Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson emerged in 2018 as the main nexus between mainstream conservative media and the “alt-right.” White supremacist media outlets including The Daily Stormer and podcasts hosted on The Right Stuff gushed over their love for Carlson, and he’s reciprocated by defending white nationalists and elevating their pet issues and online smear campaigns. His dangerous rhetoric reaches into the depths of the extremist right-wing internet news cycle, bringing stories to cable news consumers that they wouldn’t otherwise see, even from other shows on Fox.
Carlson’s coverage of white nationalist issues and figures amounts to an endorsement. Often, his reports include language that is a wink and nod to the online “alt-right” -- but that might go unnoticed by a viewer who isn’t in tune with that community. (Although those viewers who continue to watch his show are nonetheless being indoctrinated, perhaps unwittingly, by extremist views.) Here are some lowlights from Carlson’s year in racist dog whistles to white nationalists, which he used to attempt to justify the cruelest excesses of President Donald Trump’s war on women, racial minorities, and immigrants:
Carlson gave a shoutout to the idea of white “genocide”
Carlson said that a “genocide” was being organized against white men, piggybacking off an online campaign that started on white nationalist message boards. During the Supreme Court confirmation process for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Georgetown University associate professor C. Christine Fair tweeted, “Look at thus (sic) chorus of entitled white men justifying a serial rapist's arrogated entitlement. All of them deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.” Anonymous users on 4chan's “politically incorrect” message board (known as “/pol/”) targeted Fair in a coordinated harassment campaign which eventually spilled over to Twitter and ultimately landed on Carlson’s Fox News show. Carlson’s use of the term “genocide” was a shoutout to white nationalists who falsely claim that white people are being eliminated via migration and social justice movements.
Why the “alt-right” loves it: In mentioning “genocide” in the context of Fair’s tweet, Carlson intentionally adopted the language of white supremacists. The white genocide conspiracy theory is a message heavily pushed by white nationalists, who claim that there is a systematic global conspiracy to wipe out the white race through immigration, also called “the great replacement.” This conspiracy theory has been endorsed by white nationalist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and referenced by “alt-right” marchers in Charlottesville, VA, who chanted, “You will not replace us.” The men who committed the racist massacres at a Charleston, SC, church and a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue were also allegedly motivated by the conspiracy theory.
Carlson continued his long-running campaign against American diversity
Carlson spent much of 2018 parroting white nationalist talking points and lending credence to extremists from all around the world, but a September 7 segment finally caught the attention of many in the mainstream media. In it, Carlson went on a rant attacking even the concept of diversity, questioning whether marriages, military units, or neighbors “get along better” when they “share no common values.” He added that efforts to nurture diversity in America have made it “acceptable, even encouraged, to attack people” because they are white. (The idea of “reverse racism” against white people driven by pro-diversity efforts is a long-running fantasy in the imaginations of white nationalists.)
The backlash against Carlson’s racist diatribe spurred him to issue a series of tweets in which he accused “the organized left” of “lying” about his remarks. But then he doubled down on his claims during the September 10 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight. Carlson’s response drew high praise from white nationalists online, who were thrilled with his initial rant and gleeful at the backlash.
Why the “alt-right” loves it: Carlson’s language in his anti-diversity diatribe was virtually indistinguishable from the way his “alt-right” online colleagues talk. White nationalists have long argued that pro-diversity initiatives at universities and in the job market demonstrate that white people are somehow under attack; the idea serves their broader goal to create sympathy for the concept of a white ethnostate. It’s not like this is something that Carlson just touched on once or twice; he has spent years using Fox to attack the value of diversity in American life.
Carlson fearmongered about white genocide in South Africa
Carlson indirectly created an international incident when he took yet another white nationalist conspiracy theory from the most racist corners of the internet to Fox News -- and then it showed up on the president’s Twitter account. A Carlson segment about land reform in South Africa was the culmination of months of racist agitation by the “alt-right” movement online, which used misleading statistics to create a narrative of an epidemic of violence against white people in South Africa. The campaign was backed by AfriForum, a South African organization opposed to the country's land reforms. The group’s CEO, Kallie Kriel, has denied the harmful consequences of apartheid.
