Tucker Carlson Fox News
Molly Butler / Media Matters

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With Tucker Carlson out, other Fox extremists now have the spotlight

Carlson’s influence has metastasized across Fox, long a home for bigotry and extremism

Fox News released a statement this morning saying that the network and white nationalist prime-time host Tucker Carlson have “agreed to part ways,” effective immediately. The statement noted that Carlson’s final program aired Friday, April 21, indicating that the former host will not be allowed to air a final goodbye to his audience.

Since the November 2016 launch of his prime-time show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson has been a hero to hardcore racists and extremists for championing the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, repeatedly hosting guests with ties to white nationalism, and defending the QAnon conspiracy theory. He has also been the vanguard of January 6 conspiracy theories on the network.

Fox News has long been a home for extremism and bigotry, since well before Tucker Carlson’s meteoric rise. The network was the driving force that mainstreamed the “birther” conspiracy theory (which falsely claimed then-presidential candidate Barack Obama was not born in the United States), and former President Donald Trump’s weekly call-ins to Fox & Friends became the launching point for his 2016 campaign for president. Until he was forced to step down, Bill O’Reilly spouted a constant stream of sexism and bigotry on his prime-time show, and host Sean Hannity pushed a conspiracy theory about the murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer that tormented his surviving family.

Carlson simply super-charged the already bigoted Fox News model. In fact, only Fox’s toxic ethos and disregard for the truth could have supported the past 15 years of Carlson’s career -—  he was previously fired from gigs at both CNN and MSNBC. Going forward, his influence will likely remain strong at Fox, because since his prime-time show launched in 2016, his extremism has metastasized throughout the network, with individual hosts and entire shows copying his talking points in hopes of recreating his success.

Below is a list of examples from the last few months of the extremism that will continue to plague Fox News in Carlson’s absence.

  • The Five

  • The Five is Fox News’ top-rated show. It features a roundtable discussion among the most unhinged hosts at the network, including Greg Gutfeld, Jesse Watters, and Jeanine Pirro.

    • In October 2022, Watters suggested burning squatters alive. 
    • In April, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said climate change “improves people's lives.”
    • In March, Gutfeld suggested that “white leftists do worse things to Blacks than the Aryan Nations ever could.”
    • During the February 16 edition, co-host Jesse Watters said that “women are in their prime in their late teens” while mocking former CNN host Don Lemon. 
    • Gutfeld called climate change activist Greta Thunberg “that bug-eyed brat” during the February 1 edition. 
    • In January, co-host Jeannie Pirro proclaimed that George Soros is “behind the destruction of law and order in America.” 
    • On January 10, Gutfeld suggested that President Joe Biden is hiding “Barack Obama’s real birth certificate” and using it for blackmail against “Black males.” 
    • In January, Gutfeld said it’s time to tell the homeless, “You don’t get to live with us.”
    • In December 2022, Pirro argued that Nazism and white supremacy should be allowed on social media platforms.
    • In November, Pirro argued that “Holocaust deniers,” “hate speech,” and Sandy Hook truthers should be allowed on Twitter.
  • Jesse Watters

  • Jesse Watters has a long history of bigotry at Fox News. He started as a producer for The O’Reilly Factor before beginning as the host of man-on-the-street interviews for the show. In 2016, one of these segments became infamous for its extreme anti-Asian racism. Fox has repeatedly promoted Watters, most recently to the host of the 7 PM weeknight hour, where he has pushed the gamut of toxic Fox rhetoric, including anti-LGBTQ bigotry and election denial.

