On April 24, 2023, Fox News host Tucker Carlson was unceremoniously let go from the network, leaving a sneering, white supremacist hole in our media landscape. News that cable TV’s most popular demagogue had been fired after 14 years — half of which he spent hosting Tucker Carlson Tonight — sent shockwaves throughout the conservative movement.
And the mood among fringe, far-right and white nationalist figures whom Carlson had either promoted or defended over the course of his show was one of mourning. In fact, the way many were eulogizing his career — with Twitter selfies and personal anecdotes — one might be tempted to think Carlson had been struck dead by lightning while playing 18 holes at Mar-a-Lago.
‘A Personal Debt of Gratitude’
Take, for example, Chaya Raichik, the woman behind the rabidly anti-LGBTQ Twitter account Libs of TikTok. Shortly after Carlson’s departure was announced Raichik tweeted a photo of them smiling in his studio. “Tucker is one of the most genuine, kind-hearted, and authentic people I ever had the honor of meeting,” she wrote. Carlson often touted Raichik’s work on his show.
Cartoonishly misogynistic Internet personality Andrew Tate tweeted that Carlson’s firing was a “Matrix Attack.” Carlson had interviewed Tate for his Tucker Carlson Today show in August 2022. Following Tate’s arrest on suspicion of rape and human trafficking in December 2022, Carlson claimed Tate was the victim of a “set up.”
“Raw Egg Nationalist,” a pseudonymous far-right fitness guru whose books have been published by white nationalist publishing company Antelope Hill, praised Tucker for “go[ing] further than any other mainstream figure in shifting the terms of the discourse.” He added that he owed Carlson a “personal debt of gratitude.”
Raw Egg Nationalist was prominently featured in a pseudodocumentary produced by Carlson called The End of Men.
The Twitter account for the white nationalist hate group VDARE declared that their “ideas are based in reality, and to the extent that Tucker Carlson was in touch with reality and willing to say so, he echoed the same truths about immigration and so on that we do.” In 2019 Carlson defended VDARE after PayPal refused to do business with them.
Kevin Michael Dolan, an antisemitic white nationalist who writes under the pen name “Bennett’s Phylactery,” reminisced about the time when Tucker Carlson highlighted his tweets during a 2020 monologue. “He called me a genius,” Dolan wrote. “I called my dad, that was the only time I ever told anyone [in real life] about my account.”
During the Apr. 27, 2023 episode of his Infowars show The American Journal, Harrison Smith devoted an entire segment to Tucker’s firing. Smith, who’s spread conspiracies about “white genocide” and ranted about killing Biden administration officials, lashed out at Fox News for “bend[ing] the knee” to activists and the Anti-Defamation League — which called for Carlson’s firing over his promotion of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory.
The Great Replacement posits that there is a scheme to systematically replace white people with immigrants of color. It has inspired multiple terrorist attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere, most recently at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY.
“Like any of these people could just stand up against the annoying little rats at the ADL, right? But they don’t. They just don’t,” he said. “They just eventually just go ‘Oh my god, these people won’t shut up. Fine, we’re getting rid of Tucker Carlson.’ As if that’s going to placate the psychopaths that are after total control.”
Last year Carlson cited a viral video by Smith to promote the false claim that white people were being denied monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19. This lie was quickly picked up by former president Trump, who told rallygoers: “The Left is now rationing life-saving therapeutics based on race, discriminating against and denigrating, just denigrating white people to determine who lives and who dies.”
A History of Elevating Extremists
This reaction by Internet-famous bigots and conspiracy theorists is unsurprising, especially considering the fact that Carlson often gave them access to a larger audience than they otherwise would have had.
“Elevating fringe, far-right voices was one of Tucker Carlson’s favorite pastimes – and the barrier of entry was low,” Kat Abughazaleh, Senior Video Producer for Media Matters who watched Carlson’s show since Jan. 2021, told me via email.
“If you said the right lines with the right cadence, you could easily get a four-minute slot to answer one or two softball questions on the most-watched cable news show in the country. And in a lot of these cases, you can trace the influence of some of these accounts directly to Carlson.”