In May, Carlson hosted AfriForum Deputy CEO Ernst Roets on his show as part of the group’s lobbying efforts, which included sending an envoy to the U.S. to meet with leaders in Washington, D.C. This segment was clearly sourced from the online far-right media ecosystem; “alt-right” troll Lauren Southern had released a racist propaganda film about the issue in January, following months of floating the subject around. It was another huge boost to white supremacists when Carlson ran a segment in August calling South African land reform efforts the “definition of racism.” After the president watched and responded positively to the Carlson’s segment in a tweet, this fringe issue moved to center stage in Washington. The story perfectly encapsulates how Carlson’s show serves as a superhighway of exposure for “alt-right” grievances that most media consumers would not be aware of otherwise.
Why the “alt-right” loves it: White supremacists were elated that Trump specified the word “white” in his tweet, and Carlson’s embrace of AfriForum legitimized so-called white civil rights groups.
Carlson defended “alt-right” heroes and memes
Carlson’s show, which launched in November 2016, has been a two-year race to normalize white nationalism and provide extremist activists with a platform to peddle their racism in mainstream conservative media. Here is a short list of Tucker’s ongoing embrace of “alt-right” leaders and issues:
Carlson hosted Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, a far-right British bigot who fearmongers about immigrants running child sex slavery rings or “grooming gangs” and has inspired violence against Muslims in the U.K. Carlson hosted Robinson after he was released from prison in the U.K. following a guilty plea in contempt of court charges. During his appearance, Robinson thanked Carlson and Republicans for helping him in the #FreeTommy campaign. [Media Matters, 8/2/18]
Carlson defended a white nationalist “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist after she was barred from entering the U.K. Carlson took up the cause of “alt-right” Twitter troll Brittany Pettibone and her partner after they were refused entry into the United Kingdom because of their extremist views. Pettibone had planned to interview Tommy Robinson during the thwarted visit. [Media Matters, 3/13/18]
Carlson blamed articles about white privilege for people embracing white nationalism. He said listicles about white privilege from BuzzFeed and The Root might make white people “explode at the unfairness of it all” and “embrace a racial identity.” [Media Matters, 1/3/18]
Carlson called other right-wing figures “foolish” and “cowardly” for not defending Alex Jones and Infowars. After Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and other tech companies removed Infowars’ content from their platforms, Carlson attacked “the institutional right in Washington” for not defending the hateful conspiracy theorist. Beyond peddling outlandish conspiracy theories, Jones frequently employs racist and anti-Semitic commentary. And this wasn’t the first time Carlson came to Jones’ defense on his show. [Media Matters, 8/17/18]
Carlson: “White supremacy is not ubiquitous in America. It’s not a crisis. It’s not even a meaningful category.” After white supremacists gathered for a rally in Washington, D.C., to mark the anniversary of the deadly 2017 “alt-right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, Carlson said there is no white extremist movement in the U.S. and that those who say otherwise are “either delusional or trying to control you with fear, likely both.” [Media Matters, 8/13/18]
Tucker defended Nazi-sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos after he was heckled out of a bar. Carlson brought on Yiannopoulos’ friend Chadwick Moore, who was dining with him that evening. Yiannopoulos has engaged in several stunts in which he engaged in pro-neo-Nazi behavior. [Media Matters, 4/23/18]
Frequent guest and sometimes guest host Mark Steyn has defended white supremacists and promoted a white supremacist novel on Tucker Carlson Tonight. Steyn made overtures to the white nationalist movement by praising a racist novel that is a cultural touchstone of the far-right and defended white supremacists in a separate appearance. In January, Steyn appeared on the program and defended white supremacists because they “are American citizens,” while he criticized “illegal immigrants” as “people who shouldn’t be here.” In an April interview with Carlson, Steyn referenced the French novel The Camp of the Saints, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as the “favorite racist fantasy of the anti-immigrant movement.” Steyn claimed that the racist novel “actually predicted what is happening before our eyes.” [Media Matters, 1/18/18; Media Matters, 4/2/18]
Why the “alt-right” loves it: Carlson has defended white nationalist figures and aired their views during prime time when no one else would.
