In March, the top 5 most-viewed videos on Fox News’ YouTube channel were clips from host Tucker Carlson’s prime-time program. In total, 23 clips from Carlson’s show were viewed over 57 million times, providing nearly 55% of Fox’s total views on the network’s top 50 most-popular videos for the month.
Carlson is the host of the Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight and a major figure on the network. His inflammatory, harmful, and often inaccurate commentary — from attacking transgender people to defending Russian leader Vladimir Putin — has led some companies to pull ads from his program after they recognized the potential reputational risks from associating with it.
Carlson's content may pose a challenge for the network in the coming weeks, as Fox attempts to court sponsors during the company’s annual upfront period -- when executives try to sell the majority of their ads for the next year. But for YouTube, commentary like Carlson’s which drives views due to its incendiary nature fits right into what The New York Times described as social media platforms’ “algorithmic sweet spots.” This formula of using outrage to get engagement has been demonstrated over and over by figures such as Alex Jones and Joe Rogan, who spew lies and misinformation and generate clicks.
In 2020, YouTube created a new strategy as a part of its attempt to minimize the spread of election-related misinformation, which included boosting “authoritative” news sources. The platform listed Fox News as an example, even though there were already numerous instances of the network pushing misinformation around voting. Fox's status as an “authoritative” YouTube channel and Carlson’s outrage-bait content add up to a perfect recipe for getting promoted by the platform’s algorithm.
The reach of Carlson’s videos far exceeded that of any other content on Fox’s YouTube channel in March. For comparison, the show with the second-most appearances within the top-50 list — and second-highest number of views — was Fox & Friends (including its weekend edition), with only four clips that received nearly 8 million views in total.
Several of the 23 videos from Carlson's show contain misinformation that Media Matters has previously reported on, including one in which he pushed discredited Russian-backed propaganda about supposed U.S. “biolabs” in Ukraine. This was the fifth-most-watched video in the list. We’ve also previously noted that clips from Carlson’s show attacking the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as espousing racist talking points, have frequently gone viral on Facebook.
While this data represents just a snapshot of Fox’s YouTube performance, the prominence of Carlson’s show among the top 50 list demonstrates that Fox’s harmful content is getting amplified not only via the network’s airwaves, but also through online platforms like YouTube. It’s no secret that YouTube has a fraught history with extreme content on its platform, just like it’s no secret that Carlson is more than happy to create harmful content to attract audience attention. As Carlson veers farther from Fox’s self-claimed “center-right” status, it is likely that he will find even greater success on platforms like YouTube, where engagement is often the highest priority.
Media Matters used BuzzSumo to search all English-language YouTube videos posted to the main Fox News Channel between March 1-31, 2022.
We reviewed the top 50 videos from this list, by view count, and determined if a posted clip was from Tucker Carlson Tonight or another Fox News program. Two videos were excluded from the top 50 during this analysis: One video is no longer available on the main Fox News YouTube channel, and the other was a livestream of the Senate’s Supreme Court nomination hearing.