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Tucker Carlson's Embarrassing Arizona Face-Plant

Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s favorite candidates have been shut out in Arizona. After days of counting – which Carlson insinuated could indicate fraud – news outlets, including Fox, project that Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) won reelection over venture capital executive Blake Masters, while the state’s Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs defeated former newscaster Kari Lake for the governor’s seat.

Carlson is a powerful GOP player who helps set the party’s strategy and choose its candidates. But the Arizona results are a case study in how his influence hurt the Republican effort in midterm elections: He is a weirdo and the candidates he likes best tend to share his bizarre fixations, which alienates voters.

Arizona’s races were very winnable for the state’s Republicans. In 2020, President Joe Biden won the state by 10,457 votes, the smallest vote margin of the cycle, while Kelly was narrowly elected to the U.S. Senate over then-Sen. Martha McSally, with just over 51 percent. With Kelly running for reelection in a more challenging midterm environment, Republicans should have had a good opportunity to take back the seat while holding the governorship, where Republicans Gov. Doug Ducey, who won by 14 points in 2018, was term-limited.

But Arizona’s Republican primary electorate demanded Carlson-style candidates, and they got them. The Fox host’s endorsement helped secure the nomination for Masters, the 35-year-old protege of fascist tech billionaire Peter Thiel. Masters went on to run a terminally online campaign against Kelly heavy on Fox-friendly culture war salvoes. And Carlson fawned over Lake, an election-denier with ties to Nazi sympathizers and QAnon figures who campaigned against “monsters” in the press and promised journalists on Election Day to be “your worst fricking nightmare.” Each received both fulsome praise and regular airtime on Carlson’s show – Masters was even the beneficiary of a hagiographic Carlson documentary days before Election Day.

Lake and Masters’ schtick may have been attractive for Carlson and the Republican primary voters he influences, but in the general election, the state chose more normal people.

Carlson assured his viewers before the election that an Arizona annihilation would be part of the “humiliating repudiation” he predicted for Democrats – and that only election fraud could explain a different result. “If [the election] is fair, Kari Lake’s going to win,” he alleged on October 20. “It looks like Blake Masters is going to win,” he claimed on October 26. But Carlson dramatically misjudged the electorate’s support for a candidate like himself – their opponents, Hobbs and Kelly, took leads on election night and never relinquished them.

The Fox host responded by predicting eventual victory, then sowing doubt and distrust about the legitimacy of the election results as their odds of winning dissipated. He was on vacation on Monday, so we will have to wait for his return to assess which stage of grief he has made it to.

Wednesday, November 9: Denial

Carlson lashed out at Republican leaders when the promised “red tsunami” failed to materialize. But before he even started pointing fingers the night after Election Day, he assured his viewers of a silver lining in the Copper State.

“At this point, it seems likely that both Kari Lake and Blake Masters will win,” he said, as on-screen text stressed the same point.

Carlson then pivoted to criticizing Arizona election officials for the timetable they said would be necessary to finish counting the votes.

Later in the program, Carlson brought on Lake for an interview. “Where do you think you are in this?” he asked. “Well, I feel a hundred percent certain I'm going to win. The question is how big will that win be?” she replied.

That was not the question.

Thursday, November 10: Anger

For the second night in a row, Carlson opened his show by talking about the Arizona races. But this time he did not offer confidence that his candidates had triumphed, and instead lashed out at Arizona election officials for failing to report the results swiftly enough for him.

Carlson described Arizona’s tally as “beneath Third World,” insinuated that the similar delay in vote-counting in 2018 covered up fraud that led to McSally’s defeat, and called the failure to report the result on election night “an actual attack on democracy.”

Carlson returned to the subject later in the program. “Arizona election officials continue to claim updated vote totals any minute. They're obviously not embarrassed by how long this is taking tonight. They should be ashamed,” he claimed.

After airing a clip of Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chairman Bill Gates calling the count, “very standard,” Carlson ranted: “Where's the groveling? Where's the ‘I'm sorry, I can't believe I screwed up your democracy,’ which we all pretend to care so much about? We can't even count the votes on time. Despite the fact your county has a four and a half billion dollar annual budget, but we can't count votes.”

Carlson concluded by complaining about someone else’s lack of contrition: “Why don't you apologize? Let's start there. They never will, ever.”

Carlson then brought on Arizona political consultant Constantin Querard, a Republican, who argued that “Kari Lake is in a very strong position right now” and that state Republicans are “still pretty optimistic about Masters' chances.” But Carlson, unassuaged, pivoted back to the counting.

“If this were happening in Guinea Bissau, I can promise you the U.S. State Department would say this election is questionable. They would,” he said. “But it's not Guinea Bissau, it is Arizona.”

