The latest episode of Last Week Tonight was almost entirely devoted to Tucker Carlson, as John Oliver pointed out in excruciating detail how Fox News’s disingenuous hack du jour has become the leading voice of white supremacist ideas on American TV today. It’s another sobering, but surprisingly funny, clip from Oliver and his team. Oliver sifts through 25 years of Carlson’s TV career to build a pretty convincing case that the Fox host—who absurdly and repeatedly refuses to acknowledge that white supremacy or white nationalism even exist—is, at the very least, knowingly playing to a white supremacist audience by adapting their language into slightly less blatant arguments on his show.
Perhaps the two most damning pieces of evidence against Tucker’s sincerity are a 1999 C-Span appearance and a 2006 radio interview about the Iraqi war with Bubba the Love Sponge, of all people. In the C-Span clip Carlson talks about how Pat Buchanan—a pundit and politician who was probably the most powerful pusher of open, unguarded anti-immigration, anti-diversity rhetoric in the conservative scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s—was basically playing the media by affecting a “truth to power” stance, and neutralizing any criticism by saying it was just a powerful “cabal” trying to silence Buchanan from telling America “the truth.” As Oliver points out, that’s exactly the argument Carlson takes today whenever anybody criticizes him—that he’s speaking the hard truths the powers-that-be want to hide from the American people. In the Bubba the Love Sponge (cringe) clip, Carlson stops trying to hide or even soften his utter contempt for Iraqis and their culture, engaging in some good old-fashioned blatant racism. Basically Oliver proves that we’ve known exactly what Carlson really is for well over a decade now, and that Carlson learned how to disingenuously ingratiate himself with his viewers and into American politics by watching Pat Buchanan.
The kicker is when Oliver contrasts Carlson’s coverage of the Capitol riots and the Black Lives Matter protests. On January 6 the Fox host bent over backwards to excuse and empathize with the Capitol rioters while also denying that Trump and his refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the election could have incited the riot. Seven months earlier, though, Tucker cruelly dehumanized those who participated in the riots that coincided with the BLM protests, stating on air that they’ve never contributed anything to society and simply wanted to destroy everything. It’s night and day: white people who storm the U.S. government because they refuse to acknowledge a legal election are “citizens” who deserve to be understood and coddled, whereas Black Americans (and any allies) who rise up against police brutality, oppression, and racism are destructive “criminal mobs” who “don’t contribute to the common good.”
If you’re unfamiliar with Carlson’s schtick—or simply want to be reminded of how dangerous his show is—check out Oliver’s segment below. It’s a clear-eyed and concise summary of Carlson’s barely veiled support of white supremacy; as Oliver says in summation, “the main narrative of Tucker’s show is that power is being taken away from ‘you’—his viewer—and that this needs to be resisted.” That sense of a loss of power is key to white supremacy—and also to Tucker Carlson’s show.