Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson (born May 16, 1969) is an American conservative political commentator who has hosted the nightly political talk show Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News since 2016. Carlson became a print journalist in the 1990s, writing for the magazine The Weekly Standard and others. He was a commentator on CNN from 2000 to 2005, also serving as co-host of Crossfire. Carlson then hosted the nightly program Tucker on MSNBC from 2005 to 2008. He has been a political analyst for Fox News since 2009. In 2010, Carlson co-founded and served as the initial editor-in-chief of the conservative news and opinion website The Daily Caller.
Carlson in 2013
Tucker McNear Carlson
May 16, 1969
|Education||St. George's School|
|Alma mater||Trinity College (BA)|
|Occupation||Talk show host, commentator, columnist|
|Home town||La Jolla, California, U.S.|
Lisa McNear Lombardi
Carlson has written two books, the memoir Politicians, Partisans and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News (2003) and Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution (2018).
Early life and education
Carlson was born in San Francisco, California and grew up on Laurel Terrace Drive in Studio City. He is the elder son of Richard Warner Carlson, a former Los Angeles news anchor and U.S. ambassador to the Seychelles who was also president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and director of Voice of America. Carlson's father had been born Richard Boynton and was adopted by the Carlsons at age three. Carlson's mother is Lisa McNear (Lombardi); she left the family when Carlson was 6 years old, wanting to pursue a bohemian lifestyle. She eventually moved to France and had little contact with any of the family after that. Carlson has a younger brother, Buckley Swanson Peck Carlson. His maternal Lombardi lines leads to a Swiss immigrant ancestor, Cesare Lombardi.
In 1979, when Tucker was 10 years old, his father married Patricia Caroline Swanson. An heiress to the Swanson frozen-food fortune, Swanson is the daughter of Gilbert Carl Swanson, as well as the granddaughter of Carl A. Swanson and the niece of Senator J. William Fulbright.
Tucker and his younger brother grew up in La Jolla, California. While living in La Jolla, Tucker briefly attended La Jolla Country Day School. He then attended high school at St. George's School, a boarding school in Middletown, Rhode Island. After graduating from high school, he studied at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he graduated in 1992 with a B.A. in history.
Carlson began his journalism career as a fact-checker for Policy Review, a national conservative journal then published by The Heritage Foundation and since acquired by the Hoover Institution. He later worked as a reporter at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper in Little Rock, Arkansas, before joining The Weekly Standard in 1995.
As a magazine and newspaper journalist, Carlson has reported from around the world. He has been a columnist for New York and Reader's Digest. He has also written for Esquire, The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, and The Daily Beast.
In 2000, Carlson co-hosted the short-lived show The Spin Room.
In 2001, Carlson was appointed co-host of Crossfire. On the show, 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. During the same period, he also hosted a weekly public affairs program on PBS, Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered.
In October 2004, Carlson had an exchange with Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Stewart argued that Carlson and the nature of his show were harmful to political discourse in the United States. Carlson later recalled that Stewart had stayed at CNN for hours after the show to discuss the issues he had raised on the air. "It was heartfelt," Carlson said, "He [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. According to the Times, Stewart's criticism "led to the cancellation of [the show]".
In January 2005, CNN announced they were ending their relationship with Carlson and would soon cancel Crossfire. CNN chief Jonathan Klein told Carlson on January 4, 2005, that the network had decided not to renew his contract. Carlson has said that he had already resigned from CNN and Crossfire long before Stewart was booked as a guest, telling host Patricia Duff: "I resigned from Crossfire in April , 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 ... each side coming out, you know, 'Here's my argument', and no one listening to anyone else. [CNN] was a frustrating place to work."
Carlson's early evening show, Tucker (originally titled The Situation With Tucker Carlson) premiered on June 13, 2005, on MSNBC.
Carlson also hosted a late afternoon weekday wrap-up for MSNBC during the 2006 Winter Olympics, during which he attempted to learn how to play various Olympic sports. In July 2006, he reported live for Tucker from Haifa, Israel, during the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. While in the Middle East, he also hosted MSNBC Special Report: Mideast Crisis. He appeared regularly on Verdict with Dan Abrams as a panelist in political discussions.
Tucker lasted fewer than three full seasons. The network announced its cancellation due to low ratings on March 10, 2008, and the final episode aired on March 14, 2008. Brian Stelter of 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 and 9 p.m., were then occupied by two liberals, Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow." Carlson stated that the network had changed a lot and "they didn't have a role for me."
Fox News Channel (2009–present)
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 a Fox News special entitled Fighting for Our Children's Minds.