Friday, November 11: Bargaining And Depression

Yet again, Carlson started his show with the ongoing Arizona vote count, which he portrayed as inexplicably difficult to comprehend and perhaps illegitimate.

“There is still drama, confusion, really chaos in the state of Arizona tonight, stemming from Tuesday's elections,” he said. “How are the officials in charge of this ‘election’ responding? It's hard to know from afar.”

Carlson brought on Lake, who remained confident about the results, saying, “We're less than a point away from our opponent. And we think it's going to start turning and turning quickly, and we believe we're going to win … with a nice padding actually.”

But the Fox host had already turned to trying to delegitimize the election. “So your opponent is the secretary of state,” he said. “She didn't campaign much and she didn't seem like she needed to campaign a lot. She never debated you. And some are smirking online that well, of course, she was always confident in her victory. What's your view of that very common take on the race?”

Carlson went on to complain that Hobbs had failed to “recuse herself for appearance sake,” and suggested big changes were necessary to restore faith in elections. “My view is: eliminate absentee ballots, except for you know, the tiny percentage who really need them,” he said. “This is crazy. And it really is hurting people's view of democracy.”

Carlson then turned to the Senate election. “Blake Masters is running in the other big race in the State of Arizona, which like the Governor's race is still nowhere near being settled. Masters says he can still win his race,” he said.

He then introduced Masters to provide what on-screen text described as his “path to victory.” This involved a dubious claim that some Maricopa County ballots might have been counted twice and a lot of bleating about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell failing to provide his campaign with enough support.

Roughly two hours later, Fox’s Decision Desk called the race for Kelly.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

After Midterm Flop, Furious Carlson Rages At GOP Leaders (Except Himself)

Fox News star Tucker Carlson used Wednesday night’s broadcast to demand accountability over the GOP’s lackluster showing in the midterm elections.

“Republicans swore they were going to sweep a red tsunami. That's what they told us and we, to be honest, cautiously believed them, but they did not sweep, not even close to sweeping,” he complained. “The people whose job it was to win but did not win should go do something else now. We're speaking specifically of the Republican leadership of the House and the Senate and of the RNC.”

The problem with Carlson’s analysis is that Carlson, himself, is an influential GOP leader who bears responsibility for the party’s failings. He remains a key adviser to former President Donald Trump. He endorsed Republican candidates in the midterms and helped them win the party’s nomination. He suggested the midterms communications strategy that the GOP ultimately adopted. He can get top Republicans on the phone with ease and the party’s political operatives fear the prospect of him attacking their clients. By his own account, he and his colleagues provided a platform during the elections where “Republicans can communicate their message unencumbered.” Tonight, he will give the keynote address at an event for a faction that constitutes the majority of House Republicans.

He is the party establishment.

Carlson’s outsized influence in the GOP is a problem for the party. Any TV political talking head is likely to be out-of-touch with the concerns of the median American voter. But even by that standard, Carlson is a weirdo.

The Fox host is a millionaire, raised by a former ambassador and an heiress, who does TV commentary for a living because billionaires like his takes. He is a blood-and-soil nationalist who rejects America’s credal inheritance of liberty, equality, and democracy. He is steeped in white nationalist conspiracy theories about global elites importing brown foreigners to replace “legacy Americans” and is deeply invested in the success of foreign authoritarians.

Carlson spends a lot of time on his show talking about children’s genitals; blames wokeness for everything from the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan to the green and brown M&Ms becoming insufficiently “sexy”; and capes for both the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and the violent QAnon conspiracy theory movement.

Most Americans aren’t like this! There are clearly people who are interested in this sort of commentary – Carlson’s show averaged nearly 3.3 million viewers in October, making it the second-highest-rated cable news program. But audience tallies that are extremely impressive for cable news ultimately represent a drop in the bucket for the American electorate.

It is dangerous for a major party to move closer to Tucker Carlson’s views. Those views are also likely to alienate normal American voters and make it more difficult for that party to win elections.

The types of candidates Carlson likes and tries to elect mimic his bizarre fixations and blindspots. They describe their political opponents as “childless cat ladies,” pay consultant fees to a virulent anti-semite, and hang out with a “prophet,” run ads featuring themselves “smashing television sets playing newscasts with a sledgehammer,” and distribute lawn signs promising not to “ask your pronouns in the U.S. Senate.”

This behavior may be attractive to Carlson, and to a Republican base that has been trained to want candidates who act like a Fox host. But it seems likely to turn off people who don’t spend their free time immersed in the right-wing media fever swamps, and makes those candidates a harder sell with voters. They can still triumph when the electorate is favorable enough, or if their opponent is weak enough – but it makes the party’s fight more difficult.

