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Tucker Carlson
Tucker Carlson (51771495255) (cropped).jpg
Carlson in 2021
Born
Tucker McNear Carlson

(1969-05-16) May 16, 1969 (age 54)
Education Trinity College (BA)
Occupation
  • Television journalist
  • commentator
  • columnist
  • author
Employer
Television
  • Crossfire
  • Tucker
  • Tucker Carlson Tonight
Political party Republican (2020–present)
Movement Conservatism
Paleoconservatism
Spouse(s)
Susan Andrews
(m. 1991)
Children 4
Parent(s)
  • Dick Carlson (father)

Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson (born May 16, 1969) is an American conservative political commentator, writer, and television personality, who hosted the nightly political talk show Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News from 2016 to 2023.

Carlson began his media career in the 1990s, writing for The Weekly Standard and other publications. He was a CNN commentator from 2000 to 2005 and a co-host of the network's prime-time news debate program Crossfire from 2001 to 2005. From 2005 to 2008, he hosted the nightly program Tucker on MSNBC. In 2009, he became a political analyst for Fox News, appearing on various programs before launching his own show. In 2010, Carlson co-founded and served as the initial editor-in-chief of the right-wing news and opinion website The Daily Caller, until selling his ownership stake and leaving in 2020. He has written three books: Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites (2003), Ship of Fools (2018), and The Long Slide (2021).

An advocate of former U.S. president Donald Trump, Carlson was described by Politico as "perhaps the highest-profile proponent of 'Trumpism'" but was willing to criticize Trump when he believed that the former president was straying from that ideology. He was said to have influenced some of Trump's decisions as president, including the cancellation of a military strike against Iran in 2019, the firing of National Security Advisor John Bolton the same year, and the commutation of Roger Stone's prison sentence in 2020. Carlson has been described as a leading voice of white grievance politics. He is known for circulating far-right ideas into mainstream politics and discourse. His remarks on race, immigration, and women – including slurs he said on air between 2006 and 2011 (which resurfaced in 2019) – have at times been described as racist and sexist, and provoked advertiser boycotts of Tucker Carlson Tonight; despite this, it remained one of the most watched cable news shows in the United States. On April 24, 2023, Fox News dismissed Carlson and cancelled Tucker Carlson Tonight, with immediate effect; Fox's public statement did not include a reason for Carlson's termination. Since 24 April 2023, his time slot has been filled by rotating temporary hosts. In June 2023 he began posting a show on Twitter called Tucker on Twitter.

Carlson has been described by the Washington Post and The Atlantic as a nationalist and by CNN, The Guardian, PM News and The Independent as a right-wing extremist. He is a frequent critic of immigration. Formerly an economic libertarian, he now supports protectionism. In 2004, he renounced his initial support for the Iraq War, and has since been skeptical of U.S. foreign interventions. Carlson has promoted conspiracy theories on topics such as demographic replacement, COVID-19, and the January 6 United States Capitol attack; and has been noted for false and misleading statements about those topics and a number of others.

Early life and education

Tucker Carlson at the Buckley School
Carlson at the Buckley School in 1975

Carlson was born Tucker McNear Carlson in the Mission District of San Francisco, California, on May 16, 1969. He is the elder son of artist and San Francisco native Lisa McNear (née Lombardi) (1945–2011) and Dick Carlson (1941–), a former "gonzo reporter" who became the director of Voice of America, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. ambassador to the Seychelles. Carlson's brother, Buckley Peck Carlson, later Buckley Swanson Peck Carlson, is nearly two years younger and has worked as a communications manager and Republican political operative.

Carlson's paternal grandparents were Richard Boynton and Dorothy Anderson, who were teenagers when they placed his father at The Home for Little Wanderers orphanage where he was fostered by Carl Moberger of Malden, near Boston, a tannery worker of Swedish descent, and his wife Florence Moberger. Carlson's father was adopted at the age of two by upper-middle-class New Englanders, the Carlsons, an executive at the Winslow Brothers & Smith Tannery of Norwood (the oldest tannery in America) and his wife. Carlson's maternal great-great-grandfather Cesar Lombardi immigrated to New York from Switzerland in 1860. Carlson is also a distant relative of Massachusetts politicians Ebenezer R. Hoar and George M. Brooks and is a great-great-great-grandson to Californian rancher Henry Miller. Carlson himself was named after his great-great-great-grandfather Dr. J. C. Tucker and his great-great-grandfather George W. McNear. Carlson is of English, German and one sixteenth Swiss-Italian ancestry.

