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Poll: Fox’s Carlson Driving Republican Racial Agenda

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A recent survey by Punchbowl News and Locust Street Group found that 87 percent of GOP congressional aides considered Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson to be "the most influential Republican voice" outside of lawmakers and former presidents or vice presidents. The survey highlights the conservative star's meteoric rise in both right-wing media and Republican politics: The GOP has hitched its policy wagon to Tucker Carlson Tonight at the same time that Fox has gone all-in on branding Carlson as the face of the network. And the result is waves of culture war political posturing by Republicans that is informing everything from their tweets to legislation.

Fox has long been the communications arm for the GOP, and the revolving door between the Trump administration and the network laid bare the extent of the ties between the channel and Republican policymaking. With Donald Trump now out of office, the close relationship between Fox and the GOP continues -- with Tucker Carlson's monologues effectively becoming the party platform.

In April, the Republican Party released a memo outlining its intention to keep the party aligned with Trump and their mutual cheerleaders at Fox. The platform highlighted GOP priorities such as "anti-wokeness," the threat of China, and anti-conservative bias in Big Tech. The "traditional" issues of conservative politics -- taxes, deregulation, the national debt -- had disappeared, replaced by a list that reads more like a teaser for an hour of Fox News prime time.

Carlson has been curating the political priorities of his viewers for years. With an unofficial position as assignment editor to conservatism and a trademark "someone should do something" manner of presentation, Carlson has the ability to catapult virtually any topic to the top of the agenda. For instance, the recent panic over critical race theory that has seemingly possessed school districts overnight would have been impossible without Fox and Carlson. Notably, Carlson was responsible for platforming the harebrained drivel of Christopher Rufo, who served as director of the "initiative on critical race theory" at the Manhattan Institute and recently admitted that the goal of the hysterics is to turn the phrase into a dog whistle for myriad conservative grievances

In recent years, Rufo has made at least 15 appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight -- the same show which has dedicated at least 71 segments to attacking critical race theory since June 5, 2020.

And it's not just Rufo using appearances on Carlson's show to get his message out; Republican politicians are also showing up to kiss the ring. In the last 18 months, they include GOP Sens. Josh Hawley (28 appearances), John Kennedy (13), Tom Cotton (8), and Marco Rubio (5), embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz (17), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (8), and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (6).

And Carlson has used their appearances to drive the manic coverage of a network that regularly sets the public agenda for GOP legislators. For example, a bill recently proposed by Republican state lawmakers sought to ban the teaching of critical race theory and enshrine "traditional history" in Texas' education system. Exactly what "traditional history" represents in this case, however, remains largely undefined. Instead, the bill and its components are a response to a fear manufactured by right-wing media. In other words, they echo long-standing tropes in the Fox cinematic universe: accusations that honest discussions about race are attempts at indoctrination or to rewrite history, suggestions that inclusive education is an attack on white students, and complaints that white people are the true victims of racism in America.

Curiously, the flurry of legislation in Texas and other states that would ban teaching "critical race theory" and other ideologies exists alongside ever-growing claims of anti-conservative censorship and repression that have swept Republicans over the course of the last year, with fearmongering from Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight at the center of both.

The contrived panic behind the Texas bill and others like it is emblematic of the legislative process of the modern GOP. In that process, Fox, led by frontman Carlson, latches onto an issue and carves it into the consciousness of viewers, leveraging their reach and influence to pull elected Republicans into the fold or drag them along if need be. Attacks on critical race theory are only the tip of the iceberg.

In just the first three months of this year, Fox News aired at least 72 segments on trans athletes, with Tucker Carlson Tonight once again setting the tone for the network's coverage. At the same time, a record-breaking number of anti-trans bills were also introduced in the United States this year, as at least 33states considered such measures and governors signed legislation against trans athletes into law in Arkansas,Mississippi, and Tennessee. Carlson himself gave cover to this extreme anti-trans legislation by lying about medical care for trans youth, and he even went so far as to describe the existence of trans people as "a challenge to the perpetuation of the species."

But the Fox host is also willing to attack Republican officials who didn't comply with his vision of the party platform. He savaged Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in April for his initial veto of an anti-trans health care bill that the GOP leader described as a "step way too far." The month before, Carlson targeted South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem over "whether she was 'caving' to the NCAA by not signing a bill barring transgender women from competing in women's sports." Carlson followed up interviews with both Republican governors by continuing to criticize them in subsequent episodes, with right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ figures echoing his attacks.

Carlson has emerged as the unequivocal leader of the Republican Party's war on democracy. From his Fox perch, he often railed against the pandemic-led increase in mail-in voting throughout 2020, often getting facts blatantly wrong. Weeks before the election, he launched a conspiracy theory that a cabal of Democrats were planning to use such ballots to launch a coup, clearly setting the stage for what was to come.