And while Carlson may be Fox’s oddest duck, he isn’t the only one in the pond. The network’s roster is stocked with commentators who have an outsized influence on Republican politics and use their platforms to engage in bizarre conspiracy theories about murder victims and raped 10-year-old abortion patients, pick fights with NBA stars and high school students, and rant about everything from lifesaving vaccines to children’s schoolbooks.

The GOP has a Fox News problem. The network’s propaganda megaphone is a valuable asset that strengthens the party’s ability to quickly generate a unified message in response to any news event, and keeps its base from straying out of the right-wing information bubble. But the network’s employees are toxic extremists who are deeply out of touch with the concerns of average Americans, so are the candidates it directly or indirectly supports, and in a close election, that matters.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Yes, Fox News Lost The 2022 Midterms -- But By How Much?

Fox News did everything in its power to help Republicans triumph in the midterm elections. But the “red tsunami” that the network hoped to create didn’t materialize, with Democrats pulling out unexpected victories in races across the country.

Fox’s coterie of disciplined propagandists helped select the GOP’s candidates, develop their messaging, tear down their opponents, and turn out the party's vote. The network’s campaign benefited from a political environment in which the president’s party had suffered major losses in the previous four midterm elections, as well as from high inflation. In the lead-up to the election, its commentators predicted Democrats would face what star host Tucker Carlson described as a “humiliating repudiation.”

Fox failed, and its partisans know it. Despite their best efforts, the Democrats pulled off the best midterms performance in 20 years (albeit one that could still result in them losing control in both houses of Congress). As results rolled in on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the recriminations came with them.

Republican politicians aren’t the only ones who need to look in the mirror. Fox’s pundits should do the same, as they bear substantial responsibility for the party’s failures. They had predicted that the stories they focused on — particularly the “crime crisis” and the “border crisis” — would help the GOP to victory. But the election unfolded differently from how they expected.

No Democratic candidate faced the Fox noise machine more than John Fetterman, the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania. Fox smeared the candidate, who suffered a stroke in May, as a “walking vegetable” and an “incompetent husk” and distorted his record on criminal justice reform. Dr. Mehmet Oz won the GOP nomination in the state with help from Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity and the network showered him with airtime in the closing weeks of the general election. The race was expected to be close, but Carlson assured his viewers that only fraud could explain a Fetterman win, and he and his allies baselessly suggested that if the counting went on past election night, it would point to a rigged result.

Fetterman was projected the winner on election night, and Oz called him to concede on Wednesday morning.

Oz isn’t the only Fox-selected Senate nominee to fare poorly. Carlson-supported Blake Masters appears to have fallen short in his bid against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona. Hannity-backed Herschel Walker narrowly trails Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia, where the incumbent GOP governor won decisively (the race is headed for a runoff in December). J.D. Vance, whose Ohio campaign Carlson had endorsed, prevailed in his race -- but by a much smaller margin than the state's Republican governor, who was reelected in a landslide. Even if Republicans ultimately prevail in Arizona and Georgia, it’s clear that Fox’s biggest stars did a wretched job of choosing strong campaigners from among the party’s candidates.

Other extreme GOP election deniers Fox tried to sanitize, like New Hampshire Senate nominee Don Bolduc and gubernatorial nominees Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Tudor Dixon in Michigan, were defeated, and Arizona’s Kari Lake, a network favorite, currently trails in her race for governor.

Fox hosts had sneered at the Democrats’ focus on abortion and the threat to democracy posed by Republican extremists. But on election night, voters supported abortion rights in all five states where measures were on the ballot, while Democrats won several races that were seen as key for preserving reproductive freedom. And several Republican election deniers seeking posts that would allow them to oversee elections came up short.

The silver lining for Fox came in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection in a landslide. DeSantis first won the GOP nomination in 2018 with the support of Hannity, fellow Fox host Mark Levin, and a ton of Fox airtime, and since then his canny use of the network’s platform and eagerness to participate in the network’s culture wars have helped to make him a presidential contender. The network’s propagandists will likely turn to propping up a potential DeSantis run, perhaps triggering a Fox civil war if both he and Donald Trump ultimately seek the presidency.

Perhaps GOP leaders will learn their lesson about letting their talking heads have so much control over their operations. But it may be too late for them to change course – at this point, Fox is the Republican Party, with more influence than any other power center except, perhaps, Trump.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Ohio Man Kills Neighbor For Being 'A Democrat,' Fulfilling Far-Right Rhetoric

There is a certain inevitability to eliminationist rhetoric: It may not happen right away, but at some point it will inexorably move from mere words into action—the violent kind, often the lethal kind. That’s how stochastic terrorism works—randomly, without any direct connection. Case in point: It was just a matter of time before the election-related hysterical demonization of Democrats by leading right-wing pundits like Tucker Carlson was picked up by one of the legions of “Patriots” eager for a “civil war”—and then acted on.

