After Fox News fired him one year ago, Tucker Carlson started hosting a new show on X, "Tucker Carlson Uncensored."
After Fox News fired him one year ago, Tucker Carlson started hosting a new show on X, where he has 12.7 million followers. (@TCNetwork/X)

Tucker Carlson’s Turn

Why is the pundit persuading the American right to abandon its rightful contempt for foreign tyrants, terrorists, and cranks?

In the summer of 2020, Tucker Carlson’s prime time Fox News show became must-see TV for me. Garnering more than 4 million viewers a night, he spoke plainly about the riots in our cities, the consequences of Covid lockdowns, and the fraudulence of Russiagate. In those bleak days, my skepticism of the elite media veered into contempt. 

Back then, it seemed like nearly everything we were told by mainstream, liberal outlets was a half-truth or a lie. When the New York Post disclosed emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop, the press insisted they were part of a Russian disinformation scheme. We were told that Twitter and Facebook did not shadowban conservatives. Experts and journalists insisted that high schools never taught critical race theory. 

And yet Hunter Biden’s laptop was real. Social media really was shadowbanning conservatives. Our high schools really were teaching hard-left theories of race and gender. And Tucker reported these stories fearlessly, despite the gaslighting from his cable TV news peers. 

Carlson, of course, wasn’t always right. He has always had a conspiratorial side, indulging half-baked theories that the CIA murdered John F. Kennedy and the FBI may have set up the January 6 rioters. His foreign policy views are naive and nativist. Whenever Tucker talked about neoconservatives or Vladimir Putin, I tuned him out. But when the rest of cable news insisted the arson and looting of 2020 consisted of “mostly peaceful” protests, I was willing to overlook Tucker’s mistakes and focus on what he was getting right. 

Then, one year ago this month, Tucker was ousted by Fox. The ostensible reason stemmed from the civil lawsuits the network had to settle regarding Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Tucker was better than other hosts on that allegation at the time, challenging the claims of Trump election lawyer Sidney Powell that millions of votes were deliberately not counted. He did this on-air when it mattered, in late 2020, though he later indulged his audience’s desire to believe the election was a sham.

But when I tuned in last June to watch Tucker’s new show on X, it became apparent that Fox had kept him tethered to reality. Without a strong editor or producer at the wheel, his skepticism has curdled into sophistry. And he is now platforming conspiracy theorists, allowing them to spout falsehoods while never challenging the veracity of their claims.

There was his interview with Larry Sinclair, a convicted con artist who claimed that he smoked crack with Barack Obama before having sex with the former president in 1999. Earlier this month, X aired Tucker’s interview with Jewish space laser investigator and Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. She claimed the House Speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson, was being blackmailed to do the bidding of the left. 

That was all bad. Really bad. But what was most appalling was Tucker’s descent into moral relativism, his muddying of the line between good and evil. For Tucker, America is not exceptional; it is no better than its enemies. And this is particularly corrosive, because he is persuading a large segment of the American right to abandon its rightful contempt for foreign tyrants, terrorists, and cranks. 

First came Moscow. He told us he was dazzled by the city’s gleaming subways and orderly fast-food restaurants. Then he interviewed Russian despot and world-champion liar Vladimir Putin, allowing him to deliver a slanted history of his country’s dominion over western Ukraine. Never once did Tucker ask him about Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader who died ten days after the interview in one of Putin’s Arctic dungeons. 

(Tucker’s fawning chat with the Russian tyrant stood in sharp contrast to his coverage of Ukraine’s elected leader, Volodymyr Zelensky. In one of his first shows on X, Tucker called Zelensky “sweaty and rat-like, a comedian turned oligarch, a persecutor of Christians.”)

Tucker has even adopted some of the same progressive talking points he once used to ridicule. For example, in February, Tucker said he despised former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley because of her hawkish foreign policy against Iran, claiming that her real agenda was to resurrect the military draft. “I’ve got four draft-age children,” he told comedian Russell Brand. “So if you’re playing recklessly, fast, and loose with their lives, then I have a right to despise you.” 

