May 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Tucker Carlson vows he won't read N.Y. Times series about him

Mike Allen
Screenshot: Fox News

Tucker Carlson, the highest rated host in cable news, told Axios he hasn't read a word of this weekend's New York Times series about him — "and of course won't."

Why it matters: Despite Carlson's claim he won't read the opus, his team believes the scrutiny from The Times will only make his rabid fans more rabidly loyal.

  • Carlson's official Twitter account posted a photo of him holding up the newspaper, his face splashed above the fold — and laughing. The tweet is wordless.

Details: The New York Times this weekend posted 20,000 words about "Mr. Carlson," as the paper calls him, spread over four parts online and two days in the paper.

  • Times readers binged on the stories: All four parts were at or near the top of the website's "Trending" rankings.

Part 1 of "American Nationalist," by Nick Confessore, sprawls over seven pages in the Sunday paper. Just the series' "key takeaways" run 1,500 words.

  • "Mr. Carlson’s on-air technique — gleefully courting blowback, then fashioning himself as his aggrieved viewers' partner in victimhood — has helped position him, as much as anyone, to inherit the populist movement that grew up around Mr. Trump," Confessore writes, calling it "Trumpism without Trump."

The Times says an analysis of 1,150 episodes of the Fox News show, which airs weeknights at 8 p.m. ET, shows how Carlson, 52, "has grown increasingly sympathetic to the nativist currents coursing through U.S. politics, and how intertwined his rise has been with the transformations of his network and of American conservatism."

  • His narrative: "They" want to control, then destroy "you."
  • Carlson invoked the "ruling class" in more than 800 shows, saying "they" want you to "shut up and obey."

Between the lines: ''Here is the 'Tucker Carlson Tonight' playbook: Go straight for the third rail, be it race, immigration or another hot-button issue; harvest the inevitable backlash; return the next evening to skewer critics for how they responded. Then, do it all again."

  • "This feedback loop drove up ratings and boosted loyalty to Fox and Mr. Carlson."

"According to three former Fox employees, Mr. Carlson was among the network’s most avid consumers of what are known as minute-by-minutes — ratings data on an audience's real-time ebb and flow," Confessore reports.

  • "Network executives soon began applying the approach to the daytime news shows. They pitched it as 'Moneyball' for television."

Carlson, who didn't give The Times an interview, told Axios: "I've never read the ratings a single day in my life. I don't even know how. Ask anyone at Fox."

  • "Most of the big positions I've taken in the past five years — against the neocons, the vax and the war [in Ukraine] — have been very unpopular with our audience at first."

Part 1 is free with this link ... 🧵 Confessore thread about his series.

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