That scenario already seems to have played out last weekend in rural Okeana, in southwestern Ohio, where a 43-year-old man out mowing his lawn in the back yard of his home was gunned down by his next-door neighbor—a 26-year-old man who had verbally attacked the older man on at least four previous occasions for being a “Democrat.”

The victim, Anthony Lee King, died of multiple gunshot wounds after he was confronted while tending his yard by Austin Gene Combs, who lived next door. Combs casually walked away, and was arrested without incident soon after while nearby in a Jeep with his father.

Combs was booked on murder charges in the Butler County Jail, and bond was set at $950,000. (The community is located about 30 miles northwest of Cincinnati.) Police said Combs admitted he shot King “several times with a revolver.”

The Butler County Journal News obtained a recording of the family’s call to 911 after the shooting. It opens with King’s son informing the dispatcher: “My neighbor just shot my dad.”

The shooter, he told the dispatcher, “just walked back onto his property.” He said the man was their neighbor who “has come over multiple times making statements. He’s insane.” He said the confrontations were over his father’s perceived political affiliation as a Democrat.

King’s wife then got on the line and recounted what had happened: She and her husband were tending to their back yard, and she went inside the home to let the dog out—at which point she heard gunshots.

“I look in the backyard and that man is walking away from my husband, and my husband is on the ground,” the woman said. “He has come over like four times confronting my husband because he thought he was a Democrat. Why, why … Please, I don’t understand.”

None of us really understand acts like these, because they’re incomprehensible. But as someone who carefully monitors developing trends in domestic terrorism, I have become increasingly concerned about the ongoing demonization of mainstream liberals by high-powered Republicans, as well as the normalization of violence against them we saw in the aftermath of the assault on Paul Pelosi in San Francisco, particularly by Carlson and his Fox News colleagues.

This has been happening at a time when I and other people who monitor the online chat rooms in which far-right extremists radicalize and recruit have been seeing a significant increase in rhetoric about unleashing lethal violence on their neighbors, in the name of a “civil war”—all because they have been told that ordinary Democrats are an existential threat.

Remember the man in Idaho who asked TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk: “When do we get to use the guns? … How many elections are they gonna steal before we kill these people?”

Remember how Kirk replied with a nondenunciation denunciation, warning that such talk is “playing into their hands,” but then saying that the query was just “overly blunt” and agreeing that “we are living under fascism”?

The next day, an Idaho legislator tweeted that “the question was fair.” He also claimed: “Our Republic would not exist without this kind of rhetoric.”

Timothy Noah recently discussed this at The New Republic:

The GOP has become so extremist that a substantial portion of its leaders and more prominent sympathizers make light of or deny political violence committed against Democrats. There is no corresponding such behavior by leading Democrats when Republicans are threatened or attacked—and yes, there have been some horrific instances—because Democrats don’t count violent insurrectionists as a political constituency they dare not alienate.

Noah predicted that “the next wave of violent threats will be directed at volunteers and government officials involved in counting ballots for the 2022 midterms,” noting that “the threats have begun already.” And he’s correct, but judging from the content I’ve encountered in too many of the MAGA right’s fetid chat sewers, it’s equally likely that they’ll direct their visceral hatred at people in their communities and neighborhoods as well. Local community organizers often turn up in their wish lists of people to harm “when the signal comes.”

It doesn’t necessarily mean that this represents a trend in which armed MAGA fanatics begin gunning down neighbors on their lawns—though it seems to be a manifestation of the fantasies voiced by Kirk’s interlocutor. Most of all, we all need to be paying attention to the possibility that it might become one.

As Rachel Kleinfeld recently explained at Politico:

Many people who support violence would never actually commit it themselves. But when language that simultaneously depicts people as a threat and less than human becomes common, more aggressive and unbalanced individuals will act. Approximately 3 to 5 million Americans are willing to consider committing political violence, according to a poll conducted in the spring of 2022. Numbers like these mean that America is now at the point of what experts call stochastic terrorism—a situation in which one can’t predict who will commit violence, or exactly where or when, but it’s highly predictable that someone, somewhere, will take the bait and act against the target. While in the past, words directed at a long-standing punching bag such as Nancy Pelosi (or a new one like the FBI) remained rhetorical, now, the same ire can result in bloodshed.

How Tucker Carlson Sanitizes The Extreme Right For Fox Viewers

Tucker Carlson kicked off Tuesday’s interview with Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, by declaring the candidate “one of those guys you're not allowed to talk about or like because he is absolutely beyond the pale somehow.” The Fox News host spent the next several minutes trying to convince his audience that his guest, a full-blown insurrectionist and the toast of Christian nationalists and virulent antisemites, is nothing of the sort.

