Tucker Carlson has been building quite the record for peddling white nationalist ideas to his supposedly mainstream audience: whitewashing the effects of far-right terrorism, claiming that white nationalism is a liberal hoax, regurgitating ecofascist themes about immigrants, defending far-right Capitol insurrectionists, even endorsing the idea that conservatives are heading toward an embrace of fascism. On Thursday, he topped all that.
Appearing on Fox News Prime with host Mark Steyn, Carlson launched into a defense of white nationalist “replacement theory” placed in the context of the immigration debate, claiming that Democrats are “trying to replace the current electorate” with “more obedient voters from the Third World.” It was a performance so egregious that Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted: “Tucker must go.”
Steyn had introduced Carlson with a misleading portrayal of Delta Air Lines’ opposition to Georgia’s new voter suppression law, complaining that their polices opened the United States’ door to a flood of immigrants. He then asked Carlson to explain why the government was giving preferential treatment to “people who shouldn’t be in the country in the first place.” Carlson responded:
Now I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term “replacement,” if you suggest the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that's what's happening, actually. Let's just say it! That's true.
Look, if this was happening in your house, if you were in sixth grade for example, and without telling you your parents adopted a bunch of new siblings, and gave them brand new bikes, and let them stay up late or helped them with their homework and gave them twice the allowance that they gave you, you would say to your siblings, “You know, I think we’re being replaced by kids that our parents love more!” It would be kind of hard to argue against you because, look at the evidence!
So this matters on a bunch of levels, but on the most basic level, it’s a voting-rights question. In a democracy, one person equals one vote. If you change the population, you dilute the political power of the people who live there. So every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter.
Everyone wants to make a racial issue out of it. Oh, White replacement! No. This is a voting rights question. I have less political power because they’re importing a brand new electorate. Why should I sit back and take that?
What Carlson is doing is spouting “replacement theory,” a strain of right-wing thought predicated on the “Great Replacement,” a conspiracy theory claiming that white people are being selectively “replaced” by nonwhite immigrants, a gradual “invasion” intended to wipe out white civilization orchestrated by a cabal of nefarious “globalists” and Jews. It’s a subset of a larger white nationalist belief in “white genocide,” a supposed conspiracy by nonwhites, leftists, and Jews to destroy “white Western civilization.”
It also has been credited with inspiring multiple acts of mass murder and terrorism: Robert Bowers’ attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018; Brenton Tarrant’s attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019; and Patrick Crusius’ attack on Hispanics at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, in August 2019, among others.
Greenblatt’s tweet responded to Carlson that “‘replacement theory’ is a white supremacist tenet that the white race is in danger by a rising tide of non-whites. It is antisemitic, racist and toxic. It has informed the ideology of mass shooters in El Paso, Christchurch and Pittsburgh.”
He added: “Tucker must go.”
This is not the first time that Carlson has made exactly these claims: He has touted the same theory regarding immigrants “replacing” current voters in various segments in the past couple of years. (It is, naturally, an utterly specious claim: Voting requires citizenship, meaning those new immigrants are not eligible even to apply for five years; the naturalization application process then typically takes 15 months. Moreover, the 700,000 new citizens who take the oath every year—after which they may finally vote—represent only 0.2% of the total U.S. population.)
Carlson already has a remarkable record of dabbling increasingly in white supremacist rhetoric dating back to 2006, including recently unearthed recordings of his ramblings on radio. His greatest hits include a regurgitation of neo-Nazi propaganda about “white genocide” in Africa, not to mention his mutual promotion of the white nationalist website VDare. There is a reason white supremacists love Carlson’s show, and why they assiduously watch it in hopes of picking up pointers.
His attacks on immigrants not only are wildly distorted when it comes to the supposed facts that he spouts—many of which are outright falsehoods—but they are also deeply toxic to democracy and its foundations. As Philip Bump observes in The Washington Post:
What is more likely to happen—and, indeed, what has happened in the past—is that many Hispanic immigrant families will increasingly identify as more broadly American and as White. Just as the Lombardis became the Carlsons and the Boumpasses became the Bumps, many new migrants to the United States will eventually simply become another part of the American population. We don’t blink at Rudolph W. Giuliani being a high-profile political figure, but it seems likely that Americans would have 150 years ago. This opportunity to be part of a united nation is, to most, part of the American ideal.