Tucker Carlson’s abrupt departure from Fox News has left millions of Americans asking one of the host’s favorite questions: “What is going on?”
Media reporters are currently chasing down the reasons for Carlson’s absence, which was described by the network as a mutual agreement to “part ways,” even though he was under the impression he was going to host his show on Monday night. But with the landscape of conservative media shaken by the announcement, a look back at Carlson’s career reveals a number of comments that would have gotten him fired — or at least gotten him axed at a different network that cared about things like not promoting white nationalists. Below are some of the greatest worst hits of the network’s most popular ex-host.
When he compared Black public figures to “pimps” and “sharecroppers.”
Carlson was co-hosting Fox & Friends Weekend in July 2013 when the network was discussing the killing of Trayvon Martin. After Geraldo Rivera called in to say that “if you dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug,” Carlson declined to comment directly on the shooting of the Black 17-year-old but had something to say about two prominent civil-rights activists pushing for justice. “I am positive that people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton do not deserve to be called civil-rights leaders,” Carlson said. “They are not. They are hustlers and pimps who make a living off inflaming racial tensions. They know nothing about this.”
A decade of conversation about race in America didn’t appear to have much impact on Carlson. In April, after Tennessee lawmaker Justin Pearson was removed from the state legislature for demonstrating for gun reform, Carlson played two videos of Pearson speaking — one from his time at Bowdoin College and another on the statehouse floor. After claiming Pearson only got into Bowdoin because he is Black, Carlson said that Pearson sounded like a “crypto white kid in the first video.” In the more recent clip of Pearson, he suggested the lawmaker was “mimicking civil rights leaders” like Martin Luther King Jr. because of the cadence of his speech. Carlson failed to note that Pearson’s father was a pastor. He then suggested that Pearson sounded like a “sharecropper” compared to other civil-rights figures like Malcolm X.
When he said immigrants were making America “dirtier.”
Carlson was famous for xenophobia on his show, but one of the foulest comments he made condemning immigration came in December 2018, when he described how he thought migrants crossing the southern border affected the country:
“We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided. Immigration is a form of atonement.”
Carlson faced some advertising blowback for the comment, with 11 advertisers — including Pacific Life and IHOP — pulling their spots from his show. But it wasn’t enough to make him reevaluate his opinion. A year later, he did not push back when a guest said that immigrants make New York City dirty.
When his old — but deeply racist — comments were made public.
Remember Bubba the Love Sponge — the Florida radio host whose sex tape with Hulk Hogan’s wife took down Gawker? His conversations put Carlson in hot water, too, when Media Matters for America published clips of Carlson calling into his radio show between 2006 and 2011 saying some pretty horrific things. Iraq was a place filled “semi-literate primitive monkeys” where they did not know how to use utensils. He said “everybody knows” that Barack Obama would never have been elected to national office if he were white. He described white women with “jungle fever” as “mudsharks.”
Or when his deeply misogynstic comments were made public.
On his show, Carlson has suggested that powerful women, like Vice-President Kamala Harris, have dated their way into their positions and claimed that women in the upper ranks of the armed forces have made a “mockery of the U.S. military.” But these on-air comments pale in comparison to the Bubba the Love Sponge recordings released the same week as the racist jokes above. During the same period between 2006 and 2011, Carlson called women “extremely primitive.” He called Britney Spears and Paris Hilton “the biggest white whores in America.” He said he felt sorry for Justice Elena Kagan because he feels sorry in general for “unattractive women.” He said that rape-shield laws should be banned. He imagined a scenario in which girls at his daughter’s girls-only boarding school were having sex with each other and said, “If it weren’t my daughter, I would love that scenario.”
All the times he pushed white supremacists’ favorite idea.
For the past five years, Carlson has been airing segments on the racist conspiracy known as great-replacement theory — the idea that an elite cabal (often Jewish) is pushing to increase immigration from nonwhite countries, which will ultimately result in a civilizational shift in majority-white nations like the United States when white people are no longer the dominant plurality. In one monologue from April 2021, he mentioned the idea by name:
“I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate — the voters now casting ballots — with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that’s what happening, actually. Let’s just say it. That’s true.”
Carlson, who has called white nationalism a “hoax,” has repeated the idea hundreds of times, according to one count. And white nationalists have been thrilled that Carlson has been doing their work for them. In 2019, a leaked chat from the supremacist group Identity Evropa had messages saying “Tuck” was “our guy,” who “has done more for our people than most of us could ever hope to.” The same year, Derek Black, a man who renounced his prominent neo-Nazi family, said they used to sit around watching Carlson on “replay because they feel that he is making the white nationalist talking points better than they have.” Carlson’s mention of the theory cooled off for a few months last year after a racist shooter cited it in his manifesto for killing ten people in a Buffalo supermarket. But a few months later, he was back on it, calling the great replacement an “election strategy” by Democrats, not a “conspiracy theory.”
When he made dangerous claims about deaths linked to vaccines.
As the COVID vaccine rollout gained momentum among the general public in spring 2021, Carlson aired a segment falsely claiming that more than 3,000 people had died after getting the shot. “The actual number is almost certainly much higher than that,” Carlson said, citing an open-source database compiled by anti-vaxx conspiracists. “Perhaps vastly higher.”
Carlson was way off: An extremely small number of people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine died from a rare blood-clotting syndrome. Hundreds of millions of Americans have been fully vaccinated.