Tucker Carlson's new show has become an overnight sensation. In his first week since replacing anchor Megyn Kelly, he has surpassed her ratings, but not by virtue of sober, charismatic news coverage on Fox News' now all male prime-time lineup. Instead, his anti-elitist fervor, explicit pro-Trump line and visceral takedowns of his guests has drawn him appalled criticism from the left, and adoring fans among the white supremacist and neo-Nazi set.
Among the supporters happily heaping praise on Fox's latest star are the likes of ex-KKK Grand Wizard and failed Louisiana senate candidate David Duke, neo-Nazi bloggers Andrew Anglin and Eric Striker, as well prominent alt-right blogger Mike Cernovich – who perpetuated the #sickhillary meme.
The once bowtie-wearing son of an ambassador climbed the Fox News lineup fast, reaching the coveted 9 PM slot just two months after replacing Greta Van Susteren at 7 PM in November.
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But Carlson, now 47, has had a long career in left and right-wing media, spanning over two decades. He started out writing for quality publications like The Weekly Standard, New York Times Magazine and The New Republic, and moved into cable news with a stint on CNN’s Crossfire and even had his own show, Tucker, on MSNBC for three seasons before it was cancelled for low ratings.
In 2010, he co-founded and became editor-in-chief of the successful conservative political news site the Daily Caller, from which he has since relinquished editorial control for his move to Fox.
Before his meteoric rise to Fox prime-time, Carlson was perhaps most famous for a chastising he received at the hands of political satirist Jon Stewart in 2004, on Crossfire. In the segment, both Carlson, representing the right and Paul Begala, a former-Clinton adviser who was representing the left, were picked apart by Stewart for what he argued was their role in polarizing and politicizing cable news.
A 'one-man Holocaust'
It cannot be said that Carlson has changed his ways since then. If anything, he has fully embraced Stewart's criticisms of him, and as a result gained a whole new pack of unsavory fans.
Since November, the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer has been regularly posting clips of Carlson’s interviews under the headline “You Can’t Cuck The TUCK!” Anglin, the site’s founder, calls Carlson “our greatest ally” and has repeatedly applauded him for humiliating Jewish guests. Carlson “used to be the worst type of bowtie wearing f*&got,” but under Trump he is “a machine of ultimate destruction,” Anglin wrote on his website in November.
After Carlson interviewed The Washington Post’s conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin in December, Anglin lauded Carlson as “a one-man Holocaust.”
In the same vein, David Duke took to Twitter on December 1st to congratulate Carlson for pushing back against “Jewish Supremacists” who “believe they are above the law,” after an interview with Wesleyan University President Michael Roth.
On Twitter, alt-right memes depict Tucker Carlson as Pepe the frog, a notorious symbol of the alt-right imbued with racist and anti-Semitic connotations.
There is even a popular hashtag Carlson's alt-right fans use on Twitter: #cantcuckthetuck. All of which is far cry from the treatment Megyn Kelly received among the same crowd, which included a barrage of online harassment and even death threats after she asked Trump tough questions during a presidential debate.
Humiliating the SJWs
Tucker Carlson has obviously struck a nerve. His stint at the 7 PM show averaged 2.8 million nightly viewers, up 23% compared with last year, and beating CNN and MSNBC's combined viewership for that slot.
When he took over from Kelly on January 9, his debut ratings were 27 percent higher (total viewers) compared with versus the same day of her program in 2016, says Accuracy in Media.
Having ramped up his confrontational style, Carlson now covers hot-button topics involving race, elitism and the media with a regular contempt for his guests. He adores confronting them with previous articles or tweets they wrote and ripping them to shreds.
"You wrote a column recently and I gotta say it's one of the most unfair things I think I've ever read, it's almost like a download from the DNC website," Carlson opened his interview with Roll Call reporter Jonathan Allen. To Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald, in what turned into a very heated and bizarre exchange, Carlson began simply, "Do you believe that you are practicing journalism?"
Two weeks prior to replacing Kelly, who had gained a reputation for fighting misogyny, Carlson made waves for berating a Teen Vogue writer who had attacked Trump, mocking Lauren Duca for having written "Trump threatens the sovereignty of a religion" and for the titles of her previous work, suggesting she "should stick to the thigh-high boots. You are better at that." At which point, the interview ended with Duca calling him a "sexist pig." The Associated Press later reported that Duca's appearance on the show resulted in a rape threat and online harassment.
In an interview with environmental activist Erin Schroder, he repeatedly insisted she did not know her facts, a line he also took with the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin and many other guests. Shortly after, Mike Cernovich, whom the New Yorker magazine dubbed "the meme mastermind of the alt-right," joined the chorus praising Carlson, tweeting, "For the first time, normies are learning what SJWs (social justice warriors) are. Wow. Impact of Tucker Carlson's show incredible."
The secret of Carlson's success is actually very simple, says Matt Gertz of the progressive media watchdog Media Matters for America, who analyzed his appeal to the far-right of the American political spectrum: “Those deplorables love Carlson’s cutting interview style, which seeks not to extract information from guests but rather to embarrass them.”