Even in cases where a particular far-right figure already had a sizeable following online, an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight would nonetheless boost their reach and bolster their standing in the conservative movement.
“Anti-LGBTQ social media account Libs of TikTok, for example, already had a large following on Twitter, but Carlson made a concerted effort to host the woman behind the account Chaya Raichik on his nightly show as well as his Fox Nation talk show,” she said. “But by continuing to give her ideas a platform (and praising them!), he kept her and her dangerous posts in the public eye.”
And Raichik wasn’t the only person who personally benefitted after being catapulted into the spotlight on Carlson’s show.
“There’s a whole universe of devious misinformers Carlson elevated, all of whom increased their reach and influence due to their appearances,” Abughazaleh explained.
“For example, Matt Walsh is helping to write anti-trans legislation for state lawmakers and appearing on stage with them. Chris Rufo is a trustee at a Florida university and is helping to reshape education in the state. Kyle Rittenhouse became the mascot of the Republican Party after Carlson embraced him. All these people would still be a part of the conservative media ecosystem without Carlson but the platform he gave them elevated their status and gave them the influence to impact our daily lives.”
Can You Imagine a World Without Tucker?
But with Carlson gone there are now lingering questions about who will replace him and what impact his vacancy will have on the people he once promoted.
On his Highly Respected podcast, Scott Greer — a white nationalist and Daily Caller alum who promoted his book No Campus For White Men on Carlson’s show — said there was no “silver lining” to his former boss’s firing. Greer lauded Carlson for spreading far-right and white supremacist ideas into the mainstream, such as the Great Replacement and the claim that white people are being persecuted in South Africa.
But he stated that “with him gone” you “no longer have that person promoting those issues of making people aware of [the] Great Replacement, making people aware of the problems going on with anti-white racism, problems going on with mass immigration. All these things.”
After predicting a transition away from the “apocalyptic” monologues that Carlson was known for, Greer also opined that the ability of right-wing online influencers — whom he dubbed the “Internet Right” — to drive stories at Fox News would disappear.
“There’s not gonna be as much of the online Internet Right influence that there was on Tucker,” Greer said. “Tucker clearly was getting a lot of his topics and ideas from the Internet Right all the time, and even was sharing big Twitter accounts associated with it. That influence is no longer gonna come around.”
As Kat Abughazaleh explained, Carlson’s ouster — and temporary replacement with a rotating cast of Fox News talking heads — certainly hinders the ability of these fringe, far-right figures to reach the audience they once did, at least for the time being. But she cautioned that, even without Tucker, the network is still a major purveyor of hatred and conspiracy theories.
“It still remains to be seen who will take Carlson slot, but with rotating hosts each week, there is no set formula for far-right figures to get featured on the 8 p.m. hour. It has thrown at least a small wrench in the plans of anyone who was hoping to get on Carlson’s show, but also the old guard who frequently came on to rant about their hateful cause of the day,” she told me.
“For now, the rotating hosts undermine the ability for an individual to monopolize a single host. But Fox is still Fox, even without Carlson. The channel platforms hate and misinformation on a daily basis – the only thing missing (for now) is Carlson’s specific style.”
She also noted that these far-right and white nationalist voices can still reach plenty of people — from radio stations to YouTube channels to more extremist-friendly platforms like Gab and Rumble. However, “primetime television is what drives a lot of debate and legislation.”
“Not interviewing a slew of these people every single night keeps the conversation decentralized with fewer big names (like Carlson’s) to lend these ideas credibility,” she said. “At the moment, there’s no replacement for primetime cable television. It’s not the driver behind everything in America but it’s still seen as a source of information for the public – Rumble and Gab and similar sites are still dangerous and drivers of misinformation but it’s decentralized, without the credibility of belonging to one large cable network.”
As for the claim that the influence of the “Internet Right” will cease without Carlson behind a Fox News desk?
“These ideas still exist. Other outlets still push them. The only difference is that Carlson is not saying them to one of the largest cable television audiences. For now, that influence might be diminished but telling yourself they’re gone forever is just a comfortable lie.”