Tucker Carlson: Heir to Trump’s throne?

Tucker Carlson’s Fox News audience is “booming,” said Alex Thompson in Politico, and so is chatter among GOP strategists that Carlson “would be an immediate frontrunner” if he ran for president in 2024. With 4 million nightly viewers since the pandemic hit, Carlson has become the most-watched cable news host in history, articulating Trumpism— “anti-immigrant nationalism, economic populism, and America First isolationism”—with bravado and “snark.” But Carlson’s rising star took a hit this week, said Erik Wemple in WashingtonPost.com, after his show’s top writer was forced to resign. A CNN exposé revealed slur-filled “racist, sexist, and homophobic” online rantings from the writer, Blake Neff. On his show, Carlson blamed “ghouls” for “the destruction” of the young man who wrote his signature liberal-baiting monologues. Carlson then announced he’s taking an extended trout-fishing vacation.

He’ll be back, said Tiana Lowe in Washington Examiner.com. In fact, “I’d say we’re not yet at the apex of his influence.” Carlson’s detractors chalk up his success to “racist dog-whistling for a conservative base that craves hate,” and after Carlson warned that the people behind Black Lives Matter protests would “come for you,” liberals were able to “terrorize big-name advertisers” like Disney and T-Mobile into dropping sponsorships of Carlson’s show. But unlike most cable blowhards, Carlson is a great journalist and writer who does original reporting. After joining Fox in 2009, Carlson “thoroughly rebranded himself as the nation’s leading populist.” He taps into Trumpism but will criticize the president and Republicans when they betray working- and middle-class Americans—“an obvious formula for success.”

Carlson discovered where the money is, said Bill Goodykoontz in the Arizona Republic. After he lost his earlier TV gigs as a bow tie–wearing libertarian conservative, Carlson morphed into a culture-war flamethrower and now reportedly makes $6 million a year. He’s surpassed even Sean Hannity’s popularity, said Max Boot in WashingtonPost .com, by somehow being “more offensive than his colleagues.” Last week, Carlson attacked Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), calling the doubleamputee Iraq War veteran a “coward,” “fraud,” “moron,” and “unimpressive person” who “actually hate[s] America.” He thrills in “transgressive racism,” once calling Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys.” Would Republicans nominate another racist TV celebrity in 2024? Who knows, but “it tells you a lot about the debased state of the GOP” that this notion is being taken seriously.