Carlson has emerged as Fox’s primary sanitizer of elements of the GOP like Mastriano, Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). His role is to elevate these once-fringe elements by sneering at their critics and giving them a platform to stress their common ground with the party’s base. (In a similar vein, his colleague Sean Hannity parachutes in to help Republican politicians by allowing them to stave off political scandals with a softball interview.) In allowing for “no enemies to the right,” Carlson’s work seems aimed at making it impossible for the Republican Party to banish, abandon, or punish its extremists.

In Mastriano’s case, Carlson glossed over quite a lot. The Republican gubernatorial nominee is a Trumpist insurrectionist who tried to use his power as state senator to overturn the 2020 presidential election, led busloads of protestors to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, breached the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, and all but promised to subvert the 2024 election in the event the GOP nominee loses Pennsylvania. He has ties to Christian nationalism and a fondness for the Confederacy, and he has trafficked in anti-Muslim bigotry. His political associates include campaign consultant Andrew Torba, the virulent antisemite who owns the white-nationalist-friendly social media site Gab; campaign “prophet” Julie Green, who promotes particularly deranged conspiracy theories, including that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drinks “children’s blood”; and campaign surrogate Jack Posobiec, a conspiracy theorist who has collaborated with white nationalists and neo-Nazis and targeted Jewish people with antisemitic hate.

That’s at least a sampling of what Carlson is alluding to when he claims Mastriano has been unfairly branded “beyond the pale” — the sorts of things that have kept Mastriano from being fully embraced by the national party.

But Carlson detailed none of it. Instead, he described Mastriano as “pretty impressive,” touted his military service, said he was “honored” to host him, and told him that that an undefined but sinister “they” had “identified you early as someone who was a threat and tried to make you completely unacceptable even to talk about.”

After giving Mastriano the opportunity to talk up his credentials, run through his talking points, and attack his opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, using Carlson’s favored issue of crime, the Fox host wished him well.

“You don’t seem radical to me,” he concluded, suggesting that it would be ludicrous for anyone to think otherwise.

Carlson wants Republicans to support the Pennsylvanian but doesn’t want to actually have to defend any of his conduct. So he simply conceals the details from his viewers, suggests Mastriano has been unfairly attacked, and lets the candidate connect with his viewers on a shared reverence for the military and distaste for violent crime. This encourages Republican leaders to similarly look past Mastriano’s conduct and get more firmly behind his candidacy.

Carlson’s promotion of Mastriano is not an anomaly. He regularly champions Republican politicians others might view as having disqualified themselves.

As the Fox host pointed out during his interview, Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee “Kari Lake was” treated the same way as Mastriano until recently. As Media Matters has noted:

Lake is a prominent election denier linked to Nazi sympathizers and QAnon figures. The former local news anchor is a regular on far-right propaganda outlets like Steve Bannon’s War Room and One America News Network. She has aggressively promoted the debunked “Sharpiegate” conspiracy theory, called to replicate the bogus, QAnon-linked Maricopa County audit “in every county in Arizona,” and repeatedly called to “decertify” the 2020 election. Lake maintains she would not have certified Arizona’s presidential election results had she been Arizona’s governor at the time due to debunked conspiracy theories. (There is no legal pathway to decertify or change the results of a presidential election.)

Lake’s extreme views explain why the state and national GOP establishment had supported her primary opponent “in an attempt to push their party past the chaotic Trump era,” as The Associated Press put it. But when Carlson hosted Lake for the first time a month ago, he promoted her laughable claim that election denial is about free speech and claimed she had been smeared as “a big lie adherent.”

“Do you believe the media uses that slur to make certain people won't hear what you're saying about the issues?” he asked her.

Lake used the interview to hit on issues Carlson commonly focuses on, like immigration, fentanyl, and the perfidious mainstream media. After she commented that “we're not going to let Joe Biden drag the state of Arizona down while he is trying to destroy this country,” the host replied, “Amen. Boy, I can see where they're trying to stop you.”

Soon after, major Republican politicians flew to Arizona to appear alongside the would-be governor, while other Fox hosts gave her access to their viewers for the first time.

Then there’s Greene. She was a pariah within her party when she entered Congress in 2021 because she is a conspiracy theorist who has also promoted racist, anti-Muslim, antisemitic, and violent rhetoric. She had been exposed as an adherent to the violent Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy theories, as well as numerous others. She had suggested that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged, and that the Stoneman Douglas school shooting was a false flag. She suggested the Rothschild banking family controls a space laser used to start the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in California and that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been replaced by a body double. She endorsed the wild notion that Hillary Clinton was implicated in the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., and that the former secretary of state and her former aide Huma Abedin had sexually assaulted a child, filleted the child’s face, wore her face like a mask, and then drank her blood as part of a satanic ritual.