In March 2013, it was announced that Carlson would co-host the weekend editions of Fox & Friends; he had been a contributor and frequent guest host on the program. He replaced Dave Briggs, who left the news channel to join the NBC Sports Network in January 2013. Beginning in April, Carlson officially joined co-hosts Alisyn Camerota and Clayton Morris on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Tucker Carlson Tonight (2016–present)
On November 14, 2016, Carlson started hosting Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News. Tucker Carlson Tonight was created to replace the show On the Record. The show debuted as "the network's most watched telecast of the year in the time slot". The program's premiere episode, viewed by 3.7 million, was rated higher than previous editions of On the Record.
Tucker Carlson Tonight aired at 7 p.m. ET each weeknight until January 9, 2017, when Carlson's show replaced Megyn Kelly at the 9 p.m. ET 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 p.m. time slot.
On April 19, 2017, it was 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.
According to CNN, Business Insider, Vox and GQ, Carlson's show has promoted and echoed white supremacist discourse. Neoconservative pundit Bill Kristol described the views Carlson expressed on his show as "ethno-nationalism of some kind"; Carlson responded that Kristol had "discredited himself years ago." Carlson has denied being a racist and has said that he hates racism.
In October 2018, Tucker Carlson Tonight was the second-highest rated cable news show in prime time, after Hannity, with 3.2 million nightly viewers. By January 2019, it dropped to third with 2.8 million nightly viewers, down six percent for the year.
In 2018 and 2019, the show was the target of an advertiser boycott. Advertisers began leaving the show after Carlson's said that U.S. immigration make the country "poorer, dirtier and more divided." According to Fox News, the advertisers only moved their ad buys to other segments. By early 2019, the show had lost at least 26 advertisers.
The Daily Caller (2010–present)
On January 11, 2010, Carlson and former vice president Dick Cheney aide Neil Patel 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 Freiss. By February The Daily Caller was part of the White House rotating press pool.
In an interview with Politico, Carlson said that The Daily Caller would not be tied to ideology but rather will be "breaking stories of importance". In a Washington Post article, Carlson added, "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.
Dancing with the Stars
Carlson was a contestant on season 3 of the reality show Dancing with the Stars in 2006, with professional dancer Elena Grinenko. He took four-hour-a-day ballroom dance classes in preparation for the competition.
Although in favor of conservative economic policies, Carlson is critical of laissez-faire libertarian ideals, saying that economic and technological change that occurs too quickly can cause widespread social and political upheaval. He has stated that one model to follow is that of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose interventionist role in the economy in the early 1900s may have, in Carlson's view, prevented a communist revolution in the United States.
In a January 2019 monologue on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson criticised what he called the "private equity model" of capitalism, using the example of Bain Capital to describe a pattern of corporate behavior in such organizations: "Take over an existing company for a short period of time, cut costs by firing employees, run up the debt, extract the wealth, and move on, sometimes leaving retirees without their earned pensions. [...] Meanwhile, a remarkable number of the companies are now bankrupt or extinct". He also attacked payday lenders for "loan[ing] people money they can’t possibly repay [...] [and] charg[ing] them interest that impoverishes them".
I liked McCain. And I would have voted for McCain for president happily, not because I agree with his politics; I never took McCain's politics seriously enough even to have strong feelings about them. I don't think McCain has very strong politics. He's interested in ideas almost as little as George W. Bush is. McCain isn't intellectual, and doesn't have a strong ideology at all. He's wound up sort of as a liberal Republican because he's mad at other Republicans, not because he's a liberal.
Carlson has stated that former President George W. Bush is not a true conservative. In an August 27, 2004 Washington Post interview, Carlson expressed his "displeasure with Bush". Carlson did not vote in the 2004 election, citing his disgust with the Iraq War and his disillusionment with the once small-government Republican Party. He would go on to say:
I don't know what you consider conservative, but I'm not much of a liberal, at least as the word is currently defined. For instance, I'm utterly opposed to abortion, which I think is horrible and cruel. I think affirmative action is wrong. I'd like to slow immigration pretty dramatically. I hate all nanny state regulations, such as seat belt laws and smoking bans. I'm not for big government. I think the U.S. ought to hesitate before intervening abroad. I think these are conservative impulses. So by my criteria, Bush isn't much of a conservative.
In January 2019, Carlson used an op-ed by Mitt Romney in The Washington Post to criticize what he described as the "mainstream Republican" worldview, consisting of "unwavering support for a finance-based economy and an internationalist foreign policy", which he argued was also supported by the bulk of Democrats. He argued that both parties "miss the obvious point: Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined. Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible", citing parallels in terms of the economic and social problems which had befallen both inner cities and rural areas despite the sharp cultural differences between their respective populations as evidence that the "culture of poverty" which had been cited by conservatives as the cause of urban decline "wasn't the whole story".
Despite his political views, in common with many residents of the District of Columbia he is a registered member of the Democratic Party. The Washington Post noted that it is not uncommon for voters in a heavily-Democratic area to register with that party to be able to vote in important primary elections. Carlson stated in a 2017 interview that he registered for the Democratic Party to gain the right to vote in District of Columbia mayoral elections in which he "always votes for the more corrupt candidate over the idealist".
