Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show is a toxic combination of Infowars-style conspiracy theories and Stormfront-esque xenophobia because that’s what network founder Rupert Murdoch, parent company CEO Lachlan Murdoch, and network CEO Suzanne Scott want in their 8 p.m. hour. Fox executives keep making excuses for Carlson’s malignant commentary, he correctly interprets their defenses as a green light to be ever more extreme, and all the other stakeholders in the network are willing to go along with it.
Amid a gleefully dishonest Wednesday night screed, Carlson accused Democrats of wanting “to change the racial mix of the country” through immigration, adding, “This policy is called ‘the great replacement,’ the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries.” That is, in fact, what white supremacists call that conspiracy theory.
When Carlson similarly claimed in April that Democrats want to “replace the current electorate” with “more obedient voters from the Third World,” the Anti-Defamation League called for his firing, with ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt noting in a letter to Scott that Carlson was invoking a “classic white supremacist trope” that has “lit the fuse in explosive hate crimes.” But Lachlan Murdoch sent a letter in response claiming that Carlson had actually “decried and rejected replacement theory” and been simply talking about voting rights. Carlson responded by putting the “great replacement” theory at the center of his show, creeping closer and closer to the line until last night’s broadcast, which definitively destroyed Murdoch’s defense.
Fox’s response thus far has been to promote Carlson’s latest invocation of the bigoted conspiracy theory his boss had previously claimed he rejected.
Also on Wednesday, Carlson hosted a guest, Navy Cmdr J.H. Furman, who suggested that the vaccines for COVID-19 might be more dangerous than the virus that causes it. Furman has written a memo arguing that mandating the COVID-19 vaccines “may compromise U.S. national security due to the unknown extent of serious vaccine complications,” which was picked up by right-wing media outlets. During his appearance, he told Carlson’s audience that the coronavirus “has a harm rate, or a mortality rate of 0.001%. Compare that with the VAERS harm rate where COVID vaccination harm over the last 20 months has taken almost half of the total harm's totals in the VAERS database, the 20-years long VAERS database.”
In May, Carlson began promoting the lie that thousands of Americans have died in the “single deadliest mass vaccination event in modern history,” citing data from VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. When journalists debunked his claim, noting that VAERS data is publicly sourced without verification, Lachlan Murdoch stood by him, falsely claiming that Carlson was saying “nothing the CDC itself isn’t saying.” Carlson’s program has continued peddling the VAERS falsehood ever since as part of what seems like his single-minded devotion to limit vaccinations. His campaign, and that of his right-wing media colleagues, has had devastating consequences.
The Murdochs or Scott could have stepped in after Carlson started parroting blood-soaked white supremacist conspiracy theories or lying to his viewers about the safety and effectiveness of a safe, effective vaccine that Rupert Murdoch and more than 90% of Fox full-time employees have apparently taken. But this is the kind of network that they want to run, so they’ve made him its face.
There’s no signal from the Fox Corp. board, including former House Speaker Paul Ryan, that the network should change course. And chief political anchor Bret Baier and the rest of Fox’s “news” division seem content to look the other way and continue cashing their paychecks.