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How Tucker Carlson Became Trump’s Favorite Fox News Host

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

President Donald Trump frequently tweets video clips of Fox News segments that capture his fancy. But the one he sent Tuesday morning stood out nonetheless.

Trump tweeted a clip of Fox host Tucker Carlson praising the president for a speech in which Trump had echoed the divisive culture war narratives the host himself has repeatedly promoted on his program. The tweet displayed in dizzying fashion the unprecedented synergy that has developed between the president of the United States and the right-wing TV star.

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Why Tucker Carlson’s ‘Anti-War’ Outburst Is So Dangerous

Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s criticism of the U.S. operation to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani has drawn praise from anti-war voices on the left and mainstream journalists for “bursting the propaganda bubble” on his network, which has otherwise offered near-lockstep support for President Donald Trump’s decision. But while there are benefits to the Fox audience receiving a skeptical take on last week’s events, Carlson has actually urged his audience to instead focus their attention on the “invasion” across the southern border and undocumented immigrants living in this country, an argument that risks potentially dire consequences for those vulnerable populations.

Carlson’s anti-war stance is not a break from his past support for Trump or his channeling of white nationalist tropes, but a direct result of both. Carlson has effectively steered clear of directly criticizing Trump in his commentary on the burgeoning crisis in the Middle East. Instead, he has presented the president as having been misled and ill-served by warmongering advisers who also want to deter public attention from undocumented immigration.

The Fox host first addressed Soleimani’s killing on Thursday night, calling the breaking news evidence that “America appears to be lumbering toward a new Middle East war” before pivoting to criticize hawkish former national security adviser John Bolton and unnamed Trump advisers. 

“The people demanding action against Iran tonight, the ones telling you the Persian menace is the greatest threat we face, are the very same ones demanding that you ignore the invasion of America now in progress from the south, the millions, the tens of millions of foreign nationals living among us illegally,” he said. “They are liars and they don’t care about you, they don’t care about your kids, they are reckless and incompetent.”

Carlson later added that Trump himself “doesn’t seek war” and is “wary” of it, but had been “outmaneuvered” by “people around him.” 

He warned of the risks of a war with Iran over several segments on Friday, arguing that recent U.S. conflicts in the Middle East have cost a lot more in lives and money than originally anticipated and with few benefits in return. But he again largely avoided directly criticizing Trump, instead castigating Bolton and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) for their statements supporting the killing of Soleimani.  

Under normal circumstances, Carlson’s commentary would be of interest primarily because of the information and over-arching message he’s providing to his cable news audience. But in the Trump era, the president himself is one of those viewers and has repeatedly responded to Fox programming by shifting U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

Carlson, like several of his colleagues, is effectively not just a cable news host but a political operative. These members of the Fox News cabinet try to influence Trump’s actions, both through their public commentary and by counseling the president on the side. Carlson has been particularly effective in this role. Last year, he was reportedly able to attract Trump’s attention and, through both his television show and private lobbying, convince the president to call off planned military strikes against Iranian targets. The Fox host later used that relationship to get Trump to push Bolton out of the administration. 

That experience shows in Carlson’s current argument about Iran, which seems carefully engineered to appeal to a paranoid, racist president who typically responds to criticism with vindictive hyper-aggression. So Carlson’s Thursday talking point that Trump is being misled by disloyal advisers who want to keep him from lashing out at undocumented immigrants and refugees checks all the right boxes while avoiding setting him off by suggesting that he is personally at fault.

Carlson’s appeal, thus far, appears to have failed. Trump “closely monitored reactions to his military action, taking note of who praised him publicly among Republicans and who did not, like Tucker Carlson,” The New York Times reported Sunday. “He was encouraged by others on the Trump-friendly network.” Over the weekend, Trump repeatedly threatened that if Iran retaliates for Soleimani’s killing, the U.S. would respond by striking its cultural sites, a public announcement of planned war crimes that tracks closer to Fox host Sean Hannity’s suggestion that Trump respond to Iranian attacks by discarding the rules of engagement and “bomb[ing] the living hell out of them.” 

But even if Carlson had convinced the president to avoid further escalation, that tangible benefit to the anti-war movement — and the country — would be paired with huge risks. Remember, Carlson’s argument is that a Middle East conflict would distract from the need to take action against the “invasion” of migrants and refugees seeking to cross the southern border and the millions of undocumented immigrants living peacefully in this country. What happens if Trump trains his attention where Carlson is trying to point him? What havoc would he wreak on those vulnerable populations beyond what his administration has already done?