Carlson initially supported the war with Iraq during its first year. After a year, he began criticizing the war, telling The New York Observer: "I think it's a total nightmare and disaster, and I'm ashamed that I went against my own instincts in supporting it. It's something I'll never do again. Never. I got convinced by a friend of mine who's smarter than I am, and I shouldn't have done that. No. I want things to work out, but I'm enraged by it, actually".
In a July 2018 interview about Russian involvement in U.S. elections, Carlson said that Mexico has interfered in U.S. elections "more successfully" than Russia by "packing our electorate" through mass immigration. This assertion was disputed by journalist Philip Bump, who wrote that the number of Mexicans in the U.S. had decreased since 2009 and asked rhetorically: "What good has it done Mexico to have a number of its citizens move to the United States and gain the right to vote?".
Carlson has said he does not consider Russia a serious threat. Carlson has called for the United States to work with Russia in the Syrian Civil War. He opposes overthrowing Bashar al-Assad. Peter Beinart of The Atlantic said that Carlson has been an "apologist for Donald Trump on the Russia scandal". Carlson described the controversy in the wake of revelations that Donald Trump Jr. was willing to accept anti-Clinton information from a Russian government official as a "new level of hysteria" and said that Trump Jr. had only been "gossiping with foreigners".
In April 2018, Carlson questioned whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for a chemical attack that occurred the same month and killed dozens. Alluding to various conspiracy theories, Carlson suggested that a similar attack that occurred the year before (the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack), which was widely attributed to Assad's forces and which the OPCW JIM indicated was carried out with sarin that bore the regime's signature, was a false flag attack perpetrated to falsely implicate the Assad government.
Immigration, race and diversity
Carlson frequently criticizes immigration. Carlson has been accused by Erik Wemple of The Washington Post and by writers for Vox of demonizing immigrants, both those who immigrated to the U.S. legally and illegally. He has opposed demographic changes in the United States, writing that the demographic change seen in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which saw Hispanics go from a small minority to a majority over a 15-year period, is "more change than human beings are designed to digest". In 2018, Carlson suggested that mass immigration makes the United States "dirtier", "poorer" and "more divided". In response to criticism of this, he has said that "we're not intimidated" and "we plan to try to say what's true until the last day. And the truth is, unregulated mass immigration has badly hurt this country's natural landscape". Salon has described Carlson's views on changing racial demographics in the U.S. as advocating the white genocide conspiracy theory, opining that Carlson is obsessed with the concept. Anti-Defamation League's Jessica Reaves has compared Carlson's defense of the nuclear family to white supremacist anti-immigrant rhetoric.
When Mitt Romney condemned then-candidate Donald Trump for his refusal to condemn the Ku Klux Klan, saying it was a "disqualifying and disgusting response [...]. His coddling of repugnant bigotry is not in the character of America", Carlson criticized Romney. Carlson said "Obama could have written" that.
In September 2018, Carlson said that sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh demonstrated "the left's war on old white men" and suggested that there could be a race war in the United States.
In August 2018, Carlson ran a segment where he alleged that the South African government was targeting white farmers due to anti-white racism. In the segment, Carlson criticized "elites" who were purportedly concerned about racism "paying no attention" to the "racist government of South Africa". Carlson said that "South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had 'changed the country's constitution to make it possible to steal land from people because they are the wrong skin color.' He also said that the government had begun seizing land from people without compensation". CBS News, Associated Press, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal described Carlson's segment as false or misleading. According to The New York Times, "Mr. Ramaphosa announced on Aug. 1 that the governing African National Congress (A.N.C.) would move ahead with a proposal to change the country's Constitution and allow the expropriation of some land without compensation... Mr. Ramaphosa has said that speeding up [land reform] will bolster economic growth and agricultural production. More fundamentally, the government has argued, returning land to black South Africans would make the country [more] just".
Following the Carlson segment, President Trump instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to "closely study the South Africa land and farm seizure and large scale killing of farmers". Trump's tweet was denounced as "'misinformed'" by the South African government, which stated that it would address the matter through diplomatic channels. There are no reliable figures that suggest that farmers are at greater risk of being killed than the average South African. Some South African blacks have sought to retake land to which they have made claims, but South African police have stopped such ad hoc attempts at appropriating land. The South African right-wing group AfriForum took credit for Carlson and Trump's statements, saying it believed that its campaign to influence American politics had succeeded.
On August 23, 2018, Carlson corrected certain statements about South Africa that he had made the previous evening, but he did not admit having made errors. He said that the proposed constitutional amendment was still being debated in South Africa and added that no farms had yet been expropriated. Carlson later stated in an interview that he "doesn't believe anyone should be rewarded or punished based upon characteristics they can't control" and added that his South Africa segment made "an argument against tribalism".
