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Fox News host Tucker Carlson has repeatedly invoked the “great replacement theory” on his show, platforming a racist and antisemitic conspiracy theory that has inspired several mass shootings, including the recent attack in Buffalo, New York.
A New York Times investigation identified more than 400 episodes of Carlson’s show in which he pushed core tenets of the conspiracy theory.
Minutes after claiming he was “still not sure exactly what it is,” Carlson again promoted the theory, claiming that Democrats were conspiring to transform the electorate.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed he was unfamiliar with the racist and antisemitic "great replacement theory" cited by the mass shooter in Buffalo, New York.
"You’ve heard a lot about the ‘great replacement theory’ recently," Carlson said on his primetime show May 17. "It is everywhere in the last two days, and we are still not sure exactly what it is."
Carlson’s critics and viewers would have been right to think twice about his feigned ignorance.
Carlson has promoted the core principles behind "great replacement theory" hundreds of times — including on his May 17 program.
"The Democratic Party has decided that rather than convince you, people who are born here, that their policies are helping you and making the country better and stronger, they will change the electorate," Carlson said, minutes after saying he wasn’t sure what the theory meant.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on May 17, 2022, as captured by the Internet Archive.
Other times he’s referenced the theory by its name.
The "great replacement theory" is white supremacist rhetoric that warns of an elaborate conspiracy by Democratic and Western elites — and possibly orchestrated by Jewish people — to systematically replace white Americans with non-white people through immigration, interracial marriage and other means. Online writings linked to the gunman show he was motivated by a belief that the white race was dying out, like several other mass shooters before him.
The version of the "great replacement theory" on Carlson’s show has not been as extreme as the more vile and violent forms that exist on fringe forums like 4chan. The Fox News host has repeatedly denounced violence, and there has been no sign the Buffalo shooter watched his show.
But Carlson has routinely invoked the ideas at the center of the theory, warning that Democrats including President Joe Biden have weaponized immigration as a political tool to strengthen their voting bloc, weaken the power of white people and seize permanent government control.
The New York Times reported that Carlson has "amplified the idea that Democratic politicians and others want to force demographic change through immigration" in more than 400 episodes of his show "Tucker Carlson Today," totaling over 50 hours devoted to that theme.
His May 17 show added to that total, even if Carlson pretended not to see it that way.
"Mr. Carlson is the highest transmitter of the very ‘replacement theory’ bigotry he feigns not knowing," said Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
"Tucker Carlson Tonight" on April 21, 2021, as captured by the Internet Archive.
Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.
Other Fox News personalities have advanced similarly muted versions of the "great replacement theory," as have conservative influencers like Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and Republican lawmakers such as Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
But with an audience of millions, Carlson has been the most conspicuous promoter of those beliefs. A recent poll found that American adults who watch mostly Newsmax, One America News Network or Fox News are much more likely to believe the core ideas behind the "great replacement theory" than those who primarily watch CNN or MSNBC.
As he marveled at a correspondent’s report in 2016 about "illegal immigrants flooding the border in Texas," Carlson said, "This is how radical demographic change happens."
A year later, after President Donald Trump won the White House, Carlson said Democrats were adopting a new election strategy centered around changing the electorate.
"They can embrace the issues the middle class cares about, or they can import an entirely new electorate from the Third World and change the demographics of the U.S. so completely they will never lose again," Carlson said in September 2017. "They’re going with the latter option."
His repetition of that theme continued over the years:
"As with illegal immigration, the long-term agenda of refugee resettlement is to bring in future Democratic voters, obviously," he said in January 2020.
"They’re trying to change the population of the United States, and they hate it when you say that because it’s true, but that’s exactly what they’re doing," he said in May 2021.
"The whole point of their immigration policy is to ensure political control. Replace the population. Get a different outcome," he said in August 2021.
"Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Aug. 2, 2021, as captured by the Internet Archive.
The Fox News host has repeatedly pointed to comments from Democrats acknowledging the fact that U.S. demographics are shifting — the suggestion being that recognizing the trend is the same as admitting to a conspiracy aimed at harming and replacing white people.
Carlson did so in September 2021, when he criticized Biden’s immigration policies by showing a 2015 clip of Biden saying that America’s increasing diversity is a "source of our strength."
"An unrelenting stream of immigration, but why?" Carlson said. "Well, Joe Biden just said it. To change the racial mix of the country. That’s the reason. To reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here, and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the Third World … In political terms, this policy is called ‘the great replacement,’ the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries."
"Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Sept. 22, 2021, as captured by the Internet Archive.
In 2021 alone, Carlson called the theory "a well-known racist fantasy"; claimed that "the very same Democrats who yell at you if you mention this brag in public about the ‘great replacement’"; and argued that "the ‘great replacement’ plan is working. It’s helping the Democratic Party."
Carlson’s promotion of the theory has at times prompted calls for his firing from groups such as the Anti-Defamation League. In April 2021, for example, Carlson said that "in order to win and maintain power, Democrats plan to change the population of the country."
"Tucker Carlson Tonight" on April 12, 2021, as captured by the Internet Archive.
"I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World," he said the same month. "But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening, actually."
Fox News on YouTube, "Tucker: These people are lunatics," May 27, 2022
Fox News, "Tucker Carlson Tonight," accessed via the Internet Archive on May 18, 2022
The New York Times, "A Fringe Conspiracy Theory, Fostered Online, Is Refashioned by the G.O.P.," May 15, 2022
The New York Times, "Inside the Apocalyptic Worldview of 'Tucker Carlson Tonight,'" April 30, 2022
PolitiFact, "What is the ‘great replacement theory’ linked to the Buffalo shooter?" May 16, 2022
Email interview with Brian Levin, professor of criminal justice and director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, May 18, 2022