Let’s turn from Trump and consider the impact the Fox host’s commentary might have on the rest of his more than 3 million nightly viewers.

Carlson is pushing his audience to consider questions about further conflict with Iran that his colleagues are not, providing a rare respite from the all-systems-go war cheerleading elsewhere on the network. But you can’t separate Carlson’s conclusion from his argument tying it to an “invasion” of Hispanic would-be immigrants. 

This argument is, in part, wrong on the facts in a way that shields the president from culpability — Trump reportedly pushed for the strike on Soleimani, alarming top Pentagon officials, after “fuming” over “television reports [that] showed Iranian-backed attacks on the American embassy in Baghdad.” It draws a connection between the advisers’ Iran warmongering and their immigration stance for which Carlson has provided no evidence. And it relies on an incredibly toxic premise — that southern migration constitutes an “invasion” — that has already triggered serious consequences against both the purported “invaders” and those who apparently support them.

Last August, a gunman allegedly targeting “Mexicans” murdered 22 people and injured 26 more at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, after leaving behind a manifesto describing his desire “to exact revenge against ‘the Hispanic invasion of Texas,’ to forestall what he called ‘cultural and ethnic replacement,’ and to ‘reclaim my country from destruction.’” The year before, a shooter who blamed Jewish people in the U.S. “for bringing in an invasion of nonwhite immigrants” killed 11 at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

There’s value in having an anti-war message pierce Fox’s bubble to reach its viewers, the president included. But this particular message could have ominous results for others.

Stephen Miller E-Mails Show How He Promoted White Nationalist Ideology In Media

The Southern Poverty Law Center has obtained emails from 2015 and 2016 between White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller — at the time an adviser to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) — and then-Breitbart editor Katie McHugh. The emails show both Miller’s dedication to a number of prominent ideas in the white nationalist far-right circles and his determination to see them gain further exposure in the media.

Four years later, the ideas that Miller secretly mentioned in his emails are now being openly discussed on Fox News and saturate right-wing media.

Fox News hosts have avidly pushed the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, the idea that white people are being systematically “replaced” by non-white immigrants. Tucker Carlson, for example, has become Fox’s most prominent mouthpiece for white nationalism by decrying immigration and diversity for “radically and permanently changing our country.”

In one message to McHugh in September 2015, Miller praised a Carlson segment as “a good chance” to attack pro-immigration talking points.

For years, commentators on Fox News have praised Miller’s ideas for screening out and deporting refugees and asylum-seekers, and even potentially closing the U.S. southern border with Mexico entirely.

This racist rhetoric became a major story in August when a white nationalist gunman, citing talking points regularly aired on Fox Newsmurdered 22 people in El Paso, Texas. Media Matters had long identified Fox News as a nexus of white nationalist rhetoric in the Trump era; after the shooting, a major New York Times investigation found the same. Just look at how often Fox News talked about an immigrant “invasion”:

Despite deadly consequences, Fox News still pushes extreme nativism to generate ratings: Just last night, in a monologue denouncing European policies on immigration and refugees, Laura Ingraham said that the 2020 election in the United States would be about preserving “our history and our heritage.” And earlier this week, Carlson said that admitting more migrants will turn the United States into “a place you wouldn’t want to live.”

Miller praised Calvin Coolidge and immigration policies based in racism

The email messages show Miller’s great admiration of President Calvin Coolidge, who signed the restrictionist Immigration Act of 1924, which lasted as the basis of American immigration policy until major reforms in the 1960s. (Coolidge also held racist views that were inextricably tied to his immigration policy, declaring: “Quality of mind and body suggests that observance of ethnic law is as great a necessity to a nation as immigration law.”)

In April 2015, Miller joked about new additions to the immigration museum at Ellis Island: “Something tells me there is not a Calvin Coolidge exhibit.”

In an email from June 2015, Miller linked to an article about the Immigrant Heritage Month and wrote: “This would seem a good opportunity to remind people about the heritage established by Calvin Coolidge, which covers four decades of the 20th century.”

