As reporting revealed that the 18-year-old white gunman who allegedly targeted a Black community in Buffalo, New York, and killed 10 people was motivated by the false, racist belief that white people are being deliberately “replaced” in the United States, several major news organizations pointed out that Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson has been a major influence in mainstreaming the once-fringe belief. But a Media Matters review found that the Sunday and evening news programs from ABC, CBS, and NBC did not mention Carlson's rhetoric, even though they extensively covered the shooting.
On May 14, NBC News extremism reporter Ben Collins explained that the shooter posted a massive screed online which “includes dozens of pages antisemitic and racist memes, repeatedly citing the racist ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory frequently pushed by white supremacists, which falsely claims white people are being ‘replaced’ in America as part of an elaborate Jewish conspiracy theory.”
As Fox News’ biggest star, Carlson has repeatedly promoted this white supremacist lie with the blessings of his Fox Corp. superiors (though he is not the only Fox personality to spread this message). An exhaustive New York Times review published two weeks before the Buffalo shooting found that Carlson pushed this idea in more than 400 episodes of his Fox program. And Carlson’s evil effort to mainstream this lie has been wildly successful: A recent poll found that “about 1 in 3 U.S. adults believes an effort is underway to replace U.S.-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains.” Carlson has continued to push this lie on his Fox show even after the massacre in Buffalo.
Among print newspapers, a New York Times story on the Buffalo suspect's motivation behind the shooting explained that “no public figure has promoted replacement theory more loudly or relentlessly" than Carlson. A Washington Post report noted that Carlson “has championed the ideology” and that he’s “been unapologetic about his discussion of themes underlying the ‘great replacement’ narrative.” Another Post article explained that the “once-fringe racist idea” has been promoted by “media figures such as Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham of Fox News,” and it went into detail about how Carlson and other Fox figures, current and former, have promoted the lie.
Cable news outlets better explained the role that Carlson has played in mainstreaming this hatred. CNN’s John Avlon highlighted the April investigation from the Times, which found Carlson has promoted the racist conspiracy theory hundreds of times.
On MSNBC, Collins explained that “the talking points that underlie this stuff is stuff that you would hear on Tucker Carlson every night” and that extremists refer to Carlson as “our guy,” adding, “They know the dog whistles, and they know what he’s trying to say.”
Unfortunately, broadcast news viewers were almost entirely left in the dark on Fox's and Carlson’s role in spreading this dangerous, racist lie.
SnapStream transcript searches of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News showed no mention of Fox or Carlson on May 16 or 17, even though all three programs heavily covered the shooting and the racist motivation behind it. Transcript searches show that the broadcast networks’ Sunday political talk shows were also left wanting; NBC’s Meet the Press and CBS’ Face the Nation had no mention of Fox or Carlson in relation to the shooting. And on ABC’s This Week, audiences were treated to only a passing mention by anchor George Stephanopoulos that “the great replacement theory is a fixture on Fox News,” with no additional details.
Nearly 20 million Americans watch the broadcast evening news shows, and several million also watch the broadcast networks’ Sunday shows. Viewers are counting on these programs to stay informed. By failing to mention Carlson’s role in mainstreaming the hatred that contributed to this horrific mass shooting, these news programs partially failed their audiences. If cable news programs can provide this information, then surely broadcast news can as well.