“Whatever you think of Donald Trump, we know what Carlson thinks, thanks to private communications that Dominion Voting Systems uncovered through discovery in its defamation lawsuit against Carlson’s former employer, which agreed to pay $788 million rather than defend its promotion of Trump’s stolen-election fantasy. “There isn’t really an upside to Trump,” Carlson said in a January 4, 2021, text message to his staff, describing “the last four years” as “a disaster.” Back then, Carlson was eager to be rid of Trump: “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait. I hate him passionately.” The day after the January 6, 2021, riot by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol, Carlson privately called him “a demonic force” and “a destroyer.”
But that was then. Carlson, like the GOP politicians whose phoniness he claims to despise, has adjusted to the reality that Trump remains stubbornly popular among Republicans. He is even willing to reinforce the election conspiracy theory that he publicly called unfounded and privately called a lie. Carlson’s current coziness with Trump was on vivid display Wednesday night, starting with the question of why the “far-and-away front-runner,” whose views are of such keen interest to voters, decided to skip the Republican debate in Milwaukee and any other similar forum in which he might have to defend those views or his record as president against competitors keen to make a dent in his commanding lead.
Trump’s answer was that felt no need to go through that ordeal, precisely because he is so far ahead. Why put up with “all these people screaming at me, shouting questions at me”—which Trump contradictorily claimed he “love[s] answering”—when he could sit down with an interviewer who is desperate to please him, especially in light of the criticism revealed in those embarrassing messages? Anyway, Trump said, he would probably get better ratings “using this crazy forum” than he would on Fox News, which televised the debate that he skipped. “I’m grateful that you did,” Carlson replied.”
“Trump said Biden “is worse mentally than he is physically,” as evidenced by the fact that he “can’t put two sentences together.” Trump, by contrast, can put many, many sentences together, but they do not necessarily make sense, bear any logical relationship to each other, or stand up to critical scrutiny. Fortunately for Trump, Carlson was offering none of that.”
“Based on his private statements to colleagues, we know that former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson did not believe Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s wild claims about systematic fraud in the 2020 presidential election. “Sidney Powell is lying,” Carlson flatly stated in a November 16, 2020, text message to fellow Fox News host Laura Ingraham that came to light as a result of the defamation lawsuit that Dominion Voting Systems filed against the channel. Ingraham agreed that Powell could not be trusted: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy [Giuliani].”
We also know, again thanks to discovery in the Dominion lawsuit, that Carlson had a low opinion of Donald Trump. In a November 10, 2020, text message, he called Trump’s decision not to attend Biden’s inauguration “hard to believe,” “so destructive,” and “disgusting.” He was more broadly critical in a January 4, 2021, text message to his staff. “There isn’t really an upside to Trump,” he said, describing “the last four years” as “a disaster.” Carlson was eager for a change: “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait. I hate him passionately.” The day after the January 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters, Carlson privately called him “a demonic force” and “a destroyer.”
Carlson, who launched a new show on Twitter after Fox News fired him in April, was singing a different tune.. t the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Why were they so mad?” he said during a giddy, meandering 44-minute speech at the pro-Trump gathering, referring to the Capitol rioters. “Why do they take the bus from Tennessee to go jump up and down in front of the Capitol?” The answer, he said, is that they were frustrated by the patronizing, dismissive response to their legitimate concerns about how the presidential election had been conducted.
Carlson suggested it was laughably implausible that Joe Biden had received “81 million votes”—”15 million more than Barack Obama,” which “seems like a lot”—especially “considering [that] he didn’t campaign and he can’t talk.” But instead of taking that reaction seriously, Carlson said, the political and journalistic establishment told Trump’s supporters to “settle down,” saying, “We have the source code in the voting machine software, and we’ve looked at it, and it’s totally on the level. We’ve double-checked. We wouldn’t let an electronic voting [company] hide their software from us.”
The unfounded claim that deliberately corrupted Dominion software enabled Biden to steal the election, of course, was the central issue in the company’s lawsuit against Fox, which the parties settled for a jaw-dropping $788 million shortly before Carlson got the boot. It was also the claim that Carlson privately dismissed as dangerous nonsense. “It’s unbelievably offensive to me,” he told Ingraham. “Our viewers are good people and they believe it.”
“Carlson, who was transparently craving the adulation of the Trump supporters in West Palm Beach, is reinforcing their conviction that Biden could have won the election only through a vast criminal conspiracy that Carlson publicly called unsubstantiated and privately called a lie. He apparently has swallowed any disgust he once felt at Powell et al.’s deception of “good people.””
“I have worked in English language media even longer than Carlson has, and I “understand” nothing like the totalizing constraints he describes, nor would a significant percentage of the people I have worked with. The editorial direction (not quite a set of “limits”) at an opinion magazine such as Reason, for example, tends to be tethered to a political/ideological/philosophical point of view, with content mutually understood by employer and employee alike to fit within a publicly stated organizational mission, and yet, I have for two decades felt perfectly free to explore out loud some of my least libertarian notions (including one, ironically enough, that was influenced directly by Tucker Carlson).