None of this gave Carlson the slightest pause. He has been her greatest champion, downplaying her extremism as merely unapproved opinions and “unauthorized questions,” praising her as a “Washington outsider,” promoting her in an hourlong soft-focus interview on his streaming podcast, making her a fixture on his Fox prime-time program, and even donating to her campaign. His support didn’t falter after revelations that she had given a speech to a convention of white nationalists and suggested following the January 6 insurrection that Trump be informed that other Republican members were urging him to implement martial law in order to “save our Republic.”

With Carlson firmly in her corner, Greene built a sizable power base within the Republican Party and was embraced by its leaders. A strong midterm showing will increase her stature, according to the AP: “If Republicans win the House majority in the November election, Greene is poised to become an influential player shaping the GOP agenda, an agitator with clout.”

Carlson’s support and eagerness to provide access to his platform was also crucial for J.D. Vance and Blake Masters as they sought the GOP nominations for U.S. Senate in Ohio and Arizona. Both are henchmen for the fascist tech billionaire Peter Thiel and have long records of toxic rhetoric and election denial.

Carlson’s treatment of once-fringe GOP politicians is of a piece with his dedication to mainstreaming extremist ideas. He has defended the QAnon movement, January 6 insurrectionists, the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, and Russian propaganda about its invasion of Ukraine. He is eager to collapse any and all distinctions between right-wing extremists and mainstream Republicans, urging his viewers to treat policies targeting violent white supremacists and rhetoric warning of rising “semi-fascism” as attacks on themselves.

The Republican Party is walking through the door Carlson opens, cleaving toward the most extremist elements as they seek to subvert democracy, oppose the rule of law, and embrace political violence.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Why Carlson Hid Kanye's Anti-Semitism (And What That Shows About Fox)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson clearly hoped to use his interview with Kanye West (now known as Ye) to advance his own political agenda by highlighting the rapper’s “White Lives Matter” commentary and support for former President Donald Trump. But at the conclusion of their sit-down, Carlson had a problem: West peppered the interview with toxic anti-Semitic comments, as well as conspiracy-minded rants which suggested that he was in the throes of one of his well-documented manic phases.

Carlson responded to this conundrum by simply cutting the worst of West’s bigotry and paranoia from the version of the interview he aired last week, Vice’s Motherboard revealed on Tuesday, after obtaining original footage from the interview. The deceptive editing points to how much leeway the Fox host thinks he has from the network brass, as well as the deceitful way he handles his show.

Carlson knows where the line is for antisemitism on his show

Tucker Carlson Tonight revolves around an antisemitic conspiracy theory. The host posits that a cabal of global elites controls the heights of U.S. politics, media, culture, and business, and is using its power to corrupt American children, destroy western civilization, and replace its population with immigrants.

Carlson’s innovation is that he generally deracinates these familiar antisemitic tropes. While open white supremacists might argue, for example, that Jews are using immigration to replace the white population with a black and brown one, Carlson tells his viewers that elites like the financier George Soros (who is Jewish) are replacing “legacy Americans” with people from “far-away countries” in the “third world.”

Carlson’s stated worldview is close enough that neo-Nazis regularly praise his show for mainstreaming their blood-soaked positions. But Carlson’s careful use of language, and his furious denials that he is a racist, give the Fox brass just enough plausible deniability that they can continue to defend and support his program.

You can see this balance play out in what Carlson included from his interview with West and the clips Motherboard published that were left on the cutting room floor.

In: West’s suggestion that Jared Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House aide, worked on Middle East peace to “make money” and his comment about Jared and his brother Josh, “What they’re about is making money.” That language aligns with the antisemitic trope of the money-hungry Jew, but it’s apparently palatable to Fox because West did not specifically mention that the Kushners are Jewish (West even asked Carlson whether those comments had been “too heavy handed,” to which Carlson replied, “We're not in the censorship business”).

Out: Nakedly antisemitic comments in which West more explicitly mentioned Jews, including his statement, “Think about us judging each other on how white we could talk would be like, you know, a Jewish person judging another Jewish person on how good they danced or something” (which West himself told Carlson went too far and asked to have edited out) and his remark, “I prefer my kids knew Hanukkah than Kwanzaa. At least it will come with some financial engineering.” Those comments are so obviously bigoted that they apparently could not be aired on Fox in an interview meant to promote its subject.

Carlson could have responded to those comments by changing the way he intended to frame the interview; instead, he cut out the comments to preserve his narrative.

Carlson’s edits left his colleagues in an uncomfortable position, as they were apparently unaware that West’s interview had featured naked anti-Semitism. Many of them responded to the interview as it aired by praising West’s wisdom and authenticity, and promoting his support for right-wing ideas as a boon to their movement. They were then forced to make an abrupt about-face after West spent the weekend on a social media tirade against “JEWISH PEOPLE” he claimed had “tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

For his part, Carlson simply pretended the anti-Semitic outburst had not happened when he ran another segment praising West on his Monday broadcast. He hid the anti-Semitic comments West made on social media from his viewers, just as he had hidden the anti-Semitic comments West made to his face.

