American extremists love Tucker Carlson. Five ways he helped spread their messages
For years, America’s far-right extremists have relied on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson as “our guy” – the man who would take white supremacist tropes from the darkest corners of the internet, give them his own twist, and send them out to his tens of millions of viewers.
When the news broke Monday that Carlson had "parted ways" with Fox News, immediate reaction focused on his role in the channel's false claims about Dominion Voting Systems, which led to a settlement of more than $700 million.
But extremists across the far right lamented the loss of perhaps the most reliable amplifier of their theories and rumors by the host of one of cable TV's most-watched shows.
“Tucker Carlson was taken off the air because he was telling the truth and because he was popular,” fumed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in a video posted to social media Monday. “Fox News is all about having controlled conservatives to manipulate and lead the narrative, but Tucker Carlson didn’t sell out to the system.”
Here are five times Carlson, who was fired from Fox on Friday, has amplified extremist talking points:
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1. The Great Replacement Theory
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Carlson has long pushed the racist and antisemitic theory of a “great replacement” happening in America. This debunked theory posits that white people are being systematically “replaced” by immigrants of color not by natural demographic changes but in a deliberate scheme orchestrated by an elitist liberal cabal.
The Great Replacement Theory aims to inject fear into white, conservative voters that they are being “replaced” by immigrants of color, who, as the theory goes, are more likely to vote for the liberal policies favored by the shadowy group working to bring them into the country.
Last year, The New York Times reported that Carlson pushed this theory on more than 400 episodes of his show. Last May, the Anti-Defamation League called for Carlson to be removed for his promotion of the Great Replacement theory.
2. The idea of a ‘white genocide’ in South Africa
In August 2018, then-President Donald Trump tweeted that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to investigate “the large scale killing of farmers” in South Africa. The tweet directly followed one of several television segments Carlson devoted to the claim that white South African farmers were being killed in huge numbers.
That story had been formed and spread on 4Chan and other spaces online, where posters spread the lie of a “white genocide” in South Africa as justification for their hatred of Black people. Those same forums erupted with joy when Carlson, then Trump, repeated their baseless ruse.
There was, and is, no truth to this rumor, but that didn’t stop Trump and Carlson spreading it to their tens of millions of followers.
Heidi Beirich, who then led the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project on hate and extremism, said of the Fox News host at the time: “Tucker Carlson has become our hate mainstreamer-in-chief.”
3. Blaming American problems on immigrants
In December 2018, Carlson said on the air that immigration makes America “poorer, and dirtier and more divided.”
The comments, on which Carlson later doubled down, led to an exodus of advertisers from his show.
4. Misrepresenting the Jan. 6 insurrection
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Earlier this year, Carlson aired a segment featuring previously unseen video footage from inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (In a sign of Carlson's influence among conservatives, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had given him "exclusive" access to a trove of security video.)
By picking a few snippets of video, Carlson told his viewers that the insurrection was not the deadly, violent uprising it was. Instead, he portrayed Jan. 6 as a largely peaceful gathering of law-abiding patriots, recasting the Washington mob that breached the Capitol as an “orderly and meek” gathering of “sightseers.” His comments were contradicted by the U.S. Capitol Police chief, who called the segment “offensive and misleading.”
A dangerous new wave of social media chatter followed, including death threats against Capitol police officers and Democratic leaders, according to experts who monitor extremism and a report from Advance Democracy.
5. Pushing the idea of an Antifa bogeyman
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Carlson has led the way among many conservative pundits pushing the idea that anti-fascist activists are part of a highly organized army called “Antifa.” This idea seeks to lump any leftist organizers and activists together as evil anarchists bent on destroying America.
That claim has even been taken up by prosecutors, including in one landmark case in San Diego.
Carlson’s reports on Antifa – earlier this year he called Antifa the ”armed militia of the Democratic Party” – have been instrumental in the battle to convince millions of Americans that any young person who dresses in black and protests against anything from police brutality to environmental damage is part of this group.
Carlson, like others, regularly places the responsibility for any property damage caused during protests or riots on the shoulders of “Antifa,” even when violence occurs at clashes between far-left and far-right protestors like members of the Proud Boys.
Catch up: The week in extremism, from USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Five ways Tucker Carlson helped spread extremist theories