Coolidge’s immigration policy has also been championed at Fox. The network’s website published a column defending his immigration restrictions by professor and author Barry Strauss in November 2016, a couple of weeks after Trump was elected, declaring that Coolidge “was not a racist, at least not by the standards of the day.” And just this past July, Fox contributor Cal Thomas ran a syndicated column titled “The bold solution we may need to fix our broken immigration system,” praising Coolidge’s record for having immigration “reduced to a trickle.”

In an email thread in August 2015, another then-Sessions aide, Garrett Murch, wrote: “Mark Levin just said there should be no immigration for several years. Not just cut the number down from the current 1 million green cards per year. For assimilation purposes.”

Miller praised the idea from the right-wing talk show host and tied it back to the former president: “Like Coolidge did. Kellyanne Conway poll says that is exactly what most Americans want after 40 years of non-stop record arrivals.”

Levin now has his own weekend TV show on Fox News on which he talked about Democrats allegedly using immigration to take over the country politically: “For the left, it’s about power, politics, taking red border states, making them purple, and eventually blue. And you know what? They’re succeeding.”

Miller touted racist novel The Camp of the Saints

Another one of Miller’s fascinations detailed in the emails seems to be with a racist French novel, The Camp of the Saints, published in 1973. Telling the tale of a wave of non-white refugees who ultimately destroy French society, it has gained a wide far-right following. For his part, Miller urged Breitbart to get in a mention of the book in September 2015, writing, “You see the Pope saying west must, in effect, get rid of borders. Someone should point out the parallels to Camp of the Saints.” (Such an article was soon published, titled “‘Camp of the Saints’ Seen Mirrored in Pope’s Message.”)

Right-wing commentator Mark Steyn has repeatedly promoted The Camp of the Saints during his own appearances on Fox News, often as a guest or a substitute host for Carlson.

Miller shared content published by white nationalist websites

In his emails, Miller shared content from white nationalist sites VDare and American Renaissance, echoing the behavior of some Fox News hosts. Carlson’s comments on Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day this year, for instance, directly mirrored the language of American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor, a well-known white supremacist.

Taylor has praised Carlson’s show for attacking diversity. Carlson’s website The Daily Caller has published a number of white nationalists, at least one with links to Taylor.

Laura Ingraham also uses her cable show to promote Miller’s brand of anti-immigration extremism. Her August 2018 rant directly used rhetoric from Taylor and other white nationalists. Ingraham’s anti-immigrant rant in August 2018 also directly used rhetoric from Taylor and other white nationalists. A Fox News op-ed in 2018 linked to an American Renaissance article by Taylor which accused Democrats of subjecting “whites to outright racial plunder.” Another 2018 Fox News article cited a white supremacist whose book had been endorsed by Taylor.

There are also links between Fox News and white nationalist website VDare. VDare thanked Carlson after he defended far-right figures who had been kicked off social media platforms for violating their policies. Carlson’s The Daily Caller has also published VDare’s Peter Brimelow.

Breitbart and Facebook

And to bring this back to the start, a quick word on Breitbart’s own reach. It’s not really new that Breitbart is white nationalist — we already knew, for instance that the site even let neo-Nazis ghostwrite articles.

And the white nationalist rhetoric didn’t just jump from Breitbart to Fox News. It also jumped into Facebook as a whole, which is now deeply infested with white nationalist memes and talking pointsIt’s an entire self-contained ecosystem. (And it’s not just Facebook either.)

Instead of addressing this problem, Facebook’s news initiative teamed up with Breitbart as a trusted partner. Meanwhile, the site can’t go even a few days without grossly violating ethical standards, such as naming the whistleblower in the ongoing Trump impeachment inquiry.

Fox News Promotes White Nationalism With Murdoch Backing

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Fox News has traditionally treated bigotry as a core part of its business model. But since the political rise of President Donald Trump, the network’s commentators have adopted talking points that had previously been the province of hardcore white supremacists. The reported manifesto of the gunman who murdered 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, TX, on Saturday is all but indistinguishable from transcripts ripped from its prime-time shows. This shift is not an accident but a programming decision, one the network has pursued even as its hosts’ racist rhetoric has triggered costly ad boycotts.

Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch are ultimately responsible for this toxic programming. Rupert, chairman of parent company Fox Corp., laid the foundation for the shift. He then ceded much of the day-to-day authority to Lachlan, who maintained that heading as the Fox Corp.’s executive chairman and CEO.