In 1976, Carlson's parents divorced after the nine-year marriage reportedly "turned sour". Carlson's father was granted custody of Tucker and his brother. Carlson's mother left the family when he was six, wanting to pursue a "bohemian" lifestyle.

When Carlson was in first grade, his father moved Tucker and his brother to the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, and raised them there. Carlson attended La Jolla Country Day School and grew up in a home overlooking the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. His father owned property in Nevada, Vermont, and islands in Maine and Nova Scotia. In 1984, his father unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Republican Mayor Roger Hedgecock in the San Diego mayoral race.

In 1979, Carlson's father married divorcée Patricia Caroline Swanson, an heiress to Swanson Enterprises, daughter of Gilbert Carl Swanson and niece of Senator J. William Fulbright. Though Patricia remained a beneficiary of the family fortune, the Swansons had sold the brand to the Campbell Soup Company in 1955 and did not own it by the time of Carlson's father's marriage.

Carlson was briefly enrolled at Collège du Léman, a boarding school in Switzerland, but said he was "kicked out". He attained his secondary education at St. George's School, a boarding school in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he started dating his future wife, Susan Andrews, the headmaster's daughter. He then went to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, graduating in 1991 with a BA in history. Carlson's Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the "Dan White Society", an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the Central Intelligence Agency, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that "they'll take anybody".

Media career

Carlson began his career in journalism as a fact-checker for Policy Review, a national conservative journal then published by The Heritage Foundation and later acquired by the Hoover Institution. He then worked as an opinion writer at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper in Little Rock, Arkansas, before joining The Weekly Standard news magazine in 1995. Carlson sought a role with the publication after hearing of its founding, fearing he would be "written off as a wing nut" if he instead joined The American Spectator.

In 1999, Carlson interviewed then-Governor George W. Bush for Talk magazine. He quoted Bush mocking Karla Faye Tucker (who was executed in Bush's state of Texas). The piece led to bad publicity for Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. Bush claimed that "Mr. Carlson misread, mischaracterized me. He's a good reporter, he just misunderstood about how serious that was. I take the death penalty very seriously." Among liberals, Carlson's piece received praise, with Democratic consultant Bob Shrum calling it "vivid". Carlson said of the interview, "I thought I'd be ragged for writing a puffy piece. My wife said people are going to think you're hunting for a job in the Bush campaign."

Further into his career in print, Carlson worked as a columnist for New York magazine and Reader's Digest; writing for Esquire, Slate, The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, The Daily Beast, and The Wall Street Journal. John F. Harris of Politico would later remark on how Carlson was "viewed ... as an important voice of the intelligentsia" during this period. While working on a story for New York covering the Taliban, Carlson, alongside his father, was involved in a plane crash as it made its landing on a runway in Dubai on October 17, 2001. Carlson's 2003 Esquire profile on his journey to Liberia alongside Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil and political rights activists would garner a nomination at the National Magazine Awards.

In his early television career Carlson wore bow ties, a habit from boarding school he continued on air until 2006.

On June 21, 2021, New York Times reporter Ben Smith reported that Carlson was a media source for several journalists and authors including Michael Isikoff, Michael Wolff, Brian Stelter, and others who wrote critically of Donald Trump.

CNN (2000–2005)

CPAC 2012 'Fight Club' Debate with Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson, Thomas McDevitt, President, The Washington Times is the Moderator. (6859927507)
Paul Begala (left) and Thomas McDevitt with Carlson in 2012

In 2000, Carlson co-hosted the short-lived show The Spin Room on CNN. In 2001, he was appointed co-host of Crossfire, in which Carlson and Robert Novak represented the political right (alternating on different nights), while James Carville and Paul Begala, also alternating as hosts, represented the left.

Carlson's 2003 interview with Britney Spears, wherein he asked if she opposed the ongoing Iraq War and she responded, "[W]e should just trust our president in every decision he makes", was featured in the 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, for which she won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress at the 25th Golden Raspberry Awards.

Jon Stewart debate

In October 2004, comedian and The Daily Show host Jon Stewart appeared on Crossfire, ostensibly to promote America (The Book), but he instead launched into a critique of Crossfire, saying the show was harmful to political discourse in the U.S. Carlson was singled out by Stewart for criticism, with Carlson in turn criticizing Stewart for being biased toward the left. Carlson and Begala later recalled that Stewart and one of the book's co-authors, Ben Karlin, stayed at CNN for more than an hour after the show to discuss the issues he had raised on the air, with Carlson saying, "It was heartfelt. [Stewart] needed to do this." In 2017, The New York Times referred to Stewart's "on-air dressing-down" of Carlson as an "ignominious career [moment]" for Carlson, leading to the show's cancellation. The Atlantic suggested that Stewart's appearance was a turning point leading to how Carlson remade himself.

