Fox News has hired Tucker Carlson to co-host Fox & Friends Weekend, even though the two are on opposite ideological trajectories -- Fox is getting more moderate while Carlson is getting more fringe. The network has intentionally taken on a more moderate tone in recent years; this year, for example, it dumped Sarah Palin and hired Scott Brown. Megyn Kelly gently mocked Karl Rove for his insistence that Mitt Romney maybe would have beaten Barack Obama, if only he'd gotten more votes in seven states. "OLIGARHY"-fearing conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck is long gone. But Carlson, who founded the conservative blog The Daily Caller, is going in the opposite direction. He was once a libertarian dandy in a bow-tie. He was on Dancing with The Stars! He has long history (by his new standards) of cavorting with the radical left-wing as a host of shows on MSNBC, PBS, and CNN. He talked about how great his father was in public broadcasting. He convinced MSNBC to hire Rachel Maddow. He bashed his new employer Fox. Specifically, Carlson bashed one of Fox's biggest brands, Bill O'Reilly. In 2003, Carlson told Salon that sure, O'Reilly was a great communicator, "But his shtick is a really dangerous one, in my opinion."
Though Carlson was modest about his own TV talents — with good reason, as all his previous shows have been cancelled — he did not want to take lessons from the Fox host. "Of course I wouldn’t want to emulate O’Reilly. I think he’s a humorless phony." Or his show, The O'Reilly Factor: "I don’t know who would want to watch that shit."
Now O'Reilly and Carlson have switched places, with O'Reilly embarrassed by the right-wing talking points Carlson cynically peddles. The Daily Caller reported in November that New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, underpaid underage hookers in the Dominican Republic. ABC News reported Republican operatives fed it the same story; ABC didn't run it because the women weren't believable (one explained she realized Menendez was her client by Googling "Bob). The Washington Post cast doubt on the story, too, saying at least one hooker was paid to lie. Carlson defended the story on O'Reilly's show in early March. It was O'Reilly who gently and repeatedly suggested that these anonymous sources might not be credible: "I don't know. It makes me a little queasy, Tucker." O'Reilly was eventually proven right.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.