Tucker Carlson, who recently branded himself as a leading anti-elitist, had previously labeled himself as an “out-of-the-closet elitist,” and separately said that he is “100 percent [Rupert Murdoch’s] bitch.” The two quips are part of a trove of newly unearthed recordings from 2008 to 2011 that haven’t previously been reported.
The Fox News host made the comments on the shock-jock radio program “The Bubba the Love Sponge Show,” where he appeared regularly from 2006 to 2011. They are starkly different from Carlson’s recent attempts to brand himself as an anti-elite, anti-capitalist commentator on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” one of the most-watched shows on cable news.
In January, Carlson, who frequently traffics in white nationalist rhetoric, delivered a 15-minute monologue in which he railed against America’s ruling class. Carlson slammed both parties, saying that Americans “are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation” to the people they rule, and that Republican leaders would have to be fools to worship market capitalism. “Under our current system, an American who works for a salary pays about twice the tax rate of someone who’s living off inherited money and doesn’t work at all,” he said. “We tax capital at half of what we tax labor. It’s a sweet deal if you work in finance, as many of our rich people do.”
Over the last two days, Media Matters for America, a watchdog organization, has released a trove of audio that included racist and misogynistic comments Carlson made on the same radio program. In those segments, Carlson appeared to defend statutory rape, called for the elimination of rape shield laws, and made suggestive comments about underage girls. He has so far refused to apologize, instead flippantly saying that he was caught “saying something naughty.”
“Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour,” Carlson said in a tweeted statement. “If you want to know what I think, you can watch.” On his program Monday night, Carlson said Fox News is standing behind him despite the resurfaced recordings. The network confirmed this to be true, but it hasn’t released an official statement saying so. Fox News did not return The Intercept’s request for comment.
Carlson has worked for Fox News since 2009, first as an analyst and then as a host of the weekend show “Fox & Friends.” In 2016, he got his own weeknight show on the cable network, where he reportedly rakes in millions of dollars a year. During his radio appearances over the last decade, Carlson boasted about his wealth, which he amassed as a trust-fund kid.
When asked on “Bubba the Love Sponge” in 2008 how he pays his bills, Carlson replied that he’s “extraordinarily loaded” just from “inheritance from my number of trust funds.”
“I’ll go out and beat some servants, I’ll wrap my Lamborghini around a tree, go pick up a kilo or two, you know, just like normal stuff,” he added.
“You’re a trust fund baby, are you not?” the host asked. “Oh completely, I’ve never needed to work, yeah,” Carlson said. “I mean it’s all just — the whole cable news thing … it was just like a phase I was going through.”
In another instance, the conversation on the show centered on Fox chair Rupert Murdoch’s decision to pull ultraconservative host Sean Hannity from broadcasting at a Cincinnati tea party rally in 2010. “I’m 100 percent [Murdoch’s] bitch,” Carlson said. “Whatever Mr. Murdoch says, I do. … I would be honored if he would cane me the way I cane my workers, my servants.”
In a 2009 radio segment, Carlson joked about growing up in a castle, saying that one thing you learn when you “look out across the moat every day at the hungry peasants in the village” is that “you don’t wanna stoke envy among the proletariat.” The host then asked if having an African-American “shining the rims on your Bentley” doesn’t invoke envy, to which Carlson replied, “I only have, you know, American, white servants.” He explained, “It’s not because I’m racist, it’s because I’m not. It’s because I feel better beating them, you know what I mean?” Moments before the back-and-forth, Carlson was talking about how he had just been hired at Fox News.
“But see, I’m an out-of-the-closet elitist,” Carlson said in a 2008 segment. “I don’t run around pretending to be a man of the people; I’m absolutely not a man of the people, at all.”
Carlson’s “Bubba the Love Sponge Show” appearances put into stark relief a meltdown the conservative host had just weeks ago after being challenged about his status as a member of the elite, meanwhile railing against the elites. Carlson had invited Dutch historian Rutger Bregman onto his weeknight show after Bregman made an appearance at this year’s Davos summit. Bregman accused the host of being bought by the Murdoch family and the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank where Carlson was a fellow until 2015. In the unaired interview, which was leaked and published by NowThis, Bregman called Carlson “a millionaire funded by billionaires” who is “part of the problem.” Carlson responded by calling him a “tiny brain” and “moron” and abruptly ending the interview. After the tape leaked, the show’s senior executive producer said they chose not to air the interview because they were disappointed with the segment and didn’t want to waste the audience’s time.
In a dump of transcripts and audio on Monday night, Media Matters released bigoted remarks Carlson made about Iraq, Afghanistan, Muslims, and immigrants. In a 2006 appearance, Carlson said he has “zero sympathy” for Iraqis because they “don’t use toilet paper or forks,” adding that they should “just shut the fuck up and obey” us. He also called Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys.”
The radio transcripts have renewed calls for advertisers to boycott his show. In December, after Carlson said that immigrants make the country “poorer and dirtier,” his show was subjected to a boycott campaign that resulted in at least 25 advertisers dropping his show.
Ironically, Carlson somewhat stood up for the concept of an advertiser boycott in one of the radio segments.
A 2009 “Bubba the Love Sponge” episode discussed the Federal Communications Commission hitting the show with thousands of dollars in fines for violating the agency’s decency standards. The host then veered into a defense of provocative commentators Bill Maher and Glenn Beck, who was brought down, in part, by an advertiser boycott.
“Yeah, but at least an advertiser boycott is more a grassroots thing, like lots of people have to participate for it to work,” Carlson said. “It’s when the government gets in, the FCC, and a bunch of unelected bureaucrats take you off the air — that’s scary, I think that’s different.”