Reason may be on the tolerant extreme of the open-debate spectrum, but I was similarly untroubled by the specter of editorial no-fly zones at the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper that hired me after I had written a series of “Outside the Tent” columns criticizing…the Los Angeles Times. (That institutional courage to solicit internal criticism was not shared by Carlson at his own The Daily Caller: Blogger Mickey Kaus resigned from the conservative publication in 2015 after a post of his critical of Fox News was deleted on the grounds that, in Carlson’s words, as quoted by Kaus: “We can’t trash Fox on the site. I work there.”)
As the Caller example indicates, the “rule of what you can’t say” is often self-imposed, for reasons that can have more to do with narrow careerism than some broader globalist plot. As such, breaking free from presumed shackles is often as easy as just blurting out the allegedly verboten thing—not unlike Tucker Carlson’s often interesting, often exasperating television program these past seven years.
But the populist trick and conceit, one that Carlson is already ratcheting up in his new Twitter phase, is to not merely say the forbidden truth but to do so while, improbably enough, claiming that you cannot do so.”
“Thirty years ago, the main conservative critique of the mainstream media was that it was biased. Twenty or so years ago, bias had escalated into pursuing an active agenda. Now, that agenda has managed to become an all-encompassing yet secretive transpartisan snow job.
“The undeniably big topics, the ones that will define our future, get virtually no discussion at all,” Carlson postulated in his first Twitter video after being fired. “War, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, corporate power, natural resources. When was the last time you heard a legitimate debate about any of those issues? It’s been a long time. Debates like that are not permitted in American media. Both political parties, and their donors, have reached consensus about what benefits them, and they actively collude to shut down any conversation about it. Suddenly the United States looks very much like a one-party state.”
This seems like a good place to point out that the May issue of Reason includes debates about war, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, and so forth. And I’m guessing that anyone who truly believes there are no meaningful differences between the two main political parties in the U.S. did not have children attending public school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carlson’s fans, including some (masochistic?) libertarians, surely do not care that his hyperbole crosses so frequently into fantasia; what matters is that he (again, like Trump) has the right enemies—the media, the wokes, the Pentagon, Big Pharma. If the journalism profession is going to go on a “moral clarity” bender of ever-escalating pejoratives for conservatives, aggressive “deplatforming” even of elected Republicans, and enthusiastic collusion with the censorious state, what’s wrong with a little overstatement from a commentator who rightly pushes back?
Well, once you start taking seriously the idea that some puppet master or single-minded Borg is inflicting intentional wickedness on Everyman for personal profit, then all intellectual bets are off. Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat offered this ideological shorthand soon after Carlson was fired: “For any idea with an establishment imprimatur, absolute suspicion; for any outsider or skeptic, sympathy and trust. It didn’t have to be political or contemporary, either. The U.F.O. mystery? He was there for it. The Kennedy assassination and the C.I.A.? He had questions.”
Carlson these days is frequently going there, whether in sympathetic interviews with the similarly conspiratorial Robert Kennedy Jr., or just musing aloud about Building 7, all while striking the classic populist pose of betraying his class interest by spilling the insidery beans.”
“Controlling the population is the media’s “only purpose,” Carlson continued. “They’re not here to inform you….Even on the big things that really matter, like the economy and the war and COVID, things that really matter and will affect you—no, their job is not to inform you. They’re working for the small group of people who actually run the world. They’re their servants, they’re the Praetorian Guard. And we should treat them with maximum contempt, because they have earned it.”
Carlson may not want to control the population, but what he offers as a replacement sounds a lot like passive consumption of a commiserative message…from Tucker Carlson. “Where can you still find Americans saying true things?” he asked in his first post-show Twitter video. “There aren’t many places left, but there are some, and that’s enough. As long as you can hear the words, there is hope.”
And now, having earned scores of millions of dollars from corporate media, Carlson is ready to burn it all down from the outside.
“The gatekeepers are still in charge,” he lamented in his video Tuesday. “We think that’s a bad system. We know exactly how it works, and we’re sick of it….There aren’t many platforms left that allow free speech. The last big one remaining in the world, the only one, is Twitter.””
“In the text, Carlson describes watching a video of several Trump supporters beating up an (alleged) antifa member on the streets of Washington, DC. His reaction is nuanced: He confesses to feeling a certain vicious bloodlust while watching the video — “I really wanted them to hurt the kid” — but realizes that this is a horrific impulse that ought to concern him. “I should remember that somewhere somebody probably loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed,” Carlson writes.
But the most important line is one where he describes the attack in racial terms: “Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight.”
His obvious implication is that nonwhite men gang up on defenseless opponents all the time, whereas whites only commit violence honorably.”
