Echoes of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre in Tucker Carlson’s George Soros smear
After the Anti-Defamation League again called for Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s firing due to his promotion of the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, Carlson’s first response was to tell a podcast interviewer, “Fuck them.” His second was to use his prime-time show to blame a Jew for the resettlement of Afghan refugees in “your” neighborhood, echoing the apparent motivation of the alleged perpetrator of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.
Carlson is the nation’s most prominent advocate for the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which posits that elites are trying to gain and entrench their power by using mass immigration to systematically replace white people with people of color in the U.S. and other Western countries. This noxious viewpoint was once limited to internet fever swamps, but Carlson has helped make it increasingly mainstream in the Republican Party.
On Thursday, Carlson drew cheers from white nationalists with his most unambiguous endorsement of the theory yet. He explicitly referenced “great replacement,” while alleging that President Joe Biden wants to “change the racial mix of the country” by replacing “legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries” for political gain.
The next night, just hours after ADL called for his firing, Carlson singled out Jewish financier and philanthropist George Soros for his role in promoting the resettlement of Afghans “without the consent of the people who live there,” through the group Welcome.US. According to Carlson, Soros’ motivation is that he “hate[s] this country and want[s] to destroy it.”
“It doesn't matter what you want, you're just a citizen,” Carlson spat. “Shut up. George Soros is richer than you, he decides what you get.”
Carlson added that Soros and the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas, who are honorary co-chairs of the group, “have no idea who we are because they know nothing about the country.” He concluded by promising more reporting in the future about what he learned in Hungary, where Viktor Orbán, the country’s autocratic leader touted by Carlson, has waged a years-long war on Soros and his organizations.
Soros has long been a focus of right-wing media attacks for his role in funding progressive political candidates and organizations (including Media Matters). Those attacks often feature antisemitic overtones.
Carlson’s chyron described Welcome.US as “Soros’ Afghan Resettlement Org,” and his commentary suggested that Soros is playing a lead role. But in reality, Soros’ Open Society Foundations is one of more than 250 “organizations, leaders, and businesses" involved in the group. Other partners include such notorious America-hating radical organizations as the American Red Cross, Save the Children, the Episcopal Migration Ministries, and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and charities from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are also helping with the effort to resettle Afghan refugees.
But Carlson isn’t focusing his fire on any of those myriad nonprofit and faith groups involved in resettling Afghans. He chose to focus his fire very specifically on Soros, while portraying refugee resettlement as part of a plot to destroy the country. There’s a very dark history to that brand of attack.
Carlson feigned confusion as to why the ADL would concern itself with his “great replacement” commentary in his initial comments to the podcaster. But as the group’s initial letter calling for Carlson’s firing explains, that conspiracy theory provided motivations for a series of hate-fueled mass shootings -- including the 2018 attack on worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people. The alleged gunman, a white nationalist, had accused the Jewish refugee resettlement organization HIAS shortly before the attack of bringing Central American “invaders” into the U.S, and he claimed that Jews were “committing genocide” against his people after being captured at the scene.
Now Carlson is offering virtually the same claim from Fox’s 8 p.m. hour, simply swapping Soros in for HIAS and leaving references to Jews implicit.
In 2018, Fox executives at least pretended to care about the network serving as a platform for vile rhetoric that echoed the alleged shooter. After Fox Business triggered a firestorm shortly after the attack by rebroadcasting Judicial Watch research director Chris Farrell’s false claim that Soros had masterminded a caravan of Central American migrants headed for the U.S. border, Farrell was permanently banned from Fox News and Fox Business.
But there were no repercussions for more prominent Fox personalities who propagated that same lie. And Fox executives all the way up to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch have since become even more invested in and supportive of Carlson using his platform to spew blood-soaked conspiracy theories.
Correction (9/27/21): This piece originally included the wrong name for the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.