The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion You happy now, Tucker Carlson?

Fox News host Tucker Carlson in Washington on March 29. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Trump oftentimes tweets the sentiments he hears on Fox News just moments after they air. Other times, there’s a bit more of a lag.

On Sunday morning, for example, Trump tweeted:

Those progressive congresswomen are Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.). Of those, all are United States citizens and three were born in the United States. (Omar was born in Somalia.) All four are women of color, making Trump’s exhortation that they go back to some other land an assertion of racism.

Follow Erik Wemple's opinionsFollow

Fox News host Tucker Carlson can congratulate himself for the sentiment coming from the White House. Last week, Carlson apparently decided that the discussion on immigration featured an insufficient amount of racism and hate. So he attacked Omar, who arrived in the United States at the age of 12, for having the temerity to point out that this country doesn’t always live up to its own lofty ideals. “She has undisguised contempt for the United States and for its people. That should worry you and not just because Omar is now a sitting member of Congress,” said Carlson. “Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country. A system designed to strengthen America is instead undermining it. Some of the very people we try hardest to help have come to hate us passionately.”

A sitting congresswoman, argued Carlson, was dangerous to the country — a threat.

Columnist Michael Gerson says the president is an anti-Muslim bigot who applies religious freedom only to those Trump favors, which counts out Rep. Ilhan Omar. (Video: Joshua Carroll, Danielle Kunitz/The Washington Post)

Henry Olsen: Yes, Trump’s tweets are offensive. But there’s one big reason Republicans still stand by him.

From there, it’s a short conceptual walk to Trump’s racist claim that these women of color must, somehow, retreat to the “places from which they came.” (We asked Carlson whether he saw a link between his own thinking and Trump’s tweets. We will update this post if we receive a response.)

Policy guidance coming from Carlson to the president — either through his show or via private phone conversations — has become something of a ho-hum occurrence by now. When Carlson stretched the truth in August 2018 about the mistreatment of white farmers in South Africa, Trump turned the white-grievance whine into official policy:

In a subsequent program, Carlson was forced to walk back his claims. In a more constructive bit of engagement, Carlson helped to talk Trump out of bombing Iran in June.

In interview after interview, Carlson has acknowledged that he grew up — in La Jolla, Calif., and in Georgetown — among the powerful. “I’ve always lived around people who are wielding authority, around the ruling class, and it was only after the financial crisis of ’08 that I noticed that something was really out of whack, because Washington didn’t really feel the crisis,” said Carlson in a 2018 interview with a Swiss publication.

Such background, he has argued, enables him to glimpse the ravages of the “ruling class,” which he routinely rips on air:

  • June 4: “If you disagree with the ruling class, you’re fair game. Fair game for harassment, ridicule, boycotts, you can’t have dinner in a public restaurant.”
  • May 31: “Mexico is corrupt. The ruling class believes it is America’s duty to absorb their country’s problems forever. The American left agrees.”
  • May 20: “If white privilege is real, and everyone in our ruling class seems to assume it is. If it’s real, then why are so many people pretending not to be white?”

Those ruling-class members that Carlson attacks all the time only wish they had the clout of Carlson himself. He has become Trump’s unofficial senior adviser for white nationalism.

Folks who go into the news business dream of leaving a mark. Fox News host Chris Wallace does so by exposing the hypocrisies of Washington politicians. Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times does so by instructing the United States about how its racist past continues to haunt classrooms. Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald does so by refusing to stop investigating the “sweetheart deal” accorded to sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein.

As for Carlson, he’s making his mark by inspiring racist tweets.

Update, 1:30 p.m.: Responding to press inquiries at the White House, Trump addressed his Twitter attacks against the progressive Democrats. “If you hate our country — if you’re not happy here, you can leave," said Trump, among many other critical comments about this group. For the record: The part about “hating” America is a refrain on Carlson’s Fox News program commonly leveled at Democrats who favor dovish immigration policies.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: Trump just denied his attacks are racist. He only confirmed the worst.

Max Boot: I may not agree with AOC’s squad, but they are better Americans than Trump

Erik Wemple: Tucker Carlson proposes an Orwellian test for immigrants: They’ve ‘got to like us back’

Alexandra Petri: Why I have yet to denounce the president’s racist remarks

Erik Wemple: Tucker Carlson embraces hateful nativism in attack on Rep. Omar

Tom Toles: This is where Trump stands on race issues