Carlson stoked fears of “demographic change”
Carlson spent much of 2018 fearmongering about “demographic change” in the U.S., whipping up white resentment against immigrants and people of color through his coverage of imaginary “voter fraud.” In July, Carlson claimed that Russian election interference is insignificant because Mexico is “routinely interfering in our elections by packing the electorate.” The next day, he said that “Latin American countries are changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this country, at a rate that American voters consistently say they don't want.” He also said Democrats have been “plotting, in effect, a coup” through immigration policy.
Carlson has relied heavily on white identity politics to get him through the year: He attacked ethnic diversity for “radically and permanently changing our country” and inexplicably claimed that California is turning into “a third-world country” because “the overwhelming majority” of recent immigrants “have come from Latin America.” In April, Carlson launched yet another racist attack on his show when he falsely claimed that “terrorism is a largely immigrant phenomena” and blamed Europe because “they imported a bunch of people from a part of the world that doesn’t share their values.” Perhaps most revealing was his assertion during a rant about immigration that America used to be “a better country” when it was “more cohesive.”
Why the “alt-right” loves it: Fearmongering about demographic change in America and across Europe feeds into the delusional fantasy of the “great replacement,” a term attributed to Renaud Camus, a French writer who believes that migrants are coming to displace white people in Europe and radically reshape Western civilization. Carlson has taken up the mantle of this conspiracy theory on his show, linking it to poor migrant families seeking asylum on America’s southern border with Mexico. White supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) also played footsie with the idea in a recent interview with a far-right publication in Austria. Presenting “demographic change” as a threat to white people fits in with the conspiracy theory of a white “genocide,” another idea that Carlson has endorsed on his show.
Carlson dog-whistled in defense of a platform for hate speech following the Pittsburgh synagogue attack
Carlson used the attack in Pittsburgh, PA, in which 11 Jewish people were murdered at a synagogue to defend an online safe haven for white nationalists that the suspect had frequented. Just before the massacre, alleged shooter Robert Bowers posted on the social media platform Gab, a hub of extremist content where Bowers shared anti-Semitic conspiracy theories with other members of the “alt-right.” The backlash against Gab following the shooting resulted in the platform losing its web hosting service and payment processor, making the site temporarily unavailable.
Carlson covered the aftermath of the shooting by dog-whistling to Gab users. He opened his October 29 show by saying that journalists covering the shooting were committing “moral blackmail” by “blaming you and your opinions for the crime.” This bizarre pivot to claim that there is a crackdown on “what you are allowed to say and think” was an underhanded response to the negative attention that Gab received in the wake of the most deadly anti-Semitic attack in American history.
This monologue wasn’t the first time Carlson has promoted Gab. He hosted the site’s founder, Andrew Torba, on his show in September 2017, and he also promoted a similar platform in February of this year.
Why the “alt-right” loves it: Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right,” has admitted that white supremacists have appropriated the cause of free speech as a tactic to defend the hate and incitement they espouse. Still, Carlson takes up the cause of extremists and normalizes the harmful impact of racist speech when he inaccurately argues that there is a free speech crisis on social media platforms targeting the right.
Carlson ignored the harm white supremacists cause to focus on imaginary “reverse racism”
While promoting his latest book on The Rubin Report in October, Carlson claimed that there's “structural racism” in the U.S. against white people. This largely sums up Carlson’s coverage of race -- the only victims of racism are white people, primarily white men. In April, he compared college affirmative action policies to “the Jim Crow south.” When The New York Times hired tech journalist Sarah Jeong, Carlson held up some of Jeong’s controversial tweets as examples of “being cruel to white men” and “racism against white people.” He covered Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination process by claiming that reports of sexual assault against the nominee exposed “race hatred” of white people that could lead to “some kind of conflict,” and he said that the investigation process was about “punishing everyone who looks like Brett Kavanaugh.” In June, Carlson even claimed that the Starbucks anti-bias training held after two Black men were racially profiled in a store in Philadelphia was an attack on white people. He said that “what Starbucks is teaching us is that certain groups are more prone to racism than others, and that’s a lie” because “no group has a monopoly on racism in this or any other country, and to suggest otherwise is itself racist.” Of course, Carlson failed to mention that no white people were targeted at the Philadelphia Starbucks, and that white people are not targeted by the everyday racial profiling that people of color experience.
