Tucker Carlson could do a literal Nazi salute on his program and proudly exclaim “I am a white nationalist” and there would still be conservatives insisting that his words were being taken out of context by liberals. This insistence that even the vilest, least ambiguous rhetoric from conservative hosts is benign gives viewers the plausible deniability to tell themselves that they aren’t racist. But the truth is that Fox News has long trafficked in racism, sometimes veiled, often not, and in recent years it has grown far more severe.
Part of the blame for the accelerated toxification of right-wing media surely falls on Donald Trump, a diehard bigot who pandered to all of the worst paranoia and racial grievances of the GOP base, but part of the blame also falls squarely on American conservatism and its refusal to adapt to changing times. The Republican Party is becoming increasingly unappealing to voters—an inevitable development since it refuses to offer any material improvements to the lives of anyone but the super-rich—and so it has decided to stoke panic about immigration in the hopes of driving voters back into their fold out of fear.
As the most popular host at Fox, Tucker has been leading this anti-immigration charge and is now unapologetically spewing outright white nationalist conspiracy theories. On Tucker Carlson Today yesterday, the Swanson-food-heir-turned-talking-head insisted that undocumented immigrants are “being treated better than American citizens,” a claim which would surely come as news to the migrants who Trump locked in cages or the families he tore apart along the border.
“Now I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest 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,” said Tucker, invoking the white nationalist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, the deranged belief that brown and Black people are emigrating to the West to “replace” white people.
While it was originally popular in Europe, belief in “The Great Replacement” has gained traction in the United States amongst conservatives who hate the idea of white hegemony coming to an end. Crucially, it’s a theory that motivates many right-wing mass shooters, including the man who shot up a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand killing 51 people and injuring 40 others.
“But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually! Let’s just say it. That’s true!” Tucker added, fueling his viewers’ fear of people of color before diving into an offensive, facile analogy comparing the government’s treatment of immigrants to a parent treating biological children better than adopted children.
Towards the end of the segment, Carlson insisted his concerns are not about race but are in fact about “voting rights” because apparently somehow his vote is weakened by immigration. What he’s really implying is that white votes will matter less if there are more people of color voting, as if the very idea of enfranchising nonwhite people is anathema to him.
Here’s an idea Tucker, if you’re worried about immigrants voting for Democrats, maybe you should push your own party to offer something beyond imagined racial grievances and plutocracy. In the meantime, it’s up to the rest of us to hold creatures like Tucker accountable by condemning his rhetoric and pushing advertisers to drop his shows.
— nikki mccann ramírez (@NikkiMcR) April 9, 2021
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.