“American Nationalist,” The New York Times’ three-part investigation of the rise of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, tells the story of how the star host, with the full support of Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch and the network’s other top executives, created “what may be the most racist show in the history of cable news.” Fox’s brass, as reporter Nick Confessore details, has ignored any number of warning signs and protests from inside and outside the network that Carlson’s white nationalist rants were dangerous, due to their appreciation for his ratings and affinity with his message.
The takeaway for those involved with Fox – staff, guests, and companies that buy ads on the network – should be clear: You are supporting a company that prioritizes the promotion of white nationalism in the U.S.
Carlson, a former Fox employee explained to Confessore, decided to “double down on the white nationalism” because the minute-by-minute viewership numbers he scrutinizes “show that the audience eats it up.” Indeed, a Times analysis of 1,150 episodes of his program reveals that Carlson “amplified the idea that Democratic populations and others want to force demographic change through immigration” in more than 400 episodes. That’s the heart of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which is popular among white nationalists and was previously confined to the fringes of U.S. media. That racist trope motivated the likes of the mass shooters at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 and an El Paso, Texas, Walmart and two New Zealand mosques in 2019.
Carlson’s descent into the bigoted fever swamps brought protests from some of his Fox colleagues and many more horrified onlookers. But the Murdochs and network CEO Suzanne Scott ignored their concerns because his show is exactly what they want in their 8 p.m. hour.
The Murdochs chose Carlson and his white nationalism over their reporters, who protested that his segments were false and dangerous.
They chose Carlson and his white nationalism over his program’s blue-chip advertisers, which abandoned it following his various controversies.
They chose Carlson and his white nationalism over star anchors Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace, who both left the network after tangling with its newly minted face.
They do this, Confessore suggests, for two reasons. First, they may agree with Carlson’s white nationalism: Confessore reveals that at one point Fox had Peter Brimelow, the notoriously bigoted head of the anti-immigrant website VDare, on its payroll reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch. Second, they believe Carlson is a net benefit to Fox’s bottom line, with right-wingers like Mike Lindell running ads to keep his show in the black, blue-chip advertisers continuing to support other network programming, and the host’s brand bolstering sign-ups to the Fox Nation streaming service.
But Carlson’s vile brand of bigotry has not remained confined to his broadcast. As the Murdochs made clear that they would back him at all costs, his colleagues started chasing his ratings by mimicking his commentary. After Lachlan Murdoch offered public support for Carlson’s repetition of the white nationalist “great replacement” theory, others at Fox apparently noticed and followed his lead.
The Murdochs, Carlson, and their colleagues are not going to stop. They’re going to keep promoting white nationalism. And everyone in business with Fox should be clear-eyed that their ongoing participation is part of the network’s strategy.