In the days since Fox News fired Tucker Carlson, a certain kind of media-obsessed sicko has spent a lot of time trying to figure out why. He was too Christian, went one theory in Vanity Fair, from an anonymous source who is definitely not Tucker Carlson. He asked a question he shouldn’t have about Building 7. It was his role in the pricey Dominion lawsuit. It was a strategic pivot. It was the Deep State. Maybe it was his presidential campaign. Or his criticism of Rupert Murdoch. Or the extremely hostile workplace an ex-producer alleged Carlson ran.
Of all the theories being thrown out, the most implausible explanation was the one we’d inevitably hear: The Fox board found out Carlson was racist—and they stopped him as soon as they did!
On Tuesday, the New York Times published a text message that Carlson sent a producer the day after the Capitol insurrection, which, according to the paper, “set off a panic at the highest levels of Fox on the eve of its billion-dollar defamation trial” and “contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Mr. Carlson’s firing.” In the text—which is, and sorry if it seems like I’m nitpicking, way too long for a text—Carlson described watching a video of a group Trump supporters “pounding the living shit out of” what he called “an Antifa kid.”
“Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously,” he said. “It’s not how white men fight.” But he was also rooting for them, “hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it.” Carlson went on to say he felt a bit of shame for his desire to watch someone be murdered. You can see how his show might have been a difficult place to work.
According to the Times, the text “revealed more about his views on racial superiority.” Did it, though?
Carlson regularly championed the white supremacist Great Replacement theory, and his rants about, say, the immigration act of 1965 made his views pretty damn clear. They were so clear, in fact, that another Times reporter described his show a few years ago as “the most racist show in the history of cable news.” It is a testament to the ferocity and ferality of the movement Carlson tended to each night on his program that it’s not immediately clear which clip of right-wing mob violence from the end of 2020 he was even referring to in the text. (The information he provided—that it was a few weeks earlier, and in Washington, DC—does match the description of a particularly infamous attack by a group of Proud Boys that was promoted in right-wing media.)
The text is, nonetheless, a revealing document. Carlson’s career has always been defined by an unrestrained current of elitism. He dismissed people he disagreed with in college as “greasy chicken fuckers.” He asked Hunter Biden to help get his son, Buckley, into Georgetown. As a magazine writer he played the part of the preppiest young man in the club, and ingratiated himself as a in-on-the-joke insider—a power journalist who became a source for power journalists. For a long time, he was famous for wearing a bow-tie. That notion of class loyalty he projected was reciprocated far more than it should have been; it was there every time a former colleague or acquaintance pondered if all this from Carlson was just a bit. It’s the sort of distinction that only makes a difference if you’re in the club too.
I don’t really believe that the Fox board, whose members include former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, only got wise to Carlson’s true beliefs when they saw the text about “how white men fight,” although it’s funny to imagine the conversation if they did. The phrase captures his politics with admirable simplicity: the contempt layered on more contempt. These allies of his are uncivil, they are coarse, they are NOKD. He may slip and become like them, but they are not him. This is the bait-and-switch he played at for years. I can’t think of a more fitting ending for Carlson’s tenure than a seemingly 500-word text that says that the Proud Boys’ great offense is that they’re just not very good WASPs.