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Tucker Carlson: A gifted rhetorician with a steamroller aura

Tucker Carlson: A gifted rhetorician with a steamroller aura

Tucker Carlson is experiencing his second media spring. After being fired from Fox News, the former ratings guarantor on X continues where he left off. He spreads crude conspiracy theories and is now interviewing Vladimir Putin – and millions are hanging on his every word.

“Our duty is to inform people,” announced talk show host Tucker Carlson in a decidedly matter-of-fact way on his X channel. Why the neutrality with the announcement of the right-wing agitator? Carlson interviews Russian President Vladimir Putin. A coup for a man without a large media company in the background. The interview is Putin’s first in-depth conversation with a Western interviewer since his war of aggression against Ukraine began almost two years ago.

But Tucker Carlson would not live up to his reputation if he announced the interview without any agitation. Nobody tells the English-speaking audience the truth, says Carlson grandly: “Their media is corrupt, they lie to their readers and viewers.” Nobody has spoken to Putin yet, but Ukraine’s President Zelensky is being courted. The truth is that every major media outlet has probably asked Putin. But Putin’s office usually rejects these requests.

Anyone who thought that America’s most successful right-wing agitator would disappear into obscurity after being fired from Fox News was very mistaken. Tucker Carlson is still there. And he is like unleashed.

Most recently on “Tucker & Fox”

When Fox News surprisingly gave up its ratings guarantor in April 2023 after a seven-year relationship, it was the final consequence of a radical inventory. It was the end of a successful partnership that had made the anchorman rich and the station more expansive. After the legal debacle with voting machine manufacturer Dominion, which the media company swept under the carpet for $787.5 million, Fox management apparently saw Carlson’s departure as an essential part of the healing process. Dominion had demanded damages because the broadcaster had spread reports about alleged manipulation of the voting computers. The figurehead himself claimed in his biography published in early August that his head was even part of the deal with Dominion. There is no evidence for this.

It’s difficult to say how deep Carlson’s frustration really is. He can’t let the past rest. For financial reasons alone. In fact, he wasn’t actually fired at all. He is still under contract until the end of 2024, US media report. The 54-year-old will continue to receive his lavish salary as long as he is said to have recently received more than $20 million annually. The money tap only remains open on the condition that Carlson does not violate his contract. From Fox’s perspective, that’s exactly what he’s doing with his competing show on This obviously doesn’t deter Carlson.

Instead, he celebrated the breakup as a kind of revival. He realized “how incredibly stupid the majority of TV debates are. They are completely irrelevant. They mean nothing,” he said the day after he was let go.

Professional swearing: “Tucker on X”

With a crisp “We’re back,” Carlson returned on May 9th. Carlson thanked Elon Musk for his successful emergency landing on X. As if he had granted him media asylum. The eccentric tech billionaire had only just taken over the platform at the time. According to his own statement, it was also to put an end to the supposed censorship. He found a discursive relative in Tucker Carlson. In the British comedian Russel Brand’s podcast, Carlson later confirmed that he does not work directly for Elon, as he friendly calls Musk. He also didn’t pay him to broadcast his interviews exclusively on X. “I don’t think I ever want to work for anyone again,” Carlson said. The only big, indeed the only, platform in the entire world on which one is still allowed to express oneself freely is Twitter. No more shackles for the unleashed! And so the second media spring began for the sacked propaganda prophet.

In his TV talk show, the agitator served his viewers an evening potpourri of half-truths, lies and conspiracy theories. The limit of what could be said was a narrow stripe on the horizon – if at all. “Tucker on X” (formerly “Tucker on Twitter”) unsurprisingly turned out to be an exact replica of his primetime show. In the first few issues he limited himself to his typical monologues, in which he mostly gets upset. Preferably about President Joe Biden. “Would-be dictator” is the title of episode four.

Now hardly anyone entertains themselves as well as Carlson. But it’s better with two people. He invited guests – or friends. The boundaries become blurred at times. In the 72 episodes so far, super swearer Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. revealed to him who murdered his uncle (spoiler: the CIA, of course), he gave the sexist influencer Andrew Tate two and a half hours of verbal freedom, and he stole the one that was broadcast on Fox with ex-President Donald Trump Republicans’ TV debate and personally courted Hungary’s right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Those who are supposedly not allowed to say anything anymore say a lot at Carlson. “Tucker on X” becomes an open door format. Open to everything that is right-wing and supposedly misunderstood – like the Russian president.

Ratings fall and separation pain: Carlson reaches the millions that Fox News loses

On Fox, Carlson reached an average of 3.5 million viewers in prime time – the absolute top on American cable television. It’s hard to say how many people are listening to his chirping today. Because meticulously measured TV ratings cannot be compared with what X considers “viewed”. The social media news site “Mashable” estimates that only about six percent of what the platform claims as an “ad” corresponds to a real viewer.

But even taking this formula into account, Carlson initially got off to a dream start on X. Millions remained loyal to him – or at least were curious. After that, his numbers dropped off at times, but shot up to unexpected heights depending on the guest.

In any case, Carlson showed: It works without broadcaster bosses breathing down your neck. At Fox, this realization is likely to cause unpleasant headaches. What if other presenters follow Carlson’s lead? What if the station is soon no longer the goal, but just a stepping stone? In the first few months without Carlson, ratings plummeted. The presenters from the bench initially reached far less than half of the viewers that Carlson regularly captured. But not only the most important time slot at 8 p.m., but also the ratings for the entire prime time period fell by almost 40 percent.

At the same time, the competition increased. The even more right-wing colleagues at Newsmax have now more than doubled their average audience during prime time. The numbers only recovered with the introduction of a new program and the final clarification of the successor question. “Fox News’ leadership position has never been in danger,” claimed Lachlan Murdoch, the parent company’s chief executive, according to the Washington Post. But the truth is: Carlson has left a deep, very deep hole in the moderator’s chair. The station bosses are “satisfied” with his successor, Jesse Watters. But he’s not a Tucker Carlson.

The question is: What makes Carlson so special?

The man on the right at the counter – what can Tucker Carlson do better than the rest?

Viewers feel taken seriously by the man who likes to wear a Hogwarts-style tie on a checked shirt. Probably no other right-wing TV agitator uses this “one of us” mentality so skillfully. When he starts complaining, he seems like a mixture of a regular table buddy and a university professor. A guy you want to agree with because he finds the right, simple words and at the same time is the smartest guy at the bar.

Carlson likes to speak as we speak, including the audience, without being asked, but not intrusively. As if he were putting his arm around the viewer’s shoulders in the middle of an intimate conversation. He rarely radiates real joy. When he laughs, it just bursts out of him. The shrill snort sounds more like an absurd imitation of laughter.

Tucker Carlson is undoubtedly a gifted rhetorician with a natural instinct for the perfect pause. Once he has picked up speed, he is a steamroller that crushes his opponent.

But probably most importantly: it fills a gap. He’s not as “crazy” as alternative agitators à la Steve Bannon, but he can serve the same audience – and more. Carlson is doable. Where the bulk of the Fox anchor pool consists of interchangeable barkers, Carlson is polished unpolished. He turns conspiracy theories into theories. Absurdities sound logical from his mouth.

Who knows. Maybe in the not too distant future Carlson will have enough of talking and try his hand at acting? Should he one day set his sights on the Oval Office, his chances probably wouldn’t be bad at all. He can sell anger. Why not yourself? The only question is who a presidential candidate would give Carlson an interview with. Fox News probably not.

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Source: Stern

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