New Delhi: Anti-vaxxer, anti-immigrant, an advocate of the border wall with Mexico, calls Joe Biden ‘an unparalleled disaster‘ — this is not a description of Donald Trump but that of the eponymous host of America’s most popular cable news show in April 2022, ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ on Fox News.
The last time most Indians would have heard of Tucker Carlson was when American TV host John Oliver referred to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami as the “the Tucker Carlson of India” in 2020.
A prominent voice of the American Right, Carlson’s distinguished career includes interviews with world leaders such as El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Ever since Trump’s loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential elections, Tucker Carlson has emerged as the torchbearer of ‘Trumpism’ — the political ideology floated by the Republican former President.
In an interview with Carlson, conservative political commentator Dave Rubin — who thinks “being progressive is a mental disorder” — had said: “I would say now that Trump has stepped aside. The hatred that was directed towards him, is now directed towards you because you are carrying the torch for some of these ideas.”
ThePrint chronicles Carlson’s rise to the top of the American Right and TV ratings.
Tucker has repeatedly downplayed the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, even claiming, “There is no evidence that white supremacists were responsible for what happened… That’s a lie.”
This, despite overwhelming evidence suggesting that many of those involved in the attack had ties to white supremacy groups. “White supremacists and extremists were responsible for more attacks than any other domestic extremist movement between 2000 and 2016,” a 2017 document by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security had revealed.
While Donald Trump had publicly refused to denounce the prevalence of white supremacy in America during a presidential debate in 2020, Carlson famously said during a show in 2019 that “white supremacy is a hoax”.
After he faced backlash from the Right for calling the 6 January Capitol riot a “terrorist attack” earlier this year, Republican Senator Ted Cruz rushed to Tucker Carlson Tonight and issued an apology, in an interview where Carlson was visibly angry about his comments.
Black Lives Matter
On 25 May 2020, George Floyd, an African-American man, was choked to death by a police officer in the streets of Minneapolis, reigniting the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign nationwide. Despite the movement resonating with people across the globe, Donald Trump had termed it a “symbol of hate”.
Carlson, on expected lines, referred to those demonstrating against George Floyd’s death as a “criminal mob”. The Fox News anchor faced backlash for his comments more than once, and some advertisers, giving in to public pressure, even cut ties with the network.
But the next month, his show shattered all records to become “the most-watched show in cable news history” by drawing a staggering number of 4.331 million (43.31 lakh) viewers in that particular quarter in 2020.
‘Make America Great Again’
To his credit, Tucker Carlson had predicted Trump’s victory in a presidential election much before most other pundits.
“The main reason Trump could win is because he’s the only candidate hard enough to call Hillary’s bluff. Republicans will say almost anything about Hillary, but almost none challenge her basic competence. She may be evil, but she’s tough and accomplished. This we know, all of us,” Carlson wrote in January 2016, even before Trump won the Republican party nomination.
But now, with Trump gone, Carlson has taken on the mantle of Trumpism.
Commenting on the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Carlson said earlier this month: “Saving Ukraine is not their (Democrats’) goal. In fact, the war in Ukraine is to cause regime change in Moscow. They want to topple the Russian government. That will be the payback for the 2016 (presidential) elections.”
On the issue of vaccines, many believe Carlson’s stance is far more radical than Trump’s own. While Trump has acknowledged that he has taken not just the jab but also the booster shot, Tucker has refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19. “Vaccines are counterproductive and bad,” Tucker said in an interview with Dave Rubin.
America’s most-watched conservative TV show host also refers to immigrants as “illegal aliens”. Many observers have noted that Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign was somewhat closely timed with the launch of Carlson’s show on Fox News in late 2016. While the campaign played a part in winning Trump the presidency, Carlson’s anti-immigrant rhetoric can be credited for his staggering viewership.
An analysis of 1,150 episodes of ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight‘ by The New York Times revealed that Carlson invoked “ruling class 800 times”. In over 400 episodes, he propounded the idea that “democratic politicians and others want to force demographic changes through immigration”. Carlson also spoke about “discrimination against white people and minimum racism against people of colour in at least 600 episodes”.
“Since Mr Trump left office, Mr Carlson has become the ideological enforcer of conservative pluralism,” read the NYT report.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)