The Other McCain

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Tucker Carlson’s Tightrope Walk

Posted on | November 12, 2020 | No Comments


Scott Johnson at Powerline ponders the plight of Tucker Carlson, who finds himself stuck at a network that has declared war on its audience.

What has surprised me most about Carlson’s tenure at Fox is what we might call his Buchananite streak. He’s far more paleoconservative than I had any reason to imagine prior to 2017, and this populist, “America First,” Old Right tendency puts him at odds with Fox News management.

Have you ever noticed that Fox News has a lot of Catholics from Long Island? The network started with Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity as its biggest stars, and this New York Irish-Catholic vibe — a throwback to the Al D’Amato era — has persisted for 25 years, almost unnoticed. To a large extent, I believe, this explains a lot about the particular brand of “conservatism” that Fox News sells its audience. In New York politics, “conservative” almost always means Catholic, because Northern Protestantism (the National Council of Churches type) drifted leftward on a tide of Rockefeller foundation grants, embracing liberalism and especially becoming “pro-choice” back in the 1960s and ’70s. Meanwhile, led by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Paige Patterson, conservative Protestants put their foot down in defense of the Bible, at almost the exact same time that saw the conservative political triumph that put Ronald Reagan into the White House. But there is nearly zero representation of Southerners at Fox News, because the network was based in New York and so many of the guys Roger Ailes hired in the network’s early years (e.g., Brian Kilmeade, from Nassau County) were Long Island Irish-Catholics. And one thing you must know about such people is that they have a misty-eyed sentimental view of America as a “nation of immigrants,” getting choked up at the mere thought of those “huddled masses” coming through Ellis Island in the early 20th century, and they quote Emma Lazarus as if her poetry were more force of law than the Constitution. And then there’s Tucker Carlson.

He’s not from Long Island and he’s not Catholic, and while there seem to be no hillbilly Bible-thumpers in his family tree, Carlson doesn’t have the reflexive sentimentality about immigration that is typical of so many personalities on Fox News. That distinction has gotten him tagged as a “white nationalist” — welcome to the SPLC hate list, pal — and the departure of writer Blake Neff from Carlson’s staff brought to light the possibility that Tucker has been reading samizdat.

The way Fox News went in the tank for Democrats on Election Night has almost certainly widened the breach between Carlson and the network’s management. While I’m basically done with Fox News — any network that employs Chris Stirewalt is not to be trusted — I still try to catch Carlson’s opening monologue, which remains the best 15 or 20 minutes of TV anywhere. My suspicion is that Carlson will keep pushing the envelope in an attempt to force the network to fire him; that way, he won’t be saddled with a “non-compete” clause when he leaves, and can immediately hire on at NewsMax or some other outfit.




 

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