    • During Black History Month, Watters said the “people who financed it” deserve credit for American infrastructure built by slaves. 
    • On April 6, Watters endorsed anti-vaccine activist Robert Kennedy Jr. in his longshot bid to become the Democratic presidential nominee.
    • On the April 3 edition, Watters mocked trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney’s gender identity by saying, “We thought this was an April Fool's joke, but we were wrong. America's favorite transgender is now Bud Light’s pitchman. Or pitch person.” 
    • In March, he said that trans youth are expressing their true gender identity for internet fame.
    • Following Trump’s indictment in Manhattan, Watters called for revenge on Democrats “the next time a Republican gets in the White House”
    • Watters continues to engage in election denialism. In March alone, he cast doubt on Biden’s win in 2020 and separately said, “Democrats can’t win elections fairly”
    • In January, Watters said, “The FBI put Biden in the White House and they can take him out.”
    • In March, he claimed Silicon Valley Bank collapsed because it “is a woke Biden bank” that was “holding seminars on Lesbian Visibility Day and National Pride Month.”
    • He alleged in February that the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, was an intentional attempt to fight racism by “spilling toxic chemicals on poor white people.”
    • Watters claimed in late January that the video footage of police beating Tyre Nichols to death was released on a Friday evening to inspire riots: “They waited until sundown on Friday night to put out a body cam that’s going to fire up a lot of people. Cities across America are bracing for riots.” 
    • He also said Nichols was killed by police because “police tactics have been hamstrung.”
    • In January, he blamed an FAA system outage on “changing the word ‘airmen’ because a transvestite pilot might get offended.”
    • That same month, he accused teachers of “poisoning” and “trying to destroy” children because “the teachers have daddy issues.”
  • Sean Hannity

  • Sean Hannity has been the poster boy for right-wing conspiracy theories and bigotry since Fox News Channel launched in 1996. He was a major booster of Donald Trump’s election conspiracy theories and a singularly important driver of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. Hannity continues to host the 9 p.m. hour of Fox News’ prime-time line-up.

    • On March 14, Hannity blamed Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse on “an obsessive company-wide focus on race, gender, sexual orientation.”
    • In February, Hannity endorsed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) call for banning “people who move from blue states to red states from voting for five years.”
    • He said that “vaccines and boosters do not work as they have told us.”
    • Hannity told his audience that “Philadelphia is hell on earth” and “a living nightmare.”
    • Hannity said Sen. John Fetterman's (D-PA) stroke “was beyond debilitating, it was crippling for him.”
    • Last August, Hannity described the classified national security documents at the center of the Mar-a-Lago search as “meaningless” and part of “one big giant fishing expedition.”
    • In June 2022, Hannity attacked January 6 hearing witness Cassidy Hutchinson. 
    • Hannity compared vaping Juul pods to giving children the COVID vaccine. 
    • During an episode of Hannity in June 2022, the host falsely claimed that the vaccinated “have a greater likelihood of getting the current variant of COVID.” 
    • That same month, Hannity described immigrants as “a full-blown threat to U.S. national security.”
    • Hannity displayed the names of “kids killed by gun violence 2019-present” to attack Democrats for making “cheap political points” after the May 2022 Uvalde elementary school  mass shooting.
    • To stop mass shootings, Hannity argued for “tax breaks” for armed military and police officers who work for free patrolling schools.
  • Laura Ingraham

  • Laura Ingraham, previously a long-time right-wing radio host, got her own prime-time show at Fox in October 2017. She’s an anti-immigrant extremist and a propagator of hate, lies, and misinformation. She’s used her platform on the network to attack school shooting survivors and murder victims. Here are recent examples of extremism on her Fox show, The Ingraham Angle:

    • In April, Ingraham said Democrats want to put conservatives “in a camp.”
    • On March 28, Ingraham and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MI) tried to link gender-affirming care with the mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville.
    • A guest on her March 13 show referred to trans women as a “social contagion.”
    • Like Watters, Ingraham claimed the FBI was rigging elections in a plot to “defeat Republicans.”
    • Ingraham has aggressively pushed covid vaccine misinformation, including recently asking a guest: “Should it even be available to people at this point?”
    • She blamed the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment disaster on diversity initiatives, saying it’s “what happens when you prioritize diversity and equity over competence and experience.”  
    • A guest on Ingraham’s show in January used a story about child abuse to suggest that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children.
    • Last December, she referred to gender-affirming care as “satanic” and separately called trans activists “deeply anti-human.”
  • Pete Hegseth

  • Pete Hegseth is a co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend and a regular presence on Fox. He was instrumental in lobbying the Trump administration for pardons for American service members accused of war crimes and has recently pivoted to stoking right-wing outrage about education.

    • In March, Hegseth called for Republicans to run on getting rid of the Department of Education.
    • Hegseth dismissed January 6 referrals for prosecution as “a pathetic conclusion” to an “always pointless” commission.
    • He said counting ballots in the 2022 Arizona elections was a threat to democracy.
    • Last October, Hegseth claimed the story of the attack on Paul Pelosi “doesn’t add up.”