Tucker Carlson, Fox News’ biggest star, said in an interview on July 24 that society is oppressing and marginalizing white men, a once-controversial sentiment that has become standard fare for the most watched cable news host in the country. Carlson’s comments were reminiscent of remarks that conservative pundit Glenn Beck made in 2009 that triggered a wave of advertisers fleeing his Fox News show, and ultimately led to his firing in 2011.
Carlson was interviewed by right-wing college activist Daniel Schmidt, who tweeted the racist phrase “White Lives Matter” in June, and has appeared on Fox News several times. “We’ve never, I don’t think at any point in American history, ever, had, sort of, all segments of elite culture united in their contempt for — loathing of, really — white men,” Carlson said in the interview. The Carlson interview is the only entry on Schmidt’s YouTube page, which was created last week and has 401 subscribers as of this writing.
Back in 2009, Beck made similar comments directed at then-President Barack Obama, who had recently announced he would convene a “beer summit” following the arrest of a Black Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., by a white police officer.
“This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy – over and over and over again – who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture,” Beck said. He also referred to Obama as a “racist” in the segment.
In the months and years following Beck’s appearance on Fox & Friends, more than 300 advertisers exited his show. Although Fox News eventually kicked Beck to the curb in 2011 after sustained public pressure, Fox News’ owner, Rupert Murdoch, initially defended Beck’s statements.
One key difference between Beck’s firing and Carlson’s continued employment at Fox News is the recent creation of the network’s streaming platform, Fox Nation. Although Lachlan didn’t mention Carlson during a recent earnings call, Carlson is key to the success of Fox Nation’s subscription-based business plan. Carlson knows that Fox Nation helps to insulate him from the same market pressure that ultimately brought down Beck, and so he makes sure to drive his primetime viewers to the service with promises of exclusive bonus material.
In the interview with Schmidt, Carlson situates the racist politics he espouses every night as an inevitable reaction to anti-racism, feminism, and other liberatory social movements. Carlson invokes a typical conservative sleight-of-hand, arguing that left-wing analysis that opposes structural oppression is tantamount to “generaliz[ing] about races.” From that logical fallacy, Carlson concludes that “what you’re doing is creating white identity politics.”
In fact, there is no individual more responsible for popularizing and disseminating white identity politics than Tucker Carlson, with the possible exception of Donald Trump. He has mainstreamed once-fringe white supremacist ideas like the racist “great replacement theory,” earning the praise of self-identified white supremacists in the process. If anything, with each passing day Carlson becomes more extreme. As the Washington Post writes in an analysis of his most recent invocation of the theory, Carlson was “more direct in mirroring the arguments used and championed by white nationalists” than he has been in the past.
Fox News, from its inception, has been about stoking white fear and manufacturing a constituency for a far-right, reactionary agenda. There have been times when that plan has come up against sustained backlash, as in the case of Glenn Beck. The fact that Carlson’s most recent comments are unlikely to trigger a similar response shows just how effective the Murdochs’ plan has been.