When it turned out that Trump lost and Biden won, Carlson continued with the lies, only embarrassing himself further. He briefly criticized Sidney Powell's election conspiracy theories, only to later suck up toPowell associate, and Carlson's leading advertiser, Mike Lindell for pushing virtually identical lies about the election. Carlson was named in Dominion's lawsuit against Fox News. On January 4, Carlson claimed"virtually every power center on Earth" rigged the election for Biden.

And then the January 6 attack happened.

Carlson immediately set up his show as a spin room for a defense of the insurrectionists as people protecting their rights, declared that the attackers were not terrorists and it was not an insurrection, suggested that antifa was behind it, mocked people who feared for their life, launched a conspiracy theory about additional security after the attack, lied about white supremacist involvement, and demanded "answers" to his question while attacking efforts to establish an investigative commission.

Carlson then somehow hit a new nadir in recent days. Jumping off a blog post from a former Trump speechwriter fired after attending a white nationalist conference, Carlson claimed that the federal government was behind the January 6 attack on the Capitol building. Of course, he and his source were blatantly misreading charging documents, but Carlson was undeterred.

The claim was immediately picked up by some Republicans. Embattled congressional representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greencalled for an investigation into the FBI, a stark contrast to the established anti-commission position of Republicans. As conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones jumped on board, Carlson is suddenly leading a "truther" movement about the attack.

The canary in the coal mine for this particular conspiracy theory was Carlson laughing about a plot during the height of the pandemic by right-wing extremists to kidnap Democractic governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.

And perhaps no area has Carlson's influence over GOP posturing been more clear than the COVID-19 pandemic. Carlson took the stance that COVID-19 should be apolitical and addressed with seriousness at the very start of the public health crisis. But then he spent the next 15 months acting as the misinformer-in-chief. After declaring the pandemic over in April 2020, Carlson joined other Fox hosts to promote untested antimalarial drugs; championed protests against coronavirus mitigation efforts; ignored the climbing U.S. death toll and baselessly suggested it may have been exaggerated; mocked warnings of future casualties; accused Bill Gates of attempting to engineer "mass social control"; claimed the CDC's vaccine distribution plan was "eugenics" against white people; denounced public health measures and the scientists who supported them; and helped turn face masks into a culture war flashpoint.

Carlson's influence throughout the pandemic was key to turning public health and safety measures into high-stakes battles for the soul of the republic -- not only in the minds of his audience but also among prominentelected Republicans.

More recently, Carlson has insinuated that the vaccines may not be safe or effective and that scientists who say otherwise are lying. Clips of Carlson promoting anti-vaccine rhetoric have spread widely across social media, earning millions of views on Facebook. His recent claim that the COVID-19 vaccine was killing dozens of people a day was the culmination of months of speculation and fearmongering.

So what does it mean that the most influential voice in Republican politics trafficks in white nationalism, conspiracy theories, and outright falsehoods while at the same time wielding the power to shape public and legislative opinion? The GOP now largely has to deal with issues on Fox's terms, and Carlson's bad-faith hysterics over critical race theory, transgender people, the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter, anti-fascism, immigration, and myriad other issues have created a climate in which legislative priorities do not match the tangible needs of the American people. Instead, conservative politics has been consumed by a feverish race to the far-right on issues that appear in Fox News' prime time -- with Tucker Carlson setting the agenda and enforcing the new party orthodoxy.

Tucker Carlson Tries To Start A 1/6 ‘Truther' Movement (Of The Stupid)

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks came the so-called "9/11 Truth" movement, whose adherents claimed that the attacks had actually been an "inside job" perpetrated by the U.S. government. This crackpottery had few prominent advocates, but enough Americans bought into it to lift up people like Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist radio host who has claimed that the feds used "controlled demolitions" to bring down the World Trade Center and whose website has described him as one of the "founding fathers" of the movement.

Nearly two decades later, the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by violent Trumpists has generated new cries of an inside job. But this time, the conspiracy theory is backed by the most-watched host on cable news, Fox News prime-time star Tucker Carlson.

On Tuesday, Carlson alleged that "some of the key people who participated on January 6 have not been charged," citing charging documents in which "the government calls those people unindicted co-conspirators." He then exclaimed: "What does that mean? Well, it means that in potentially every single case they were FBI operatives. Really? In the Capitol on January 6?"

Carlson was citing a report from Revolver News' Darren Beattie, who he then brought on. Beattie is not a credible source -- he left his job at the Trump White House after CNN asked about him speaking at a 2016 conference alongside well-known white nationalists. But even Beattie suggested that Carlson was taking his work too far -- when Carlson said that his piece explains that "the FBI was organizing the riots of January 6," he replied that it only "suggests that possibility."