Why the “alt-right” loves it: The idea that white people are the victim of “reverse racism” is a central grievance of white nationalists. The apocalyptic language that Carlson uses to describe the imaginary phenomenon -- such as suggesting “reverse racism” could cause violent conflict -- leans into the white identity politics of the “alt-right.”
Carlson campaigned to end birthright citizenship
In October, Axios reported that “President Trump plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on U.S. soil.” The media took the story and ran with it, repeating Trump’s baseless claim without pointing out that legal analysts overwhelmingly reject the argument that the president could abolish birthright citizenship through executive order.
Carlson had attacked birthright citizenship long before the Trump-Axios interview came out, but he took things to a whole different level after it -- launching a full-scale campaign against the 14th Amendment, which is widely understood to enshrine the birthright citizenship right. Carlson opened his October 30 show by calling birthright citizenship a “scam” that allows the country “to be relentlessly exploited” and forced to “side with foreigners over its own people.” The monologue also included a tirade against “birth tourism,” an industry he claims includes “specialists” who help people have children in the U.S. to gain citizenship. Afterward, he hosted Michael Anton, a former Trump official and lecturer at the right-wing Hillsdale College, to talk about an op-ed he wrote for The Washington Post arguing that birthright citizenship is an open legal question and is based on a misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment.
Why the “alt-right” loves it: White nationalists love the idea of ending birthright citizenship because they want to establish an all-white ethnostate, and excluding the children of immigrants from the benefit of legal protections would move them closer to that goal. The “alt-right” wants to follow through on the lie -- promoted by guests on Carlson’s show -- that immigrants come to America to have “anchor babies” by denying them citizenship and subjecting them to potentially deadly deportations. White nationalists want a state whose central function is to eliminate immigrants and people of color by any means necessary, and ending birthright citizenship serves that end.
Carlson defended Trump’s racist “shithole” attacks on foreign countries
After Trump called Haiti, El Salvador, and some African nations “shithole countries,” right-wing media rushed to defend his obviously racist remarks. Carlson was especially elated to rise to the challenge. He said that immigrants are coming from places that are “dangerous” and “dirty,” and he claimed that “President Trump said something that almost every single person in America actually agrees with.” Carlson also decried the media’s negative coverage, saying, “If we have gotten to the point where we all have to pretend that every country is exactly as nice as every other country, then we are being dishonest.”
Why the “alt-right” loves it: As neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer’s coverage of Trump’s “shithole” comments made clear, the “alt-right” loves it when Trump says racist stuff. When Carlson backs him up, it’s like a double rainbow for racists.
Carlson hosted a “Men in America” series during Women’s History Month
This list of Carlson’s white nationalist talking points wouldn’t be complete without pointing out that white supremacy is steeped in misogyny. It makes sense then that during Women’s History Month in March, Carlson dedicated a weekly segment to covering the issues specifically affecting men. The series mostly consisted of blaming women and immigrants for problems impacting men, like when he tied infertility to immigration. In a segment with Jordan Peterson, favorite professor of the “alt-right,” Carlson denied the existence of a wage gap between men and women and suggested that it’s possible that women are actually making more than men. Eventually he just declared, “The patriarchy is gone, women are winning, men are failing.”
Why the “alt-right” loves it: The men’s rights movement shares members with the white supremacist movement because many of their political goals are the same. White supremacy requires that white men are singularly in charge of the levers of power and that white women serve as handmaidens to that effort. By erasing the importance of women’s history and ignoring economic disparities that disproportionately impact women of color, Carlson joins these reactionary movements in suppressing pleas to end sexual violence and the economic exploration of women and gender-nonconforming people.