On January 5, 2005, CNN chief Jonathan Klein told Carlson the network had decided not to renew his contract. CNN announced that it was ending its relationship with Carlson and would soon cancel Crossfire. Carlson later said: "I resigned from Crossfire in April [2004], many months before Jon Stewart came on our show, because I didn't like the partisanship, and I thought in some ways it was kind of a pointless conversation."

PBS (2004–2005)

Carlson was hired to helm a new program for PBS in November 2003, Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered, which ran synchronously with Carlson's Crossfire gig on CNN. The show launched on June 18, 2004, and was, according to The New Yorker, "part of a broader effort to push PBS further to the right ideologically".

Carlson announced he was leaving the show roughly a year after it started on June 12, 2005, despite the Corporation for Public Broadcasting allocating money for another show season. Carlson wanted to focus on his new MSNBC show Tucker and said that although PBS was one of the "least bad" instances of government spending he disagreed with, it was still "problematic".

MSNBC (2005–2008)

Carlson's early evening show Tucker (originally titled The Situation With Tucker Carlson) premiered on June 13, 2005, on MSNBC. Rachel Maddow and Jay Severin featured as guests on a rotating panel. He also hosted a late-afternoon weekday wrap-up for the network during the 2006 Winter Olympics. He appeared live from Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and reported the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting and Johnson Space Center shooting in 2007.

Tucker was canceled by the network on March 10, 2008, owing to low ratings; the final episode aired on March 14, 2008. He remained with the network as a senior campaign correspondent for the 2008 election. Brian Stelter, writing for The New York Times, wrote that "during Mr. Carlson's tenure, MSNBC's evening programming moved gradually to the left. His former time slots, 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., were subsequently occupied by two liberals, Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow." Carlson said the network had changed a lot and "they didn't have a role for me".

Media outside journalism (2006–2008)

Carlson was a contestant on season 3 of the reality show Dancing with the Stars, which aired in 2006; he was paired with professional dancer Elena Grinenko. Carlson took four-hour-a-day ballroom dance classes to prepare. In an interview a month before the show began, he lamented that he would miss classes during a two-week-long MSNBC assignment in Lebanon, saying, "It's hard for me to remember the moves." Carlson said he accepted ABC's invitation to perform because "I don't do things that I'm not good at very often. I'm psyched to get to do that." Carlson was the first contestant eliminated, on September 13, 2006.

Carlson had cameo appearances as himself in the Season 1 episode "Hard Ball" of 30 Rock and in a Season 9 episode of The King of Queens. He had a cameo appearance in the 2008 film Swing Vote, again playing himself.

Fox News Channel (2009–2023)

Hillary Mnchstr0640 Fox in the hen house (24959448851)
Carlson works as a correspondent at a Hillary Clinton campaign rally at Manchester Community College, 2016

In May 2009, Fox News announced that Carlson was being hired as a Fox News contributor. He was a frequent guest panelist on Fox's late-night satire show Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld, made frequent appearances on the All-Star Panel segment of Special Report with Bret Baier, was a substitute host of Hannity in Sean Hannity's absence, and produced and hosted a special entitled Fighting for Our Children's Minds in September 2010.

In April 2013, Carlson replaced Dave Briggs as a co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend, joining Alisyn Camerota and Clayton Morris on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Tucker Carlson Tonight (2016–2023)

On November 14, 2016, Carlson began hosting Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News. The premiere episode of the show, which replaced On the Record, was the network's most watched telecast of the year in the time slot, with 3.7 million viewers.

Tucker Carlson Tonight aired at 7:00 p.m. each weeknight until January 9, 2017, when Carlson's show replaced Megyn Kelly at the 9:00 p.m. time slot after she left Fox News. In January 2017, Forbes reported that the show had "scored consistently high ratings, averaging 2.8 million viewers per night and ranking as the number two cable news program behind The O'Reilly Factor in December". In March 2017, Tucker Carlson Tonight was the most watched cable program in the 9:00 p.m. time slot.

On April 19, 2017, Fox News announced that Tucker Carlson Tonight would air at 8:00 p.m. following the cancellation of The O'Reilly Factor. Tucker Carlson Tonight was the third-highest-rated cable news show as of March 2018.