“is it any worse than mainstreaming the “great replacement” conspiracy theory developed by white supremacists? Is it more offensive than saying immigrants make America “poorer, and dirtier, and more divided”? Is it more racist than downplaying the killings of unarmed Black men by the police, or accusing Tennessee state Rep. Justin Pearson (who is Black) of putting on a fake “sharecropper” accent?
Tucker has done all of these things on the air”
“A core part of Tucker Carlson’s message is that he, and his viewers, are colorblind: that they are standing up for the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr. against liberals who want to polarize America along racial lines for their own nefarious purposes. “You can’t attack people, whole groups of people on the basis of their race and ethnicity. Not in the media, especially,” he said in a representative February broadcast.”
“Seeing whites as at once the master race and victims is common in racist thought. Nazi propaganda described Jews as both inferior to Aryans and their conspiratorial oppressors; modern-day white supremacists routinely warn about the prospect of “white genocide,” a specter that Carlson also invoked on his show.
But Carlson’s maneuver was to sever the theory of white victimhood from its explicit white supremacist roots. Fox viewers should stand up for white interests not because whites are the superior race, in this narrative, but because they’re being victimized by the dastardly Democrats and race-mongers who are standing in the way of racial harmony.”
““We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.”
“I hate him passionately.”
“We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.”
Tucker Carlson sent all those texts — newly revealed as exhibits in the lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox — on January 4, 2021. (Through the discovery process, many Fox internal emails and documents were provided to Dominion, and the company’s attorneys have made them public by citing them in legal filings.)
Yet Carlson devoted his shows this week to a revisionist history of the attacks on the Capitol two days afterward, omitting Trump’s then-ongoing attempt to steal the election, portraying concerns about a stolen election as reasonable and even vindicated, and minimizing the violence that took place.
But to understand what’s going on here, it’s worth taking a closer look at the bigger narrative Carlson was trying to push this week.
The story of January 6, in Carlson’s extremely selective and misleading telling to his viewers, isn’t about how a mob whipped up by the president of the United States tried to prevent the transfer of power, or how that president tried to steal the election. It’s about how Democrats and the media were mean to Trump supporters.
The story is also about how he, Tucker Carlson, would never do something like that. He loves you, Trump supporters. He respects you. Pay no attention to those texts behind the curtain about how he disdains and disbelieves Donald Trump. He is your loyal champion against your enemies. So please — don’t change the channel.”
“On Jan. 4, 2021, Fox News host Tucker Carlson was done with Donald Trump.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” he texted an unidentified person.
“I hate him passionately. … I can’t handle much more of this,” he added.
By this time, Fox News was in crisis mode. It had angered its audience when it correctly said Joe Biden had won Arizona in the presidential election. Executives and hosts were worried about losing viewers to upstart rivals, most notably Newsmax.
The private comments were a far cry from what Carlson’s viewers were used to hearing from the stalwart conservative host on his prime-time show every night.
“We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest,” he wrote in another text message, referring to the “last four years.” “But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.””
“In a group text chain from mid-November, Hannity, Ingraham and Carlson complained about their news colleagues and the network’s decision to call Arizona in favor of Biden. Fox News was the first network to do so, and the call was accurate.
“Why would anyone defend that call,” Hannity asked.
“My anger at the news channel is pronounced,” Ingraham said later in the exchange.
Carlson piped in, saying: “It should be. We devote our lives to building an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland [expletive] Vittert wreck it. Too much.”
Wallace and Vittert were Fox News hosts and anchors at the time.”
“In a conversation with Fox News journalist Chris Stirewalt on Dec. 2, 2020, about a month after the election, Bill Sammon, who was then the network’s managing editor, lamented the state of the place they worked.
“More than 20 minutes into our flagship evening news broadcast and we’re still focused solely on supposed election fraud — a month after the election. It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” Sammon said.
Stirewalt added: “It’s a real mess. But sadly no surprise based on the man I saw revealed on election night.”
Sammon replied, “In my 22 years affiliated with Fox, this is the closest thing I’ve seen to an existential crisis — at least journalistically.””
““Very little about Jan. 6 was organized or violent. Surveillance video from inside the Capitol shows mostly peaceful chaos,” Carlson said, falsely, playing clips of Capitol police security footage that he argued depicted a calm scene. In reality, the insurrection was a violent breach that led to five deaths and the assaults of about 140 police officers. Carlson’s points echo arguments made by Trump voters and members of the Republican base, who’ve increasingly incorrectly suggested that the riot was more of a legitimate protest than a deadly incursion.
Since Carlson’s segment aired, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger issued an internal memo denouncing it and noting that the Fox News host “cherry-picked” footage that portrayed the attack in a “misleading” way.”
““It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here in the Capitol thinks,” McConnell said at a weekly news conference”
““I think it’s a very dangerous thing to do to suggest that attacking the Capitol of the United States is in any way acceptable and is anything other than a serious crime against democracy and against our country,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who was shown during congressional January 6 hearings as having narrowly avoided an encounter with an angry mob. “To somehow put [Jan. 6] in the same category as a permitted peaceful protest is just a lie,” added Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND).”