This nonsense is an echo of the bloggy fringes of the 2000s-era left. In those years it was the progressive netroots that indulged the dark fantasy that a draft would be reinstated because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had overstrained our military. Now it’s people like Tucker who claim to oppose wars because politicians secretly want to conscript young citizens to fight them. 

But, even after all that, it’s Tucker’s interview last week with Munther Isaac, a self-described evangelical Christian pastor who lives in Bethlehem, that most alarmed me. 

Here’s how he introduced his interview with Isaac on X: 

How does the government of Israel treat Christians? In the West, Christian leaders don’t seem interested in knowing the answer. They should be. Here’s the view of a pastor from Bethlehem. 

Unmentioned is the fact that Munther is an extremist who praised the “strength” of those who invaded Israel on October 7. The other curious omission is that Bethlehem is no longer governed by Israel.

And yet, Isaac claimed that one of the biggest problems for Christians in Bethlehem is the Israeli occupation. “People keep leaving because of the political reality,” he said. “Life under a very harsh Israeli military occupation is difficult to bear.” 

Let’s be clear. The West Bank, where Bethlehem is situated, has not been administered by Israel since late 1995 when the Palestinian Authority took over. And while it’s true that Israel will conduct counterterrorism operations in the area from time to time, the numbers show that Christians have suffered more under PA rule. When Bethlehem was under Israeli administration, Christians were a strong majority. Today, the Christian population in the birthplace of Jesus has dwindled to less than 20 percent. 

The decline in the Christian population in Bethlehem, meanwhile, reflects a broader trend in Gaza and the West Bank. Today, Christians make up only 1 percent of the population in the Palestinian territories. Many Palestinian Christians have fled to Israel, where they receive social services and equal rights

According to a recent report from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, half of Christian students in Israel go on to college. But in Gaza in 2020, Hamas launched a new policy to discourage the celebration of Christmas. It’s not surprising that there are little more than 1,000 Christians left in Gaza now. Pastors who remain in the West Bank and Gaza, like Isaac, have to reflect the official line of their hosts—or face the consequences.

Tucker, meanwhile, is a Christian in America. He has the good fortune not to live under Palestinian rule and is free to say whatever he thinks. Yet he never challenged Isaac’s assertions. And he even went on to attack evangelical leaders in America who support Israel, saying, “If you wake up in the morning and decide your Christian faith requires you to support a foreign government blowing up churches and killing Christians, I think you’ve lost the thread.” 

But it’s Tucker who has lost the thread. Hamas hides its munitions in places of worship and fires rockets from them, including Christian churches. The terrorist organization deliberately built a sprawling bunker of tunnels beneath Gaza’s churches, mosques, hospitals, and schools. Evangelical support for Israel is rooted in a revulsion of Hamas and its tactics that endanger the civilians it is supposed to protect. 

Tucker has also kept silent after Iran’s strike on Saturday against Israel—our country’s only democratic ally in the Middle East. He has said nothing about the lunatic fringe rising up in the U.S., which is cheering on Iran. There was a time when Tucker called himself “America First.” But as author Abigail Shrier so aptly put it Sunday: “If you call yourself “America First” and have nothing to say about this, you are a fraud.”

So what the hell happened to Tucker Carlson?

The skepticism that served him well in the Trump years when much of the fourth estate behaved like an opposition political party has led him all the way around the horseshoe. His opposition to the people he hates—liberals and neocons—has turned him into Noam Chomsky in a bow tie.

Tucker was correct when he punctured the relentless speculation and anonymous reporting that led so many journalists to believe President Trump was a Russian agent. He was right when he said the real story was the Democratic Party colluding with the FBI to smear the Trump campaign. But he is wrong when he asserts that Israel and America are no better than their enemies. Once Tucker was too smart to allow his ideological rivals to determine his opinions. Now he proudly apologizes for evil and calls it the truth.

I look forward to his next dispatch, praising the gleaming shopping malls of Tehran.

Eli Lake is a Free Press columnist and podcast host. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @EliLake. And for more on this topic, read Peter Savodnik on Why Is the American Right Pandering to Putin?

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