Washington (AFP) – Incendiary host Tucker Carlson, who exited Fox News Monday, repeatedly aired falsehoods on his top-rated show, from anti-vaccine to anti-immigrant propaganda — and even his departure was wrapped up in conspiracy theories.
Night after night, Carlson launched into what American media pundits and researchers described as divisive, racist and conspiracy-laden monologues to millions of viewers of his 8 p.m. prime-time show on Fox News.
“Tucker Carlson Tonight,” a program he described as a “sworn enemy of lying,” amplified debunked claims about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines, immigration and the transgender community.
“Tucker Carlson is a dangerous misinformer,” said Angelo Carusone, president of the advocacy group Media Matters for America.
“Tucker served as the bridge between Fox News and the most extreme parts of the right-wing base — laundering anti-trans paranoia, election lies, and venomous rhetoric including the great replacement conspiracy theory nightly.”
Last year, Media Matters declared Carlson the “Misinformer of the Year,” a designation reserved for the most influential purveyor of misinformation in the American media.
The nonprofit also released what it called a noncomprehensive research file that included more than 350 examples of falsehoods spread by the star anchor.
Carlson sprang to the defense of the rioters who stormed the US Capitol two years ago — in support of Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Downplaying the episode, he insisted that it was not an “insurrection.”
In a claim debunked by AFP last month, Carlson said police officers “helped” and acted as “tour guides” for a rioter dubbed “QAnon Shaman” for his infamous horned headdress.
That was false — the rioter, Jacob Chansley, pleaded guilty to a felony crime after videos showed him disobeying police orders.
Carlson also called Ray Epps, a former Trump supporter who participated in the Capitol attack, an FBI informant, according to CBS’s 60 Minutes. The FBI denied he ever worked for them and Epps said he received death threats as a result of the false claim.
Last year, AFP also reported that Carlson misrepresented government data on Covid-19 vaccines and offered misleading claims on vaccine mandates for schoolchildren.
In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League called for Carlson’s firing after he presented an impassioned defense of the “great replacement theory,” a hateful notion that white people would be replaced by immigrants and people of color.
“Make no mistake: this is dangerous stuff,” ADL wrote in an open letter to Fox News chief executive, warning that the theory had helped fuel a string of mass shootings.
“Carlson’s full-on embrace of the white supremacist replacement theory… and his repeated allusions to racist themes in past segments are a bridge too far.”
News of Carlson’s departure on Monday sparked a string of supportive reactions from right-wing politicians, media figures and conspiracy theorists.
Anti-vaccine propagandist Robert F. Kennedy Jr called Carlson “breathtakingly courageous,” linking his ouster to a recent monologue decrying Covid-19 jabs. He offered no evidence to support the claim.
Fox News did not explain Carlson’s abrupt exit from the network.
US media linked his departure to a lawsuit filed by former Fox News producer Abby Grossberg, who claimed that Carlson presided over a hostile and discriminatory workplace culture.
Last week, the influential broadcaster agreed to a $787.5 million settlement in a lawsuit by voting technology company Dominion over its coverage of false rigging claims in the 2020 election that Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden.
“Tucker’s departure from Fox is mostly remarkable for what he was able to get away with and how long he was able to get away with it,” Carusone said.
“If anything, that reign illustrates how committed Fox is to lies and extremism.”