May 4, 2023 - News

Tucker Carlson lauded in Utah newspaper despite replacement theory ties

Tucker Carlson at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood in November 2022 in Florida. Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

The Deseret News is under fire for promoting an op-ed that praised Tucker Carlson's views, even after The New York Times unveiled what appears to be a racist text message he sent after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Driving the news: The Deseret News, which is operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, posted a piece late Tuesday in which conservative opinion writer Bethany Mandel extolled Carlson's advice to have "Mormon levels of children."

  • At about the same time, The New York Times reported Carlson wrote a text message on Jan. 7, 2021, about a group attack on an "Antifa kid," saying that's "not how white men fight." The message was cited in a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, which Fox settled a week before firing Carlson.
  • The Desert News continued to promote Mandel's story on social media after the Times report gained broad attention.

The intrigue: Mandel wrote a political column for the Deseret News until March, when her controversial tweets about race and ethnicity resurfaced after she stammered through an attempt to define "woke" in a viral video interview.

  • The newspaper's editor, Hal Boyd, told Axios at the time that Mandel was "no longer contributing political opinion and culture pieces for the Deseret News, but from her perspective as a mother of six, she will write longer essays and reported features related to parenting and family life."

What they're saying: After intense pushback on social media, Boyd tweeted Wednesday: "Tucker was a negative influence on public discourse ... But his comments on family relationships highlighted in [Mandel's] piece were interesting."

  • Neither Boyd nor Mandel responded to Axios' request for comment.

Meanwhile, supporters of Mandel argued her piece was about family, not politics, and therefore conformed with her assignment at the newspaper.

Yes, but: Carlson's exhortation to have more children, delivered to Fox's overwhelmingly white audience in 2021, occurred alongside a pattern of advancing a xenophobic argument known as "replacement theory."

  • Encouraging larger families is central to that conspiracy theory.

Details: "Replacement theory," or "great replacement" holds that immigrants and other people of color are "replacing" white and natural-born American citizens and will eventually control the country.

Catch up quick: Carlson described "birth rates among native-born Americans" as "the clearest possible measure of optimism in the future."

  • He invited guests like former Iowa Rep. Steve King to his show, who complained: "We have to do something to increase our birth rate, or the vacuum … will be filled by people who don't believe in our values.” He's also railed against declining birth rates in relation to immigration.
  • Carlson has decried "demographic change" and complained last week that his ouster from Fox amounts to censorship of the topic.

Zoom in: Mandel's own piece said Carlson's views of "demographic change and our falling birth rates" deserve more attention.

Between the lines: "By publishing Mandel's column, the editors assist her in laundering Tucker Carlson's racist Great Replacement ideology," said Blair Hodges, a church member who hosts the faith-related podcast "Fireside" and operates the Jazz Fans Against Racism Twitter account.

  • "There is nothing Carlson or Mandel offer that couldn't be explored using more responsible sources," Hodges told Axios.

The other side: Carlson claimed his arguments aren't racist because he says immigrants are "replacing" declining populations of natural-born citizens of all races, not just white people.

  • Carlson's critics — like The Hill's Briahna Joy Gray, who conducted the interview Mandel botched in March — say while he's "fastidiously race-neutral," the mask slips in his objections to historic immigration reforms that ended discriminatory quotas against racial and ethnic minorities.
  • In a 2021 open letter to Fox News, the Anti-Defamation League's director said Carlson's language was "not just a dog whistle to racists – it was a bullhorn."

The bottom line: Carlson himself blames Democrats for falling birthrates, and fertility decline has been a popular right-wing talking point for years.

  • It's unclear how Mandel's promotion of Carlson's views on family planning can be separated from politics, given the context of his campaign for larger families.
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