Tucker Carlson’s Real Toxic Legacy

April 27, 2023


Carlson will also be remembered as one of the most prolific disseminators of misinformation on the climate crisis in recent memory.

“Will get lost amid the noise of his sudden departure, but it should not be forgotten that Tucker Carlson has been one of the very worst spreaders of misinformation, conspiracy theories and falsehoods about climate change over the past decade in the US media,” Leo Hickman, editor of climate-focused publication Carbon Brief, tweeted.

Tucker Carlson Tonight was a hotbed of fossil-fuel industry talking points, wackadoo conspiracy theories and monologues interwoven with racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic material.

He claimed that the “existence of winter disproves the science of climate change”; called climate science a “state religion”; said scientists and activists “bully” people like him and “hate the Earth… hate nature.”

According to New York Times analysis, Carlson’s most basic, fearmongering trope was “You vs Them”, a notion that he also used on climate topics.

In July 2021, for example, he claimed that Texas’ power companies were automatically raising the temperature of residents’ thermostats during a heatwave without permission. “Woo! That’s not creepy or anything,” he told his viewers.

(In reality, Texas’s smart thermostat energy conservation program has been around for 20 years and customers choose to enroll in the program in exchange for rebates, fact-checking site Politifact reported.)

While often scientifically and factually incoherent, the segments played well with his older, white, conservative audience by deploying such themes as government overreach, tax hikes, liberal elites, and globalism.

“Tucker Carlson and other hosts at Fox News have been prolific and influential spreaders of climate misinformation,” Dr John Cook, a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne and an expert on misinformation, told The Independent via email.

“The problem is there’s no climate version of Dominion to hold them to account for misleading the public about climate change.

“Instead it’s the public and the environment that will pay the price for delayed climate action due to misinformation, in the years and decades to come.”

Perhaps most tragic of all, is that there’s serious doubt that Carlson believed a word of it.

The discovery process of the Dominion lawsuit revealed a glut of Carlson’s text messages and emails which exposed him as scornful of stories which he presented to his audience as “truth”.

But his primetime show keenly used exhaustive “minute-by-minute” ratings data, The New York Times recently reported, to keep close tabs on what kept people tuning in.

The Independent has contacted Carlson’s lawyer, Bryan Freedman, for comment.

Peddling outright denial of climate change has become a harder sell in recent years as Americans experience more deadly heatwaves, wildfires, hurricanes, droughts and floods.

Thus climate misinformation has morphed, becoming more insidious, and designed to confuse people with feelings of hopelessness, cynicism and mistrust.

“The misinformation arguments are that people can’t trust scientists, can’t trust models, can’t trust climate data. It’s all about building doubt and undermining public trust in climate science,” Dr Cook previously told The Independent .

Half of US adults now describe climate change as a major threat to the country, according to recent Pew surveys, but a deep political divide remains. The number of Democrats who view climate change as a major threat has risen to 78 per cent in the past decade while Republicans remain stuck at 23 per cent.

But younger people – the viewers most avidly sought by advertisers – are more likely than older adults to want action on environmental and climate issues, Pew also discovered.

In the wake of the Dominion settlement, Fox News doesn’t appear a network particularly ready to change course.

“We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” the network said, in a statement.

“This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”

Dr Michael Mann, one of the US’s leading climate scientists and director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media, described Carlson as “ one of the worst spreaders of climate change denial and disinformation” but also sounded a note of caution.

“Unfortunately, however, he will almost certainly be replaced by somebody equally bad,” he told The Independent, in an email.

The real problem is Rupert Murdoch and his ties to bad petrostate actors, like Saudi Arabia. Until that larger problem is solved, we can expect more of the same.”


Before getting unceremoniously canned this week, Carlson regularly told his 3 million nightly viewers about his concern for the “natural environment” and the “natural landscape,” and praised “the good-hearted people who really love the mountains.” “I care about the planet,” he said in 2018, even going so far as to tell viewers that he used to donate to the Sierra Club. “I think John Muir is really cool,” he once said.

And yet, when Carlson talked about the “environment” on his show, the discussion almost never centered on how to actually improve the overall quality of U.S. water or air. It certainly never centered on climate change, which Carlson decried as a liberal distraction from “actual” environmental issues. “Climate is not part of the environment, in my opinion,” he once said.

Instead, Carlson’s segments on the environment usually centered on the same thesis most of his non-environmental segments promoted: That Democrats are trying to control you, and replace you with immigrants. And by “you,” he means his audience—which is 92 percent white.

The biggest difference between Carlson’s non-environmental segments and environmental segments was that, instead of blaming immigrants for crime and taxpayer plundering, he blamed them for littering and dirtying the country.

