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Tucker Carlson told everyone who he was and no one believed him. Now will they listen?

The big question here is: why was Carlson’s racism was accepted by Fox News executives for so long?

Richard Hall
Wednesday 03 May 2023 21:39 BST
Tucker Carlson discusses ‘Populism and the Right’ during the National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Tucker Carlson discusses ‘Populism and the Right’ during the National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

If someone tells you who they are — say, for example, by delivering white nationalist talking points to an audience of millions on national television every evening — you should believe them.

When someone explicitly endorses the white nationalist Great Replacement theory, almost word for word, and earns praise from literal Nazis, you shouldn’t try to explain away their words as legitimate political debate.

When someone lauds authoritarian leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and questions why his country would support democracy over autocracy, you should perhaps not rush to give them the benefit of the doubt.

In other words, if someone is trying to desperately to out themselves as a racist and you consistently ignore their dog whistles, you will look foolish when they eventually, inevitably, stop talking in code.

This week, the inevitable arrived. A series of text messages sent by Tucker Carlson and entered into evidence as part of a lawsuit against Fox News offered a less filtered version of his television persona — and may have played a part in his downfall.

In one of those messages, reportedly sent to a producer, he describes the emotion he felt while watching a group of people beat up an “Antifa kid,” among other things.

“It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight," he wrote.

The not-so-subtle implication here is that white people fight honourably, while other races fight dirty.

The text, according to The New York Times, “contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Mr. Carlson’s firing,” from Fox News. It followed another set of embarrassing messages from Carlson revealed in a lawsuit brought by Dominion voting systems which ended in a $787.5 million payout by Fox News, the highest known payout in a defamation case.

But doesn’t the suggestion that Fox News really fired Carlson for expressing the same views he espoused on his television show, just in clearer language, stretch credulity? That single message, which Carlson likely thought would remain private, is more explicitly racist than what he would say on Fox News, but no one would be bold enough to describe it as out of character. Every evening, on prime time, Carlson made the minimum effort to conceal his racism. He hid it with as much enthusiasm as a rhinoceros playing hide and seek behind a thin lace curtain.

How can anyone claim to be surprised that a man who described Iraqis as “semiliterate primitive monkeys,” called white supremacy “a hoax” and railed against diversity in America would consider white people superior to other races?

The more pertinent question here is why Carlson’s racism was accepted by Fox News executives for so long. Why did the company maintain the absurd position that Carlson was just asking questions?

Take the response of Fox News CEO Lachlan Murdoch’s to a letter from the Anti-Defamation League about Carlson’s white replacement tirade in 2021. The organisation said Carlson’s “rhetoric was not just a dog whistle to racists – it was a bullhorn.”

Mr Murdoch replied to the organisation: “...we respectfully disagree. A full review … indicates that Mr Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory. As Mr Carlson himself stated during the guest interview: ‘White replacement theory? No, no, this is a voting rights question.’”

Carlson would later contradict Murdoch’s defence numerous times, including categorically in 2022:  “The great replacement. Yeah. It’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s their electoral strategy and we know that because they see it all the time.”

That sums up Carlson’s entire career: he makes racist dog whistles while his superiors and supporters try to tell concerned advertisers and viewers what he really meant. To think of all the time and money and lawsuits Fox News might have saved if they had watched Carlson’s show just once, and believed him.

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