In October 2018, Tucker Carlson Tonight was the second highest-rated cable news show in prime time, after The Sean Hannity Show with Sean Hannity, with 3.2 million nightly viewers. By the end of 2018, the show had begun to be boycotted by at least 20 advertisers after Carlson said immigration makes the country "poorer, dirtier and more divided". According to Fox News, the advertisers only moved their ad buys to other programs.

In November 2018, a "Smash Racism D.C." activist group associated with antifa protested outside Carlson's Washington, D.C., home. Carlson's driveway was vandalized with a spray-painted anarchist symbol. Carlson alleged "someone started throwing himself against the front door and actually cracked the front door," though police observed no damage to the door, nor did Washington Post columnist Erik Wemple when he visited the Carlson home the next day. Carlson was not home at the time of the incident.

By January 2019, his show dropped to third with 2.8 million nightly viewers, down six percent from the previous year. Beginning the week of June 8–14, 2020, Tucker Carlson Tonight became the highest-rated cable news show in the U.S., with an average of four million viewers, beating out the shows hosted by fellow Fox News pundits Hannity and Ingraham. This came in the wake of Carlson's remarks criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement, which had caused some companies to pull their advertising from the show, including The Walt Disney Company, T-Mobile, and Papa John's.

Tucker Carlson (50752285446)
Carlson at the Student Action summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, 2020

In July 2020, Carlson's head writer Blake Neff resigned after CNN Business reported that he had been using a pseudonym to post remarks that were widely described as racist, sexist, and homophobic on AutoAdmit, a message board known for its lack of moderation of offensive and defamatory content. The incident drew renewed scrutiny to Carlson's program, already under pressure from sponsors because of Carlson's remarks about Black Lives Matter. Neff had also previously been a writer on The Daily Caller. Carlson condemned Neff's posts on the second episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight that aired after the posts were initially reported.

By October 2020, Tucker Carlson Tonight averaged 5.3 million viewers, with the show's monthly average becoming the highest of any cable news program in history at that point. In the 25–54 demographic, the show maintained an average viewership of just over a million, with 670,000 being between 18 and 49. Carlson's program saw a dip in viewership following the aftermath of the 2020 election, losing out to Anderson Cooper 360° in the 25–54 demographic, which Carlson had maintained a hold of the prior month. In 2020, Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Sean Hannity Show became the first cable news programs to finish a full year with viewership in excess of four million.

In the week following the inauguration of Joe Biden as president, Tucker Carlson Tonight remained the only cable news program not to see a drop in viewership, slightly increasing from where it stood one week prior and reclaiming its lead among the 25–54 demographic. It remained the most-watched news-related cable show as of mid-2021. Through May 2022 it was a close second to The Five, while leading in the 25–54 demographic.

Tucker Carlson Today

In February 2021, Carlson announced a multiyear deal with Fox News to host a new weekly podcast and series of monthly specials dubbed Tucker Carlson Originals on sister streaming service Fox Nation, which released on March 29. In spring of 2021, he began hosting a show on Fox Nation called Tucker Carlson Today.

Departure from Fox News

On April 24, 2023, Fox News dismissed Carlson and the executive producer of his evening show, effective immediately. Carlson's last broadcast was April 21, at the end of which he said, "That's it for us for the week, and we'll be back on Monday!" A rotation of guest hosts will fill the slot until a permanent replacement is found. In their statement, Fox did not provide a reason for Carlson's termination, lending media speculation that it was due to Fox's defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, Carlson's internal criticism of Fox leadership, or the pending lawsuit from former Fox producer Abby Grossberg alleging an "appalling work environment while working on Carlson's show".

The Daily Caller (2010–2020)

On January 11, 2010, Carlson and Neil Patel (a former aide to Dick Cheney, and former college roommate of Carlson) launched a political news website titled The Daily Caller. Carlson served as editor-in-chief, and occasionally wrote opinion pieces with Patel. The website was funded by the conservative activist Foster Friess. By February 2010, The Daily Caller was part of the White House rotating press pool. Carlson reportedly offered his employees free junk food, an unmonitored keg, provided them with a ping pong table, and allowed them to sleep under their desks.

In interviews, Carlson said The Daily Caller would not be tied to ideology but rather "breaking stories of importance", and "We're not enforcing any kind of ideological orthodoxy on anyone." Columnist Mickey Kaus quit after Carlson refused to run a column critical of Fox News's coverage of the immigration policy debate due to his contractual obligations to Fox News.

In June 2020, Carlson sold his one-third stake in The Daily Caller to Patel for an undisclosed amount and said “Neil [Patel] runs it. I wasn't adding anything. So we made it official".