Here are some examples I found of Carlson using his Fox News show to blame environmental problems on immigration:

  • “How is it good for the environment of this country to import millions of poor people from the Third World?” June 29, 2018
  • “The truth is unregulated mass immigration has badly hurt this country’s natural landscape.” December 17, 2018
  • “If you are pushing to increase the size of our population—and they are—what’s your plan for keeping our natural environment pristine?” April 4, 2019
  • “Unregulated waves of people coming in destroy the land and contribute to massive amounts of pollution.” April 25, 2021
  • “I’m not against immigrants or anything, but too many people is bad for the environment.” July 17, 2021
  • “Environmental organizations [are] promoting crowding and illegal immigration, which hurts the environment.” July 30, 2021

Here are some examples I found of Carlson saying immigrants make the country polluted, dirty, and crowded:

  • “As I got older, I realized, you don’t want to live in crowded places. Everyone’s unhappy, it’s horrible, and it’s dirty.” November 16, 2018
  • “Spend a week in a crowded, dirty country, and you’ll find that you don’t want to live in a place like that, I think.” December 6, 2018
  • “Crowded countries are polluted. Every single one of them. Tell us why we should want that here?” April 4, 2019
  • “That’s the main problem with crowded countries. They’re hard to live in. They’re loud and dirty and chaotic.” January 4, 2022.
  • “This is becoming a crowded country and crowded countries are ugly, unhappy countries.” March 17, 2021
  • “Crowded countries are dirty, all of them. It’s obvious if you travel.” July 17, 2021

One problem with this rhetoric is that it’s flat-out wrong. “There is little actual science to bolster immigration control for ecological purposes,” Susie Cagle wrote in a 2019 piece in The Guardian. “While there is evidence that population and economic growth in total increases global emissions, recent studies show no correlation between U.S. immigrant communities and pollution.” 

On the contrary, a qualitative study of immigrant populations in the U.S. found that immigrants actually use less energy, drive less, and generate less waste than native-born Americans. “The vast majority of behavioral studies demonstrate that immigrants live more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than native-born Americans, so much so that immigrant density is associated with lower carbon emissions,” reports the liberal Center for American Progress. The libertarian Cato Institute also agrees with this point. (See CAP’s full report on debunking population-based anti-immigrant “environmentalism” here). 

But the bigger, far more concerning problem is that these falsehoods frequently promoted by Carlson are key tenets of eco-fascism, the racist environmental ideology that multiple mass shooters have claimed since 2019. We wrote about the rise of eco-fascist rhetoric among U.S. conservatives last week. 

In that newsletter, we described two tenets of eco-fascism that are gaining popularity among Republicans: One is that that the ruling class is trying to control and “replace” white people using immigration, which was what motivated the self-proclaimed eco-fascist who killed 10 people in a Buffalo supermarket last year. Another is that immigration is a form of “environmental warfare” that harms the natural landscape, which was what motivated the self-proclaimed eco-fascist who killed 23 people in an El Paso, Texas Walmart in 2019.


5 Responses to “Tucker Carlson’s Real Toxic Legacy”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    Do you get it now? It’s all projection.

  2. mboli Says:

    I looked up the focus of Carlson’s rant that doctors are withholding anesthesia from patients to punish humankind for the sins of climate change.

    It turns out: inhalation anesthesia gasses account for about 5% of a hospital’s GHG footprint.
    — one of the gasses used for inhalation anesthesia is an extraordinarily potent greenhouse gas.
    — nitrous oxide is also fairly potent, but most emissions come from leaky plumbing and similar emissions from before gets to the patient.

    Anesthesiologists have been switching to other gasses which work as well, reducing flow rates in some instances, and using nitrous oxide from canisters at bedside.

    They aren’t causing patients to suffer, as Carlson charges. Carlson is relying on his listener’s assumption that every adjustment to lower GHG necessarily punishes people.

  3. ubrew12 Says:

    Tucker Carlson: “the most accurate forecast suggests that hurricanes will become 25% less frequent going forward. Those are the data.” Why would hurricanes change at all, unless climate change is real? And, if it is real, as Carlson here admits, then its more than just a religion. It’s happening: storms are changing, some increasing, some decreasing, and we can, as Carlson does, form opinions about them from “the data”. Is it a ‘Climate Religion’, to believe that aspects of climate can be understood on the basis of “the most accurate forecast”? If so, then Tucker Carlson just kneeled before that religion. I hope he recognizes his error, before he enters the self-flagellation phase. Testicle tanning can make a guy do crazy things.

  4. jimbills Says:

    The term “legacy” implies he’s a thing of the past. It’s a little early to suggest that, and in fact there is some buzz about what would happen if he ran for President:

    My own early opinion is that another Trump/Biden match probably goes to Biden, but virtually anyone else running against Biden, especially a significantly younger candidate, would likely trounce him.

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