Carlson Knowingly Lies About West’s Mental State

Carlson stressed to his viewers as he promoted his interview with West that the rapper’s well-documented mental health issues are a fabrication of journalists who want to shut him up — and he presented his sit-down as an antidote that would allow his audience to come to their own conclusions.

“The enemies of his ideas dismissed West as they have for years -- as mentally ill, too crazy to take seriously,” he alleged at the top of Thursday’s show. “But is West crazy? You can judge for yourself as you watch what we're about to show you.”

Carlson added that he did not find West to be “crazy,” adding, “In fact, we've rarely heard a man speak so honestly and so movingly about what he believes, but again, you can judge for yourself.”

Carlson returned to that theme later in the program.

“We told you at the top, you'd be able to assess for yourself whether West is crazy, as virtually every single media outlet on planet Earth claims every day, all year long,” he said. “Is he crazy. As you try to assess that, ask is what you just heard over the past 40 minutes any crazier than what you see on television every day? The lies, the lunacy presented to you with a straight face as reality?”

“No, he is not,” Carlson concluded. “He is not crazy at all. He is a big thinker, though."

It’s easy to see why Carlson is so defensive about West’s mental state. If West is “crazy,” in Carlson’s words, then the Fox host is a despicable hack taking advantage of a vulnerable person’s “lunacy” for ratings and political advantage.

But Carlson is being deceptive in two ways.

One is that West’s struggles with bipolar disorder are not a media creation, but something that he has publicly discussed in detail for years.

“When you’re in this state, you’re hyper-paranoid about everything, everyone,” West told David Letterman in a 2019 interview. “This is my experience, other people have different experiences. Everyone now is an actor. Everything’s a conspiracy. You feel the government is putting chips in your head. You feel you’re being recorded. You feel all these things.”

The second is that West reeled off several conspiracy theories during his interview with Carlson, as the Motherboard videos show. He suggested, for example, that “fake children” had been “placed into my house to sexualize my kids,” and that the fashion house Louis Vuitton had “killed” the designer Virgil Abloh, who died of cancer in 2021.

Those diatribes cut against Carlson’s argument that West is lucid, and thus an appropriate interview subject whose political views should be taken seriously. So Carlson edited them out of what he showed his viewers, even as he told them that they could make their own determination about West’s mental state from what aired.

That’s pretty typical — Carlson is a deeply dishonest person who has contempt for an audience he constantly cons. The Motherboard videos are just a new and compelling example demonstrating his duplicity.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Hannity Hosts A Nightly Rally For Republican Senate Nominees

The Republican Party’s Senate midterm messaging is guided by a pair of Fox News prime-time hosts who also function as GOP kingmakers. Tucker Carlson, as I’ve detailed, used his 8 p.m. show to set the party’s course, urging GOP candidates to focus on “law and order” and brand their Democratic opponents as pro-crime. Sean Hannity, the Trump operative and GOP mouthpiece who also has a TV show, has meanwhile turned the following time slot into a showcase for Republican Senate nominees and a vehicle for opposition research targeting the Democratic candidates.

“Fox News is essentially an arm of the 24-hour public relations channel for Republican Senate candidates,” as MSNBC host Chris Hayes put it Wednesday, and Hannity “is the undisputed king of this stuff.”

Indeed, Hannity has hosted the GOP nominees in the key competitive races of Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Georgia at least 15 times since Labor Day, according to a Media Matters review. Mehmet Oz, the TV personality who owes his Pennsylvania GOP nomination largely to Hannity's support, led the way with four appearances.

Hannity proved Hayes' point on his own show over the next hour, when the Fox host ran back-to-back-to-back-to-back segments targeting four of those races. His segments all followed the same cookie-cutter formula.

The Fox host started by smearing the Democratic nominee, calling Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes “an extreme candidate,” panning Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan for his “radical views,” describing Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman as “probably the most extreme candidate the Democrats are running this election season,” and highlighting the “radical positions” of former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. On-screen text detailed the Democrats’ “extremism” as Hannity monologued.

Then Hannity brought on the Republican nominee for a cozy interview, and the pair traded taking points. Hannity highlighted how “critical” or “all-important” each race was to the GOP’s chances of taking control of the Senate, and asked whether the opposition research they were reciting was making its way to the voters.

All four Republican nominees used the opportunity to plead for support from Hannity’s viewers.

“I need help from your viewers, so we can get the truth out about Mandela Barnes so he does not serve in the U.S. Senate,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told Hannity.