Writing

Carlson authored the memoir Politicians, Partisans and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News, published by Warner Books in September 2003, about his television news experiences. It received favorable reviews from Publishers Weekly and the Washingtonian, who both complimented the book for its humor.

In May 2017, Carlson, represented by the literary and creative agency Javelin, signed an eight-figure, two-book deal with Simon & Schuster's conservative imprint, Threshold Editions. His first book in the series, Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution, was released in October 2018, and debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list. His second book, The Long Slide: Thirty Years in American Journalism, was released in August 2021.

Rhetorical style

Carlson's rhetorical style and debating tactics have drawn close attention from writers and other public figures.

In arguments, Carlson can quickly shift between personas as a devil's advocate and a moralizing truth teller, and simultaneously appear outraged and blasé – employing a "joking/not-joking loophole" that radio shock jocks have often used, according to Lili Loofbourow of Slate. James Carville, a Democratic strategist and friend of Carlson who has appeared on his shows, called Carlson "one of the world's great contrarians", with a gift for making his views sound rebellious even when they are widespread or advantageous.

Carlson has said he especially targets the "moral preening" of people he sees as having a sensibility of "I'm a really good person, and you're not." Carlson presents his perceived opponents "as endlessly cynical and duplicitous", and agitates his audience against them by cherry-picking and misinterpreting information, according to Philip Bump of The Washington Post. Charlotte Alter of Time wrote that Carlson "sanitizes and legitimizes right-wing conspiratorial thinking, dodges when you try to nail him down on the specifics, then wraps it all in an argument about censorship and free speech". During remote interviews, Carlson's producers will keep his face close-up onscreen so viewers can watch him react, often in disbelief. His trademark scowl lets viewers "share his disdain" toward opposing views, foreshadowing a "scathing rebuttal". Carlson is known to interrupt guests repeatedly with direct demands to answer questions he poses, sometimes focusing on an embarrassing episode or statement from a guest's past. Jack Shafer wrote in Politico that "When the host barks questions in your earpiece, you can't help but jolt to life like a puppet on a string", suggesting that successful guests on Carlson's show must match his quick-wittedness and unflappability. Lyz Lenz of the Columbia Journalism Review wrote that this debate maneuver mirrors Jon Stewart's confrontation of Carlson on Crossfire in 2004, describing Stewart then and Carlson now as both "com[ing] out of the gate with an impossible line of questioning and a disingenuous defense".

Charlotte Alter of Time wrote in July 2021 that Carlson sometimes tells "outright falsehoods", but generally "avoids assertions that are factually disprovable, instead sticking to innuendo". As an example, Alter wrote that Carlson did not endorse Sidney Powell's specific claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, but he did say, "The people now telling us to stop asking questions about voting machines are the same ones who claim that our phones weren't listening to us". In September 2020, on The Rubin Report, Carlson said that, unlike TV newscasters who he said "systematically lie", he will only lie "if I'm really cornered or something", saying, "I lie. I really try not to. I try never to lie on TV. ... I don't like lying. I certainly do it, you know, out of weakness or whatever." Bump argued in 2022 that compared with other television anchors, Carlson is loath to acknowledge factual errors in his commentary.

Personal life

Carlson is married to Susan Thomson Carlson (née Andrews). They met at St. George's School, where she was the daughter of the school's headmaster and priest. They were married on August 10, 1991, in the school chapel. They have four children. Carlson is left-handed and dyslexic.

Carlson was baptized as an Episcopalian but has said he grew up with secular beliefs; he credits his wife for his religious faith. In 2013, Carlson said, "We still go to the Episcopal Church for all kinds of complicated reasons, but I truly despise the Episcopal Church in a lot of ways." He has said he stays in the church because he loves the liturgy and he likes the people.

Carlson is a Deadhead (a fan of the rock band Grateful Dead); he has attended more than fifty Dead concerts and the title of his 2018 book Ship of Fools was inspired by the Grateful Dead song of the same name.

In September 2022, Carlson spoke at the funeral of Hells Angels president Sonny Barger. Carlson said that he had been a fan of Barger since his college years, quoted Barger as saying "stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor", and added "I want to pay tribute to the man who spoke those words".

Published works

  • Carlson, Tucker (2003). Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News. New York: Warner Books. ISBN: 978-0759508002.
  • Carlson, Tucker (2018). Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 978-1501183669.
  • Carlson, Tucker (2021). The Long Slide: Thirty Years in American Journalism. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 978-1501183690.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Tucker Carlson para niños

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