Tucker Carlson has a grand plan

And I don't think we're going to like it very much

By Heather Digby Parton


Published January 28, 2022 10:01AM (EST)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson (Getty Images)
Fox News host Tucker Carlson (Getty Images)

Last week the highest-rated show on cable news was Fox News' "The Five," a gossipy round table of smart-alec right-wingers led by the network's recently promoted to primetime pundit Jesse Watters, best known as Bill O'Reilly sidekick who stalked people on the streets and harassed them for profit. But last week was unusual. Normally, the highest-rated show on Fox News is "Tucker Carlson Tonight." 

I doubt, however, that Carlson has anything to worry about. His is the most popular Fox News show most weeks and his influence on Republican Party politics is matched only by former president Donald Trump himself. And lately, Carlson's been outdoing himself with appalling, provocative commentary that must make Trump feel very much off of his game.

This week he hosted COVID crank Alex Berenson, who shared this outrageous lie with the Fox News audience:

"The mRNA COVID vaccines need to be withdrawn from the market. No one should get them. No one should get boosted. No one should get double boosted. They are a dangerous and ineffective product at this point."

Carlson didn't refute that blatant lie. In fact, he said it was demonstrably true that the vaccines don't work. It doesn't get any more shockingly irresponsible than that.

RELATED: Tucker Carlson bemoans fact he's no longer attracted to "less sexy" M&M cartoons

Of course, Carlson's long history of racist rhetoric is well known. He has relentlessly pushed the "Great Replacement Theory" lamenting that the Biden administration is trying "to change the racial mix of the country — in political terms, this policy is called 'the great replacement," the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries." Former KKK leader David Duke was thrilled to hear him endorse this theory, which he and everyone else recognize for exactly what it is.

So it was a bit rich to hear the white nationalist Carlson condemn "identity politics" over President Biden's promise to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court, shedding crocodile tears about how it harms the women who are being considered while suggesting that George Floyd's sister be nominated because Biden allegedly requires no qualifications except race and gender. That's a lie. Biden said:

"I've made no decision except the one person I will nominate someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It's long overdue."

Apparently, Tucker Carlson doubts that such a person exists. In fairness, Carlson isn't the only right-winger making this grotesquely racist critique, but nobody can do it with the slithery unctuousness that he can.

RELATED: Why the right sees Biden's promise of a Black woman on the Supreme Court as an attack

It's pointless to mention the shameless hypocrisy in these complaints by noting that presidents of both parties going back decades have taken diversity into consideration with their appointments, from naming the first Jews and Catholics to the first Black justice to the first woman among others. Carlson and his cronies didn't say a word when Trump promised to name a woman to the court or when he picked the highly inexperienced Amy Coney Barrett but, of course, she isn't Black.

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Equally disturbing, as Salon's Jon Skolnik reported, Carlson's views on the possible Russian invasion of Ukraine (he often parrots the Russian government line) have taken the activist base of the GOP by storm. Here's more from Axios

GOP offices have been fielding numerous calls from voters echoing arguments they heard on Carlson's 8 p.m. ET show. Carlson has been telling his viewers there is no reason why the U.S. should help Ukraine fight Russia.

Even Democratic offices have been fielding these calls from Carlson's viewers. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) tweeted that he got "calls from folks who say they watch Tucker Carlson and are upset that we're not siding with Russia in its threats to invade Ukraine, and who want me to support Russia's 'reasonable' positions."

Russian state TV is impressed but reportedly concerned that Carlson might be going too far:

Carlson told Axios that he doesn't care if people call him a Russian pawn (or in old-fashioned parlance, "useful idiot") because he doesn't speak Russian, has never been to Russia and is not that interested in Russia. That is probably true. He seems to be much more interested in what the Washington Post's Greg Sargent has dubbed "an alignment with a kind of right-wing Internationale, a loose international alliance of authoritarian nationalists who despise liberal internationalist commitments."

The modern right's romance with Putin is nothing new, of course and Carlson certainly didn't invent it. All the way back in 2015 I wrote about Donald Trump's embrace of the right's Putin fever which had been building for some time. He's not the only one who loves a strong man.

Carlson's real affinity is for Viktor Orbán, the president of Hungary who has the distinction of being the progenitor of the modern "soft fascism" that Carlson and many of the thought leaders of the right are so taken with these days. Last summer I wrote about Carlson taking his show to Budapest and he is planning another trip soon. While he was there he put together a "documentary" for his streaming show called "Hungary vs. Soros: The Fight for Civilization" which Media Matters described as "a ham-handed propagandist screed that heavily recycles the same antisemitic tropes that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán used to get reelected in 2018." As Media Matters' Andrew Lawrence quipped on Twitter, "[it] could be a thread on daily stormer but its actually the centerpiece of fox news streaming platform." It's that bad.

RELATED: Tucker Carlson's Hungarian rhapsody: A far-right manifesto for waging the "demographic war"

Here are a couple of short clips to give you the flavor.

He also spends a great deal of time extolling the virtues of Orbán's push for women to have as many children as possible so as to preserve the purity of the "legacy" Hungarians rather than depending on immigration for labor. The visuals are chock full of white children everywhere. No wonder Carlson feels so at home there.

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Everyone says that it's all about ratings for Tucker Carlson and nothing more, that he pushes the envelope for attention. I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. He clearly is reveling in his celebrity and power. But this obsession with Orbán is obviously driven by something more than that. There is just no way that the same Fox audience that whines about Dr. Seuss and loves Donald Trump is really all that interested in some Hungarian politician.

No, Carlson has a game plan and he's using his platform to promote a specific brand of white nationalism for his own purposes. What those purposes are is unknown. But as long as he continues to push this propaganda on the most-watched news channel in the country, there's a good chance we're going to find out what it is. And I don't think we're going to like it very much. 

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Commentary Fox News Tucker Carlson White Nationalism