In fact, this theory, which rests on the premise that "unindicted co-conspirators" are by definition "FBI operatives," collapses with the slightest scrutiny, and suggests that Carlson either a) lacks a basic understanding of federal investigations or b) thinks his viewers are rubes.

"Legal experts say the government literally cannot name an undercover agent as an unindicted co-conspirator," The Washington Post's Aaron Blake reported in a filleting of Carlson's segment, pointing out that better explanations for the unindicted conspirators include that they might be cooperating with the federal government. Blake noted that while it's not literally impossible that the government is violating that stricture, there's also no evidence to believe that is the case.

But Carlson doubled down on Wednesday, stating as fact, "The events of January 6 ... were at least in part organized and carried out in secret by people connected to federal law enforcement." Again, there's no evidence at all for this, but Carlson nonetheless said, "It's hard to think of a bigger potential scandal than this one." Taking the conspiracy theory a step further, he went on to allege that the government won't release Capitol surveillance footage of the riot because "people they know are on the tape."

Carlson is one of the most powerful figures in the modern right. He is the face of Fox and an increasingly influential force in Republican politics. When he takes a stand, others follow. His January 6 conspiracy theory quickly drew support from far-right influencers and media figures and even GOP members of Congress.

The Fox host's "false flag" theory fits into a broad and largely successful effort by elements of the GOP and right-wing press to confuse the public and shatter the initial, fragile consensus that the events of January 6 had been bad and reflected poorly on then-President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Carlson himself has sought to create an alternate-reality version of the events of the day, denying that it was an "insurrection" that featured the involvement of violent right-wingers including Proud Boys and white supremacists.

In his initial response to the riots, Carlson validated the concerns of the perpetrators, but nonetheless said that they went too far.

"What happened at the Capitol last Wednesday was wrong," he said on January 14. "We've said that very clearly at the time. We've said it very clearly every day since. And we'll continue to say it."

But he did not continue to say it. As those events passed further into memory, he shifted how he talked about them. Here's how he started his April 6 broadcast, in a monologue dripping with sarcasm:

Today is the three-month anniversary of January 6. For those of you who aren't good at dates or don't have calendars, this is the day that we pause to remember the white supremacist QAnon insurrection that came so very close to toppling our government and ending this democracy forever.
You saw what happened. It was carried live on television, every gruesome moment. A mob of older people from unfashionable ZIP codes somehow made it all the way to Washington, D.C., probably by bus.
They wandered freely through the Capitol like it was their building or something. They didn't have guns, but a lot of them had extremely dangerous ideas. They talked about the Constitution and something called their rights.
Some of them made openly seditious claims. They insisted, for example, that the last election was not entirely fair. The whole thing was terrifying.

And now, Carlson has become a founding father of the 1/6 Truth movement. It's winning him plaudits from his predecessor, Jones, who took credit on Wednesday for alerting Carlson to Beattie's story. That could be a lie -- Jones is a liar, after all -- but Carlson has previously sourced footage from one of Jones' employees, and he appeared regularly on Jones' show as recently as 2015.

"I made the decision not to get into this until it broke on Tucker because I thought he'd do a better job than I did," Jones explained. "He did. He did a great job."

Shortly after, he brought on Beattie to discuss the same theory he had detailed for Fox's audience.

Does Lara Trump Belong In Jail? Twitter Says Yes

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Guillermo Garcia, a soccer coach, was fundraising for his daughter's soccer team outside of an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on August 3, 2019 when a white supremacist opened fire, killing him and 22 others in what The New York Times called "the deadliest anti-Latino attack in modern American history." El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen told The Dallas Morning News that Patrick Crusius, who was 21 years old at the time, purchased a 7.62 mm caliber gun and drove some 10 hours west from Allen, Texas, to carry out the massacre.

But when Lara Trump—former President Donald Trump's daughter-in-law and former senior adviser to the regrettable ex-president—described potential violence at the southern border, the victims in El Paso apparently couldn't have been further from her mind. She invoked racist sentiments while describing immigrants in an interview Saturday on Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine.

"And I don't know what you tell the people that live at the southern border," Lara Trump said. "I guess they better arm up and get guns and be ready, and maybe they're gonna have to take matters into their own hands.

"It should never happen. These people should never make this dangerous journey here."

Her remarks follow a warning from Vice President Kamala Harris to Guatemalans on her first trip abroad since being elected to the White House. "I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come," she said last Monday. "Do not come." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later clarified Harris' message. "What the vice president was simply conveying is that there's more work to be done, that we don't have these systems in place yet," Psaki told reporters last Tuesday. "It's still a dangerous journey, as we've said many times from here and from many forums before, and we need more time to get the work done to ensure that asylum processing is where it should be."