Fox is feeding its audience a poisonous stew of bigoted, xenophobic conspiracy theories because that is what the Murdochs want the network to do.

A New York Times Magazine investigation found that in recent years, the Murdochs’ media empire has been “instrumental in amplifying the nativist revolt that was reshaping governments not just in the United States but also across the planet,” with their outlets fueling xenophobia and ethnonationalism to achieve political aims in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia.

In the United States, that meant taking advantage of a rare opportunity to reshape Fox News following the removal of network co-founder Roger Ailes and the swift departures of longtime network hosts Bill O’ReillyGreta Van Susteren, and Megyn Kelly.

Stepping in as acting CEO to replace Ailes, Rupert responded to the vacancies by giving Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham their own prime-time shows.

Carlson, a Rupert favorite, had already amassed a staunch following among white nationalists for his denunciations of diversity and fervent airing of white grievances.

Ingraham had also fixated on the perils of immigration and multiculturalism, using her platforms as a talk radio host and Fox contributor to push the Republican Party to the right on those issues.

As prime-time hosts, Carlson and Ingraham turned their shows into clearinghouses for white supremacist talking points about an “invasion” of migrants, screeds about the systematic “replacement” of white Americans by people of color through immigration, and dire warnings that if something wasn’t done soon, the nation would be imperiled.

In short, Rupert thrust two of the network’s most anti-immigrant personalities into its biggest spotlight and they’ve performed as expected, moving the network closer to Lachlan’s reported goal of solidifying the family’s empire as “an unabashedly nationalist, far-right and hugely profitable political propaganda machine.”

The result has been programming that courts high viewership from Fox’s core audience but also repeatedly led major companies to pull their ads rather than risk associating their brands with bigotry.

Lachlan has been the public face of the company, defending Fox amid criticism from other journalists and advertiser boycotts.

Ingraham’s show drew controversy and bled advertisers throughout 2018, particularly after she tweetedan attack on Parkland, FL, school shooting survivor David Hogg, compared detention centers for immigrant children to “summer camps,” and warned that thanks to immigration, “massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don’t like.”

Asked about the criticism the network was taking during a November appearance at The New York Times’ DealBook conference, Lachlan claimed that the “biggest critics of Fox News are not watching Fox News” and argued that people should be more tolerant of the opinions of the networks’ hosts.

Just a month later, Carlson embroiled the network in a firestorm after he argued that immigration makes the United States “poorer, and dirtier, and more divided.” When the dust had settled, two dozen companies had pulled future spots on his show and its ad load was slashed.

The cycle repeated itself earlier this year.

In March, as Fox prepared for an unprecedented early sit-down with ad buyers, controversies involving bigoted comments by Carlson and fellow Fox host Jeanine Pirro brought more devastating headlines and fleeing advertisers.

Two months later, Lachlan again defended the company, telling Wall Street analysts that the ad boycotts were having no effect and that even if they did, “it wouldn’t affect the way we program that channel.”

And now there’s a national debate over how Fox’s inflammatory programming was echoed in a white supremacist terrorist’s manifesto — one that has triggered not internal reflection at the network, but a circling of the wagons. Earlier this week, Carlson delivered another defensive rant on his show, asserting that the idea that white supremacy is a problem in America is a “hoax” and a “conspiracy theory used to divide the country.”  The Murdochs stayed silent.

The Murdochs appear to have been every bit as supportive of their hosts’ bigoted commentary in private as they are in public. After Carlson drew criticism for claiming that immigrants make this country “dirtier,” Lachlan reportedly sent him “personal text messages of support.” Rupert reportedly criticized Ingraham last year — for apologizing for her comments about Hogg, which he thought made her appear “weak in the face of negative public sentiment.”

So the Murdochs are the reason Fox’s weeknight prime-time block features segments that are distinguishable from white supremacist YouTube videos only in their production values. The harder question to answer is why. The family has built an international media empire that wields substantial political power on three continents.

Are they actual nationalists who truly agree with Carlson and Ingraham that an invading force of minorities is putting the nation at risk? Or are they simply motivated by instrumentalism, happy to have their employees make those arguments because it bolsters their influence over right-wing governments which then support policies that bolster their own economic standing?

In the end, it hardly matters: Fox has spent the last few years diving ever deeper into a cesspool, and there’s no sign the network plans to change course.