Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday praised the economic plan unveiled by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, calling the Democratic presidential candidate "Trump at his best." (Left: Richard Drew/AP; right: Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP) (Richard Drew/AP and Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP/Richard Drew/AP and Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)
Media critic

Fox News host Tucker Carlson played something of a trick on his audience on Wednesday night. He read off a series of economic policy ideas to his viewers, making clear that he was quoting someone else. “Politicians love to say they care about American jobs, but for decades, those same politicians have cited free-market principles and refuse to intervene in markets on behalf of American workers,” said Carlson, moving on to other proposals.

Then he presented the “reveal”: “Republicans in Congress can’t promise to protect American industries. They wouldn’t dare to do that,” said Carlson. “It might violate some principle of Austrian economics. ... Instead, the words you just heard are from — and brace yourself here — Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts,” said the host. The praise got even more enthusiastic: “Yesterday, Warren released what she calls her plan for economic patriotism. Amazingly, that’s pretty much what it is, economic patriotism. There’s not a word about identity politics in the document,” he said.

Hear ye, hear ye! Tucker Carlson just endorsed the economic policies of a current Democratic presidential candidate! Publicity has followed this watershed, with CNN writing," Fox host unexpectedly praises Elizabeth Warren.” Other outlets covered the moment as well. It’s a coup for the glib cable-news host, who gets to project himself as a tribe-spanning iconoclast interested only in the truth, sound policies and fairness to all.

The problem is, Carlson leaves behind a trail of transcripts, which tell a consistent story about how the host views Democrats.

Back in February, for instance, Carlson highlighted a proposal by progressive Democrats opposing hikes in funding for immigration enforcement. He riffed, “In other words, it is virtuous to protect others; it is wrong to protect ourselves and our own children. What’s the name for that attitude? Well, self-hatred would be one. Should people who hate the country be in charge of it?”

That same month, he characterized Democratic policies on infrastructure and climate change as follows: “I think these policies are designed to destroy the country. I think they are being advocated by people who hate the country, and I think the aim is really clear. If you love the country, you would not propose this."

Back in May 2018, he uncorked this diatribe:

In the last year-and-a-half, the Democratic Party has doubled down on every behavior that got Trump elected in the first place. They routinely vilify tens of millions of Americans based on how they look, they prefer illegal immigrants to US citizens. At this point, they don’t even hide that preference. They’re open about it.

In schools and sports and the military, they denounce the idea of biological differences between men and women. That’s something that every culture from Ancient Egypt till about 20 minutes ago understood perfectly well because it’s demonstrable. They don’t recognize it anymore. ... Whatever else he’s done, Trump has driven the Democratic Party off the deep end. They not only hate him, but the country that elected him and it’s starting to show in the polls.

So there’s a good reason Carlson would instruct his viewers to “brace” themselves before hearing that a prominent Democrat had penned a reasonable proposal for economic patriotism. How could a member of a party that hates this country propose something so worthwhile?

Given the static, we asked Carlson whether he would be changing his assessment of America-hating Democrats. We’ll update this post if we hear back on that front.

In January, Carlson stirred a think piece or two when he unfurled an extended critique of Republican orthodoxy on the economy. He waxed wistful about “a country where normal people with an average education, who grew up no place special, can get married and have happy kids and repeat unto the generations, a country that actually cares about families, the building block of everything,” said Carlson. “What would it take to get a country like that? Leaders who want it. For now, those leaders will have to be Republicans. There’s no option at this point. But first, Republican leaders will have to acknowledge that market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it.”

Now along comes Warren with a plan that — at least in Carlson’s opinion — just might shore up the American family. “All that really matters is your family,” said Carlson on an April program.

It might make sense, then, that Carlson would throw his support behind Warren. Sense is scarce in these precincts, however. “This is far from an endorsement of Elizabeth Warren, whom I couldn’t vote for because she’s so far out on the social issues. It would be wrong to vote for her, in my view,” said Carlson. Perhaps a more compelling explanation came last week, when Carlson complained that Warren was “nasty."

Read more:

Erik Wemple: Fox News: Warren is ‘nasty.’ Gillibrand is not ‘polite.’

Erik Wemple: Warren gives Fox News a debate it didn’t ask for

Max Boot: What Tucker Carlson didn’t tell Fox viewers

Erik Wemple: Here’s why Fox News is No. 1