Last spring, Fox News host Tucker Carlson used one of his inflammatory monologues to accuse the Biden administration of “trying to replace the current electorate” with “more obedient voters from the Third World.” Carlson has spent years edging up to the border of explicit white-supremacist rhetoric, but here he crossed over by echoing the precise theories of neo-Nazis, using their preferred terms.
An alarmed Anti-Defamation League wrote to Carlson’s employers demanding they sack him. Lachlan Murdoch wrote back, denying that Carlson had done the thing everybody saw him do on television. Murdoch’s denial consisted of a fine parsing of Carlson’s rhetoric:
“Concerning the segment of ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ on April 8th, however, we respectfully disagree,” Murdoch continued in the letter, which the ADL provided to CNN. “A full review of the guest interview indicates that Mr. Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory. As Mr. Carlson himself stated during the guest interview: ‘White replacement theory? No, no, this is a voting rights question.’”
Murdoch’s defense hinged on two very narrow points. First, Carlson had focused on voting, not on the racial composition of the electorate per se. And second, while he had used the word “replace” in conjunction with this alleged scheme, he had not uttered the words “replacement theory.”
Fast-forward to last night. Here is Tucker Carlson accusing the Biden administration of planning to “change the racial mix of the country,” explaining, “This policy is called the ‘great replacement.’”
Note that Carlson has blown up Murdoch’s carefully constructed defense by (1) casting his theory explicitly in racial terms, dispensing with the voting-rights fig leaf, and (2) describing this method explicitly as “replacement theory.”
Now in all likelihood, Murdoch will just ignore this. Carlson is spreading white-supremacist propaganda on his network, but the ratings are good.
What’s perhaps most interesting here is that Carlson appears to have gone out of his way to step right over the trip wires Murdoch set up last spring. Murdoch wanted to have the pretense of deniability that his prime-time star was name-checking Nazi ideas on air, and Carlson (who is not an idiot) took the two-part test Murdoch created and unchecked both boxes.