Apr 28, 2023 - Politics

How Tucker Carlson shaped Texas politics

Tucker Carlson (left) often pressured the governor over his decisions on the border and most recently pressured him to pardon Daniel Perry. Left photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Right photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Tucker Carlson's sudden departure from Fox News could bring a sigh of relief from Gov. Greg Abbott, who had long faced criticism from the network's star prime-time host over illegal immigration and other issues.

State of play: Fox officials announced this week that the network and Carlson had "agreed to part ways" after more than a decade.

  • Carlson's tenure at Fox News made its mark on Texas politics and the Republican Party.

Why it matters: Carlson didn't just have the ear of former President Donald Trump. He seemingly was able to sway some of Abbott's political moves.

Flashback: Most recently, Carlson appeared to influence Abbott's push for a pardon of Daniel Perry, the Army sergeant convicted of killing an Austin social justice protester.

  • The same day a Travis County jury found Perry guilty of murder, Carlson needled Abbott for declining an invitation to speak about whether he was considering a pardon, saying: "So that is Greg Abbott's position, there is no right of self-defense in Texas."
  • The next day, Abbott tweeted that he would ask the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to review Perry's case and that he would approve the board's pardon recommendation "as soon as it hits my desk."

What they're saying: "If Tucker Carlson is the actual leader of conservative voters, then when Greg Abbott does what Tucker Carlson wants it's of course not going to hurt Greg Abbott. It's probably going to help him," Yunkang Yang, a Texas A&M University communications professor, told the Austin American-Statesman after the governor announced his push to pardon Perry.

Of note: And even if he didn't directly pressure the governor, Carlson at least was a thorn in Abbott's side.

  • He consistently called on Abbott to do more at the border, saying in December that the governor's 2,000 National Guard and 1,000 Texas Department of Public Safety officers weren't enough to secure it and to create a privately-funded volunteer border protection force.
  • Abbott upped the number of National Guard soldiers on the border to 10,000 two months after the remarks, to which Carlson asked: Why not 19,000 soldiers?

The bottom line: Abbott has never commented on Carlson's remarks nor whether they made a difference in his decisions.

  • But Carlson, with his huge audience, often set the agenda in Washington and beyond.

What's next: Months after Carlson pressed Abbott on increased border security, state Republicans are following suit with House Bill 20, priority legislation for House Speaker Dade Phelan, which would create a state border patrol unit to arrest migrants illegally crossing the border.

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