Anyone who wants to understand those more than two-thirds of Republican voters who still believe in the hoax of the theft of the 2020 elections, and who see an FBI conspiracy after the assault on the Capitol in January, have a weekday appointment at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Fox News. It’s time to Tucker Carlson Tonight, with 3.48 million viewers, the most watched cable television program in the United States. Its host is a fearless, quick-talking, sarcastic 52-year-old Californian who lives in Washington and is married to his high school sweetheart, has four children, and sustains savage alternative plots, half-truths, and outright lies. There are other speakers of conservative populism, but none sound as loud here today as yours.
Carlson isn’t afraid to go overboard to connect with an audience made up primarily of scared and pissed-off white America. The one that believes that the Biden Administration is an incompetent socialist government overcome by inflation and citizen insecurity, that observes minorities with suspicion (the presenter defends the theory of the great replacement, which denounces that the left is changing Americans “of pure strain by more obedient citizens from the third world ”) and who sees as a hero Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old boy who came out armed with a rifle one summer night in 2020, killed two people and wounded another during the riots that they followed an anti-racist protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Rittenhouse chose Carlson’s show for his first interview after a jury found him not guilty under a controversial self-defense interpretation. The announcer, who declined to speak to EL PAÍS through a spokeswoman for the network, defined him as a young man “bright, honest, sincere, obedient and hard-working, the kind of person we need.” His production company is working on a documentary about the young man.
With his style, Carlson is causing a schism at Fox News: either with him or off the network. One of its announcers, Chris Wallace, famous for his incisive political interviews, announced to viewers on Sunday that he was leaving for the competition, CNN, after 18 years on the conservative broadcaster. Wallace is thus following the path of analysts Jonah Goldberg and Steve Hayes, who resigned from the Fox News storefront and salary after the premiere on the service of streaming Fox Nation de Patriot Purge (Patriotic Purge), a Carlson documentary in three chapters on the assault on the Capitol. In his resignation, Goldberg and Hayes, founders of The Dispatch, “A meeting place for conservative readers seeking factual news and opinion,” they define the film as “a collection of incoherent conspiracies, riddled with factual inaccuracies, misleading images, and pernicious omissions,” which aims to spread the message that “the The United States government is using the same tactics with American patriots that it used against Al Qaeda ”. This week it was also known that two other stars of the chain, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, wrote on January 6 to the then Chief of Staff of the White House, Mark Meadows, to pressure Trump and stop the attack .
The resignations are another skirmish in the battle of the American right between Trumpism and the traditional Republican party. When the mogul lost the 2020 election, Fox News, which turned 25 this fall, seemed ready to cast off with Trump, but the reality of its audience was more stubborn. “Following the departure of Roger Ailes, [alma de la cadena, que fue obligado a dejarla por un escándalo de abusos sexuales un año antes de su muerte, en 2017], the station has been looking for its place, “says Alex Shephard, a journalist for the veteran center-left magazine The New Republic. Shephard signed the cover of the October issue, dedicated to Carlson. “They need a star. And that star is Tucker. I think he loves to tease the Murdochs [herederos de Rupert Murdoch, propietarios de News Corp., dueña de la Fox]. He’s the most powerful figure in there right now. Do you believe everything you say? Surely not, but that shouldn’t fool us. He has a fiercely conspiracy point of view. “
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Carlson’s relationship with Trump is not, however, close. During his presidency he was not the most enthusiastic announcer of the chain with the tycoon; he preferred to ignore it to focus on seemingly minor stories about those “culture wars” that have now been placed at the center of debate in the United States. In 2016, the year the Republican was elected, Carlson, who in 1999 defined him as “the most repulsive person on the planet,” wrote in Politico an article titled Donald Trump is shocking, vulgar and right, in which he argued that his rise responded to the fed up of “ordinary people” with the “intellectual corruption” of the elites of Washington, also (or especially) the Republicans, of whom he himself, the spitting image of what is know as a country club republican (country club Republican), comes from.
The item is included in The Long Slide. Thirty Years in American Journalism (The great slide. Thirty years in American journalism, Threshold, 2021), which reflects his career as that conservative reporter, always wearing a bow tie, who wrote gracefully in magazines across the political spectrum. These works, inspired by Christopher Hitchens’ passion to contradict and in the narrative techniques of New Journalism (Hunter S. Thompson apparently changed his life), are accompanied by a prologue in which Carlson makes his usual defense of the freedom of expression, shows nostalgia for a time when magazines counted and “reporters were free men, proud to have an open mind” and regrets that publications such as The New Republic, “Then dedicated to journalism, today to propaganda” or Politico (“Rubbish”), they wouldn’t let someone like him write today.
Media farther to the left than Fox are some of his show’s favorite foes. He enjoys ridiculing the competition: on a recent broadcast, he capped a succession of clips of other network hosts talking about the inflation problem with this comment: “Really? Why do they let them talk about the economy? If the topic was still postmodern feminist poetry, but… economics? ”.
CNN is always on his target, and within CNN, Brian Stelter, host of a weekly space on the American journalistic ecosystem. He is also the author of the book Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Danger Distortion of the Truth (Deception: Donald Trump, Fox News and the danger of distorting the truth, Simon and Schuster, 2021), on the drift of the chain under the influence of the former president. Stelter recounts how Carlson became a leader during confinement, ousting Hannity’s program, thanks to his attacks on vaccines, masks or required reading in schools, issues that have greatly polarized Americans.
That surprise was his revenge after years of crossing in the desert. After the times of freelance in written press, worked as a talk show on CNN, had his own program on the progressive MSNBC, participated in the US version of Look who is dancing! and founded a political website called The Daily Caller, that did not bear the fruits that he hoped for. Now he owns an empire, charges for his nightly show and for Tucker Carlson Today (who broadcasts three days a week without a tie, from a set that could be his farmhouse in Maine), sells his books on prime time (“I did not buy it on Amazon [dueña del diario The Washington Post]”, warns on every show) and produces documentaries.
Stelter dubbed Carlson “the new Donald Trump,” whom, he said, has succeeded “as a leader of the right, a source of outrage and an arsonist.” So now the question is whether the presenter plans to make the leap into politics, as the ultra Éric Zemmour has just done in France (“the French Tucker Carlson,” as defined by the Washington press). “I don’t think so,” says Shephard, “he’s very comfortable with his role as a cynical right-wing agitator.” At the moment, several t-shirt companies have already entered the business of imagining logos with this message: “Tucker Carlson 2024”.
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