The comedian dedicated much of his recent Last Week Tonight show to picking apart the prominent Fox commentator’s claims and personal mythology in the wake of Carlson’s effective promotion and a Politico article floating the right-wing shock jock as a possible future presidential candidate.
Oliver prefaced the segment by noting that, while he “would like nothing more than to not play into his wildly offensive shtick”, Carlson averages more than three million viewers a night and performs well in the key 25 to 54-year-old demographic – “meaning young people are watching him as well as the normal Fox audience of retirees and their sad, imprisoned pets”.
Oliver – whose wife served in the Iraq War as a US army medic – also pointed out that Carlson’s recent show attacking female members of the military was the most watched programme on cable that evening.
He warned that Carlson’s rise should be “seriously alarming, because of all the things that Tucker is – a conspiracy theorist, a misogynist, Islamophobe, a troll – one of the most dangerous is that he is the most prominent vessel in America for white supremacist talking points.”
Laying out how Carlson has frequently sought to paint the definition of “white supremacy”as “self-servingly narrow”, Oliver pointed out that “white supremacists tend to be big fans of what Tucker’s been doing”.
Oliver then laid into Carlson’s background, suggesting he had “the single whitest origin story I have ever heard”.
According to Oliver – and prior reports – this origin story allegedly saw the heir to the Swanson frozen food empire Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson “fail to impress any number of prestigious universities and start dating the headmaster’s daughter – a headmaster who, in return, arranged to get him into Trinity College”.
He added: “Tucker’s leap to TV, though, came as an accident. Supposedly, back in the 90s, Dan Rather’s show called the magazine where Tucker was working looking for somebody to talk about the OJ [Simpson] trial, and the receptionist there told him, ‘Everyone else is still at lunch. Can you do it?’”
Tracking Carlson’s ascent through the US media to his current position as Fox News’s supposedly straight-talking free speech champion, Oliver highlighted various racist comments from Carlson, including one passage in which he appeared to neatly echo the white supremacist movement’s infamous “14 words” maxim, insisting: “We have to fight to preserve our nation and heritage.”
“When you know how Tucker speaks, when he speaks freely, the filter through which he processes the world for his audience becomes painfully apparent,” Oliver said, referencing Carlson’s recent comparison of Black Lives Matter protesters and Capitol insurrectionists.
“Because he is smart enough not to openly say into a camera that certain races are more deserving of scorn or less worthy of respect – he will just heavily imply that depending on who he’s talking about.”
Oliver concluded: “That is the whole thing with Tucker. He might not say Black or White. He’ll insist that he’s for colour-blindness, he’ll build in deniability, by phrasing things as a question, like, ‘What does racism look like?’, while kind of embodying the answer.
“But when you put all of this together, the pattern is clear.
“He is scared of a country that ‘looks nothing like the one he grew up in’, because diversity ‘isn’t our strength’, immigrants make our country ‘poorer, dirtier, and more divided,’ and any attempt to change that culture is an attack on Western civilisation.
“All of which is really just a long way of saying that when Tucker asks, ‘What is white supremacy?’, the answer is: basically that.
“It’s a belief that in a country where white people are dominant, that’s all down to their natural and innate abilities, and any effort to change that is an affront to the natural order of things.”