Carlson voted for Ron Paul in 1988 when he was running as the Libertarian Party presidential candidate. On November 26, 2007, it was reported that Carlson lobbied Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof to support Paul's candidacy. Carlson said that "Dennis Hof is a good friend of mine, so when we got to Nevada, I decided to call him up and see if he wanted to come check this guy out".
As of 2019, Carlson has become sharply critical of libertarianism and American capitalism on his Fox News show, stating that "market capitalism is not a religion" and that America's "ruling class" are in effect the "mercenaries" behind the decline of the American middle class, adding that "any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society".
Protest at Carlson's residence
In 2018, a group of about 20 activists from Smash Racism D.C., a local anti-fascist group, protested outside Carlson's Washington, D.C. home. In a video, a participant with a bullhorn was heard saying that Carlson was promoting hate and leading a chant "Tucker Carlson, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night!". Carlson's driveway was vandalized with a spray-painted anarchist symbol. Police responded within minutes and the protesters were dispersed.
Carlson was known for wearing bow ties both on- and off-air until 2006. In 2005 on the season-five episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, "The Bowtie", a character refers to Larry David as "Tucker Carlson" for wearing one. On April 11, 2006, Carlson announced on his MSNBC show that he would no longer be wearing either a bow tie or a regular tie, adding, "I just decided I wanted to give my neck a break. A little change is good once in a while, and I feel better already." He now wears long neckties on the air, and on the February 28, 2014, edition of The Alex Jones Show, while talking about his reasons for returning to wearing a long necktie, Carlson said that "if you wear a bow tie, it's like [wearing] a middle finger around your neck; you're just inviting scorn and ridicule ... the number of people screaming the F-word at me ... it wore me down after a while so I gave in and became conventional."
In March 2019, the progressive non-profit Media Matters for America (MMfA), which critically analyzes conservative media, released audio recordings of Carlson in which he made remarks demeaning to women and Iraqis between 2006 and 2011 on the call-in show hosted by shock jock Bubba The Love Sponge. Carlson declined to apologize for his comments.
In 2003, Carlson authored the memoir Politicians, Partisans and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News, about his television news experiences; the publisher was Warner Books. One of the book's revelations was Carlson's description of being falsely accused of rape by a woman he did not know who suffered from severe mental illness and displayed stalker-like behavior. Carlson wrote in the book that the incident was emotionally traumatic.
In May 2017, Carlson, represented by the literary and creative agency Javelin, signed an eight-figure, two-book deal with Simon & Schuster's 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. It debuted at #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list.
In February 2012, The Daily Caller published an "investigative series" of articles co-authored by Carlson, purporting to be an insiders' exposé of Media Matters for America (MMfA), a liberal watchdog group that monitors and scrutinizes conservative media outlets, and its founder David Brock. Citing "current and former" MMfA employees, "friends" of Brock's and a "prominent liberal" — none of whom are named — the article characterized MMfA as having "an atmosphere of tension and paranoia" and portraying Brock as "erratic, unstable and disturbing," who "struggles with mental illness," in fear of "right-wing assassins," a regular cocaine user and would "close [local bars] and party till six in the morning." Reuters media critic and libertarian Jack Shafer, while noting "I’ve never thought much of Media Matters’ style of watchdogging or Brock’s journalism," nevertheless sharply criticized the Daily Caller piece as "anonymously sourced crap," adding "Daily Caller is attacking Media Matters with bad journalism and lame propaganda."
Carlson is married to Susan Carlson (née Andrews). Together, they have three daughters and one son. Carlson is an Episcopalian and "loves the liturgy, though he abhors the liberals who run the denomination". Carlson quit drinking alcohol in 2002, "having decided that neither the pleasant nights nor the unpleasant mornings were improving his life". Years earlier, he had quit smoking and replaced cigarettes with nicotine gum, which he buys in bulk from New Zealand and "chews constantly". Tucker Carlson is a Deadhead (a fan of the rock band the Grateful Dead) and stated in a 2005 interview that he had attended more than 50 of their concerts.
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Well, if you watched this show before you may have noticed that I look different tonight. I'm not wearing a bow tie. This is odd for me. I have worn a bow tie on television every night for the past six years and for 15 years off air before that, since I was in 10th grade. I like bow ties, and I certainly spent a lot of time defending them. But from now on I'm going without: no ties at all. I didn't lose a bet. It is not a political statement. I didn't ditch the bow tie in protest or in solidarity with any oppressed group. It's not a ratings ploy but decided. I just decided I wanted to give my neck a break. A little change is good once in awhile [sic], and I feel better already. So to all three of you who watch this show for the bow tie, I'm sorry. For the rest of you who don't take a position on neckwear one way or the other we now returned to our regularly scheduled programming.
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