On Thursday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson argued that immigration has an undeniably negative impact on the U.S. economy. Then he veered into the gutter: “It’s indefensible, so nobody even tries to defend it. Instead, our leaders demand that you shut up and accept it. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poor and dirtier and more divided,” said the host in reference to the caravan of Central American migrants seeking entry into the United States.
Pacific Life ran an ad after the segment. After some prodding from liberal activists on Twitter, the company declared that it would not be advertising on the show in the “coming weeks” pending an evaluation of Carlson’s program:
On his Friday night program, Carlson returned to the topic of the caravan. There was no particular need to do so, considering that Friday’s headlines provided several other story lines. Yet the host seemed intent diving back in, telling commentator Ethan Bearman, “The reason we keep going back to this topic, and let me just stipulate, as I have before with you, that I — I like immigration. I like immigrants. I give every person in the caravan the benefit of the doubt. I think most really do want to come here for a better life.”
And with that, Carlson signaled that he was scared — scared that Pacific Life’s conclusions would become the conclusions of other advertisers. And scared that “Tucker Carlson Tonight” would go the way of Glenn Beck’s show and “The O’Reilly Factor,” two Fox News programs that succumbed to pressure campaigns from advertisers.
Thing is, Carlson had a point when he told Bearman that he’d said conciliatory things about immigration in the past. In May, for instance, Carlson told Bearman, “So, Ethan, I assume like every good progressive, you are for letting the members of the caravan in. I just want to be clear: I’m not against the members. I would want to come here too if I lived in Honduras. I understand completely,” he said. More: On Thursday night, when Carlson made his contention about a “dirtier” country, he also said this about immigrants: “Our country’s economy is becoming more automated and tech-centered by the day, it’s obvious that we need more scientists and skilled engineers. But that’s not what we’re getting. Instead, we’re getting waves of people with high school educations or less. Nice people, no one doubts that,” he argued.
Bolding added to highlight an echo from June 2015: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” said Donald Trump in his presidential kickoff announcement.
The formula calls for villainizing immigrants in broad terms, hyping any and all crimes they commit and highlighting any and all disruptions they cause — while at the same conceding that these individuals may not be all that bad. It’s a calibrated and hateful argument, and it clearly worked for Trump. Judging from Carlson’s ratings, it’s working for him as well, as long as he can convince advertisers that he really does “like” immigrants.