in a positive, almost promotional light.
“We think Andrew Tate’s views about men very much deserve a hearing,” Carlson said while introducing the extremist on July 11, 2023.
Jan. 6 apologia and conspiracies
Large swaths of Republicans believed and continue to believe disinformation about the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Carlson undoubtedly played a significant role in spreading those perceptions of the event, given the size of his platform and influence. First, he promoted misleading narratives in the runup to the attack and then apologized for the rioters shortly after it started. Later, he started to push conspiracy theories about what happened that day.
Two days before Jan. 6, 2021, Carlson told his audience that the 2020 election was “unfair” and had been rigged against then-President Trump.
“All of these power centers worked tirelessly from the day Biden got the nomination until the first Tuesday in November to bypass voters and get Joe Biden to the White House,” Carlson said. “Google changed its famed algorithm to obliterate traffic to websites that criticized Joe Biden. Facebook and Twitter did essentially the same thing. If that's not rigging an election, there's no meaning to that phrase,” he said.
On the night after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Carlson warned that Biden would use the attack to deprive Trump’s supporters of their rights. He pushed the same narrative again one night later. Within a year, Carlson shifted to depicting the rioters themselves as victims that day.
“What was January 6th? Well, there was destruction of property, which we’re totally opposed to,” Carlson said to his Fox News audience on Dec. 15, 2021. “But what motivated it? Why were all those people there? Well, for the most part, a year later, it's very clear January 6th was essentially what it appeared to be: Thousands of ordinary American citizens, voters – people who believe in our democracy far more fervently than Liz Cheney ever has – came to Washington because they sincerely believed democracy had been thwarted. They believed the presidential election was unfair – and they have a right to believe that. And by the way, in many ways, they were correct. The presidential election was unfair. And you don’t have to get into anything about voting machines to believe that.”
Carlson gradually weaved conspiratorial rhetoric into the propaganda he churned out about Jan. 6. Notably, Carlson amplified conspiracies that law enforcement provocateurs pushed the pro-Trump crowd to commit acts of violence, essentially relieving President Trump from criticism in the process. Tucker Carlson guest Joseph McBride suggested, without any evidence, that a man who changed his name to Rally Runner from Daniel Donnelly Jr. was an “agent provocateur” and member of law enforcement. The DOJ charged Runner in August 2023 five separate times related to his actions on Jan. 6. Runner expressed disappointment about being labeled a law enforcement provocateur.
“Disappointed is an understatement. For years I believed Tucker was a responsible reporter focused on stopping ‘Fake News’ just to be hit with this story,” Runner told NBC News about the bogus claim.
Ray Epps, a man who attended the Trump rally on Jan. 6, 2021, emerged as the center of arguably the most pervasive conspiracy theory surrounding the events of that day. Radical-right figures pushed the idea that Epps worked with law enforcement to make Trump look bad on that day by encouraging violence. The FBI has denied that Epps has worked for them or served as their source. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” became the most high-profile beacon for the Epps story – again, due to its ratings. Epps, a vocal Trump supporter, sued Fox News about the claims in July 2023, and the lawsuit singled out Carlson by name.
“Fox, and particularly Mr. Carlson, commenced a years-long campaign spreading falsehoods about Epps. Those lies have destroyed Ray’s and (his wife’s) lives,” it reads.
Apologia for foreign autocrats
Carlson’s apologetic lines about right-wing authoritarianism are not limited to the U.S. Carlson has also drawn sharp criticism for the way he has talked about such figures as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Carlson took the crew of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to Hungary in 2021. He produced a documentary for Fox Nation lauding Orbán called “Hungary vs. Soros.” Orbán is known for clamping down on press freedoms, democracy and civil rights, but Carlson’s work ignored these details in favor of praising the autocrat. Critics accused the film of amplifying the great replacement conspiracy and smearing the billionaire liberal Soros with antisemitic innuendo. Orbán has praised Carlson, calling him “my friend.” He told an audience of Americans and Europeans that Carlson should be lifted above all other voices in American media.
“Of course, the GOP has its media allies, but they can’t compete with the mainstream liberal media. My friend Tucker Carlson is the only one who puts himself out there,” Orbán told a delegation at CPAC Hungary in May 2022. “His show is the most popular. What does it mean? It means programs like his should be broadcasted day and night. Or, as you say, 24/7.”
Carlson traveled again to Hungary in August 2023 to give a speech before interviewing Orbán for a video published to social media. He took photographs there with an activist associated with the neo-Nazi linked group Vitézi Rend, as the watchdog blog Angry White Men reported.
Critics have also repeatedly accused Carlson of pushing pro-Kremlin talking points to an American audience. In 2019, he favorably compared the dictator Vladimir Putin to liberal journalists who criticize Russia.
“The irony, of course, is that Putin, for all his faults, does not hate America as much as many of these people [in the media] do. They really dislike our country,” Carlson said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Dec. 2, 2019.
Russian state television has responded affectionately to Carlson through the years, often playing his clips with subtitles. In April 2023, Russia Today publicly offered him a job.