This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in today for Terry Gross. If you follow cable TV at all, you probably know that Fox News host Tucker Carlson is one of the most influential commentators in conservative media and one of the most provocative. He's known for praising authoritarian leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and warning his viewers about the dangers of foreign immigrants and elites who want to control their lives. Our guest, New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore, recently wrote a series of articles about Carlson drawing on an analysis of more than 1,100 episodes of his show, "Tucker Carlson Tonight," conducted by Confessore and a team of Times reporters as well as interviews with dozens of current and former Fox executives, producers and journalists.No Carlson is not known for praising Putin. While he supposedly once said something positive about Putin, he has criticized Putin dozens of times.
Confessore concludes that Carlson has constructed what may be the most racist show in the history of cable news and, by some measures, the most successful.
There are no examples given of what is usually called racism. The main charge of racism is based on discussing immigration and changing demographics. In particular he alludes to non-whites replacing whites. He rarely refers to races at all, but does mention immigrants replacing Americans.
The NY Times and NPR Radio refer to these same changing demographics much more than Carlson. The difference is that NYT and NPR celebrate replacing whites as a good thing.
Pres. Biden himself occasionally refers to this replacement. He even says that it is the main reason he ran for President.
This policy is called the great replacement, the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from faraway countries.Wow, Carlson did 400 shows propagating a false conspiracy, and NYT and NPR have devoted a lot of effort to attacking him for it, and yet they cannot produce a single sentence that is either racist or wrong!
DAVIES: All right. That's excerpts of eight different episodes of "Tucker Carlson Tonight." That theme, that message appeared in more than 400 shows. This is the kind of statistical analysis you undertook to make it clear that this wasn't an outlier.
CONFESSORE: Right. It's not an outlier. It's a continual theme of the show. And it's a racist conspiracy theory. And there's no other way to describe it. It's a conspiracy theory because it isn't true. But it's a powerful idea. And it's an old one on the far right that has made a, you know, new entrance in recent years.
Carlson grabbed that, spun it up and told his viewers that there was poop all over the streets of this town. And, you know, he played it for laughs. But then he said something really interesting. He said, these people have been their own community in Europe for a thousand years, and what makes you think they're going to assimilate in America?Yes, some Europeans do not assimilate well. It is not racist to say that.
The other supposed example of racism was that he mocked Biden's new Black lesbian immigrant spokesman.
Here is the example of Carlson supposedly praising Putin:
CARLSON: Good evening, and welcome to "Tucker Carlson Tonight." Since the day that Donald Trump became president, Democrats in Washington have told you, you have a patriotic duty to hate Vladimir Putin. It's not a suggestion. It's a mandate. Anything less than hatred for Putin is treason. Many Americans have obeyed this directive. They now dutifully hate Vladimir Putin. Maybe you're one of them. Hating Putin has become the central purpose of America's foreign policy. It's the main thing that we talk about. Entire cable channels are now devoted to it. Very soon, that hatred of Vladimir Putin could bring the United States into a conflict in Eastern Europe.Carlson raises good questions. It used to be that most of the anti-war politicians were on the left and in the Democrat Party. No more. Every single Democrat in Congress voted for the Ukraine war. Opposing the war is just 57 Republicans in the House, and 1 Senator.
Before that happens, it might be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious. What is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity? Does he eat dogs? These are fair questions, and the answer to all of them is no. Vladimir Putin didn't do any of that.
So why does permanent Washington hate him so much? If you've been watching the news, you know that Putin is having a border dispute with a nation called Ukraine. Now, the main thing to know about Ukraine for our purposes is that its leaders once sent millions of dollars to Joe Biden's family. Not surprisingly, Ukraine is now one of Biden's favorite countries. Biden has pledged to defend Ukraine's borders even as he opens our borders to the world. That's how it works. Invading America is called equity. Invading Ukraine is a war crime.