“We need everything that we can get from your viewers, from everybody else, to help us tell the truth about Tim Ryan, because we tell the truth about Tim Ryan, we're going to win this race and win big,” Ohio GOP Senate nominee J.D. Vance offered. “So, I'd encourage everybody, go to, send whatever you can because this guy is trying to lie his way into the U.S. Senate and if he succeeds, he's going to be a rubber stamp for Joe Biden.”

“We're not going to let that happen. So please again, come to Support our movement. We're going to win this race,” urged Oz.

“I just want to plead, Sean, with you. I want to plead with your supporters out there, with your viewers. Go to because without them, we can't win this,” said Rep. Ted Budd, the GOP nominee for Senate in North Carolina.

Hannity’s fidelity to the GOP Senate nominees is part of a pattern in which Fox’s prime-time block has devoted significantly more attention to those races than the same hours on CNN and MSNBC.

Hannity’s program is responsible for a sizable percentage of Fox prime time’s Senate focus.

In 2018, Hannity plunged Fox into controversy when he spoke at a Trump rally on the eve of the midterms. Four years later, he’s effectively hosting his own GOP rally every weeknight in prime time.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Tucker Carlson Serves Up Kremlin Propaganda On Pipeline Explosion

Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s dubious allegation that the United States sabotaged a natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany as part of a sinister “escalation” of Russia’s war with Ukraine echoed the Kremlin’s own propagandists. Carlson’s report is now getting substantial attention from Russian state TV, which is promoting his theory — and his suggestion for how Russia could strike back at U.S. interests in light of the supposed attack.

On Monday, “two powerful underwater explosions” damaged the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines. While the former had been shut down by Russia in August and the latter never became operational, both contained pressurized gas which is now leaking into the Baltic Sea. The international consensus is that the pipelines were sabotaged, with U.S. and European Union officials suggesting Russia is behind the explosions.

But the Kremlin, in turn, is suggesting that the U.S. sabotaged the pipelines, latching on to a since-deleted Tuesday tweet from Radek Sikorski, a Polish E.U. parliamentarian, which stated, “Thank you, USA,” alongside a photo of the leak. On social media, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson immediately questioned whether Sikorski’s tweet was an “official statement that this was a terrorist attack,” while another Russian official likewise thanked Sikorski for “making it crystal clear who stands behind this terrorist-style targeting of civilian infrastructure!” Russian state media outlet RT quickly amplified their theorizing under the headline “U.S. praised for Nord Stream explosion.”

Carlson’s coverage of the crisis created by Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine generally aligns with the Kremlin’s preferred narratives, to the point where Russian state media outlets, following their government’s explicit instructions, regularly air clips from his program.

That is what happened following the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines.

Just hours after Russian officials floated the narrative that the U.S. was responsible for damaging the pipelines, Carlson adopted it as his own.

Describing the ruptures as an “act of industrial terrorism,” Carlson quickly dispatched with the notion that Russia or its dictator, Vladimir Putin, might be involved. According to Carlson, Putin “would not do that” and would have to be “a suicidal moron to blow up your own energy pipeline.”

Instead, Carlson strongly suggested that the U.S. had sabotaged the pipelines. “If they did this, this will be one of the craziest, most destructive things any American administration has ever done,” he said. “But it would also be totally consistent with what they do. What do they do? They destroy.”

Carlson’s comically weak case revolved around two main pieces of evidence – Sikorski’s tweet, and a February statement from President Joe Biden that if Russia were to invade Ukraine, “there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.” That seems to very obviously reference what happened after Russia invaded – Germany froze the pipeline project, which has yet to become operational. But in Carlson’s typically dishonest translation, Biden “said ‘there won't be a Nord Stream 2. We'll put an end to it. Will take it out. Will blow it up.’”

On that scanty evidence, Carlson suggested that the U.S. had blown up an ally’s energy infrastructure. While on-screen text stated “Today’s escalation will have huge consequences,” Carlson asserted that “we've entered a new phase, one in which the United States is directly at war with the largest nuclear power in the world.” He added: “If we actually blew up the Nord Stream pipelines, why wouldn't Russia sever undersea internet cables? What would happen if they did that?"

It was inevitable that Carlson’s theory would spread through the right-wing media, given his influential role in that ecosystem. But it isn’t just the likes of Charlie Kirk rushing to follow him in blaming America.

Carlson’s monologue “entered heavy rotation” on Russian state TV, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted on Thursday. Bump highlighted 12 different times that Russia’s Channel One, Russia1, and Russia24 networks had aired clips of Carlson highlighting his theory.

Julia Davis, a Russian media monitor and Daily Beast columnist, compiled and translated some of the segments. She noted that the Russian commentators seemed particularly interested in Carlson’s suggestion for how their state might retaliate for the supposed U.S. attack.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.