That's not exactly the message Lara Trump was conveying, and social media users underlined that difference. Russell Foster, who's running for Congress in Texas, tweeted on Tuesday: "This is dangerous. The former president's daughter-in-law is calling for people to shoot immigrants. It's worse after multiple mass shootings over the last few days in Texas & elsewhere. This could lead to an uptick in hate crimes across the country." Author John Pavlovitz called Lara Trump a "violent" extremist "who belongs in prison" in a tweet Monday.

Read more social media responses to Lara Trump's remarks below:

With Murdoch’s Encouragement, Carlson Promotes White Nationalist ‘Replacement’ Theory

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

When Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch replied in April to the firestorm caused by his star Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, passionately invoking the "great replacement" conspiracy theory favored by white nationalists, Murdoch chose to lie.

"A full review of the guest interview indicates that Mr. Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory," Murdoch wrote. This was obviously and insultingly false. Carlson had explicitly endorsed its core tenets during the April 8 segment, saying that "the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World." White nationalists themselves knew better: They praised the Fox host for bringing their talking points to his massive audience.

His boss' dishonest comment was a green light for Carlson to continue to promote that conspiracy theory -- and the host took it as such. Over the past two months, as Carlson became the face of Fox, "replacement" has proven a dominant theme of his program. It also spread to other Fox personalities and, increasingly, to Republican political operatives and politicians as well. Given Carlson's sway over both his network and the GOP, that trend is likely to continue.

Here are eight examples of Carlson pushing the white nationalist "great replacement" theory in the two months since Murdoch claimed that he had actually repudiated it, most recently on Monday night. While Carlson is generally careful not to directly say that Democrats want white people replaced by nonwhite ones, his remarks -- referencing migrants from Congo, Haiti, and across the U.S.-Mexico border -- leave no one confused that that is what he is talking about.

June 7: "How did migrants get from Congo to Lewiston, Maine, and why?" Carlson asked about President Joe Biden's immigration policy. "Well, because [Biden White House adviser] Susan Rice and ideologues like her very much want to change Maine's demographics as well as the population mix in every other state in the union." He went on to accuse Democratic leaders of "importing huge numbers of new voters into the United States" because they "no longer believe in democracy as constituted, and they definitely don't plan to lose another election," calling this "the most radical possible attack on the core premise of democracy."

May 24: After the Biden administration extended temporary protected status preventing the removals of Haitian nationals residing in the U.S. who fled following a 2010 earthquake in that country, Carlson accused the Democrats of "trying to change the population of the United States, and they hate it when you say that because it's true, but that's exactly what they are doing." During the segment, a chyron read, "Dems want to import millions of new voters."

May 21: Responding to a guest who claimed that COVID-19 case counts were spiking in border states due to migrants spreading the virus, Carlson commented, "Public health doesn't apply when we're changing the demographic mix to favor the Democratic Party."

April 30: Carlson accused Democrats of "an attack on our democracy" because "they only care about stacking the electorate." He added: "They want to change who votes, so they win. They're diluting the votes of Americans, of all backgrounds, and that is an attack on democracy, period."

April 29: Carlson described the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 as "an assault on democracy, a permanent one." The law repealed the national origins quota system that "was designed to favor Western and Northern European countries and drastically limit admission of immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Southern and Eastern Europe," according to the Migration Policy Institute. Carlson explained: "That law completely changed the composition of America's voter rolls, purely to benefit the Democratic Party." (In fact, the bill passed by huge bipartisan margins, and Republican presidential nominees won five of the next six elections.)

April 21: After Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) responded to Rep. Scott Perry's (R-PA) invocation of the "great replacement" theory by tweeting, "with every passing year, there will be more people who look like me in the US," Carlson glossed Lieu's remarks as follows: "In other words, you're being replaced, and there's nothing you can do about it. So, shut up."

April 15: Carlson claimed that Democrats "are changing everything, whether we like it or not," including "a brand-new national population." He called that a "revolution" reminiscent of how "Germany got Hitler."

April 12: The day after Murdoch sent his letter claiming that Carlson had actually repudiated "replacement" theory, Carlson said on his program that "the secret to the entire immigration debate" is that "demographic change is the key to the Democratic Party's political ambitions. In order to win and maintain power, Democrats plan to change the population of the country." He added, "All across the country, we have seen huge changes in election outcomes caused by demographic change."

Over the same period, Carlson has also claimed that immigration "makes the country more volatile," that migration across the U.S.-Mexico border should trigger "a real insurrection," and that Democrats who supposedly support open borders "hate" America" and are "trying to destroy it."

Incendiary, xenophobic rhetoric like Carlson's can have dire consequences. Murdoch's statement came in response to a letter from the Anti-Defamation League's Jonathan Greenblatt, who noted that the theory Carlson espoused on April 8 is linked to "explosive hate crimes, most notably the hate-motivated mass shooting attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway and El Paso, as well as in Christchurch, New Zealand."

Indeed, those terrorist attacks came after Carlson and others at Fox embraced the same theory in 2018 and 2019.