Days after Fox News fired Tucker Carlson, its most popular on-air personality, three nonprofit organizations founded by James Dobson praised the divisive host and mourned his exit.
Focus on the Family claimed the firing was a result of “spiritual warfare.”
“His departure is a great loss for those devoted to faith, family and freedom,” said Gary Bauer, senior vice president of public policy at James Dobson Family Institute, the ministry Dobson founded after leaving Focus in 2010.
“We will also pray that Carlson gets a new platform soon to bring his commonsense faith-based conservatism to the American people,” said Bauer, who has served as JDFI’s primary public spokesperson since the 87-year-old Dobson’s semi-retirement last year.
Focus on the Family’s activist news site, Daily Citizen, praised Carlson’s “courage” in backing key issues, saying his combative approach reflected Americans’ “hunger for boldness,” and explaining: “Whether it was decrying the collapse of the nuclear family, warning about the dangers and consequences of fatherlessness, lamenting the upending of the exclusivity of male and female, or defending the most innocent in the womb, Carlson’s nightly monologues were warmly welcomed by many social conservatives.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins went on Newsmax, the right-of-Fox network, to claim “Tucker was the only reason” evangelicals were tuning to Fox News and warned they would now seek other outlets. FRC was founded by Dobson in 1981 and operated as a division of Focus for years.
Overlooking the obvious answer
Carlson, who earned $20 million a year, was fired the week after Fox’s $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting System. None of the Dobson-aligned “pro-family” groups mentioned the settlement or cited it as a factor in Carlson’s departure, mirroring conservative media’s reluctance to cover one of the costliest defamation cases in U.S. history.
Fox News admitted broadcasting lies about election fraud after Dominion revealed internal communications in which hosts used profanities and sexual slurs to criticize guests who were promoting falsehoods on their shows. Carlson’s private texts also assailed Fox management.
But the Family Research Council’s Perkins claimed Fox fired Carlson for ideological reasons.
“He is not the first conservative talk show host they have kicked to the curb.”
“This is the continuation of Fox’s devolution,” Perkins told Newsmax. “They’re shedding their conservative skin is what they are doing. … He is not the first conservative talk show host they have kicked to the curb.”
Perkins said Fox has been growing more liberal for a decade and compared the network’s handling of Carlson to its firing of earlier top-rated hosts Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly — also darlings of conservative evangelicals.
“Fox is going to be the big loser here,” Perkins said, suggesting the broadcaster was well on its way to becoming “just another has-been network.”
Pro-family groups praised Carlson’s support for their agenda, including opposition to abortion and transgender identity, which he has called “the most dangerous extremist movement in the United States.”
But they have remained silent about his inflammatory and destructive commentary on a range of sensitive topics that led to regular advertiser boycotts. Carlson’s biggest and most loyal advertiser was MyPillow, owned by election denier Mike Lindell.
Hundreds of Carlson’s shows were animated by white grievance over changing American demographics and power dynamics. He brought white supremacist views on “great replacement theory” to the media mainstream, claiming Democrats were using lax immigration laws to “import” new citizens who would “replace the disobedient ones.”
One monologue argued many unarmed Black men killed by police deserved death. Another claimed white supremacy is a hoax. Another compared vaccine mandates to racist Jim Crow laws targeting Blacks.
Carlson said vaccine mandates are designed to “identify the sincere Christians in the ranks, the free thinkers, the men with high testosterone levels, and anybody else who doesn’t love Joe Biden and make them leave immediately.”
Testosterone was a frequent concern. Last year he recommended men try “testicle tanning” to battle the “End of Men,” which he claimed was a nationwide crisis of masculinity.
His pro-Russian stance led Russian state TV to air segments of his show in Russia.
He praised autocrats, including Vladimir Putin, and labeled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “Ukrainian pimp.” His pro-Russian stance led Russian state TV to air segments of his show in Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov mourned Carlson’s firing. “Clearly, the wealth of views in the American information space has suffered as a result,” he told CNN.
Immigrants also were a frequent target of Carlson’s ire. He said they make America “poorer and dirtier and more divided.” He also said Muslims are part of an “Islamic cult.”
He hosted election deniers he knew were lying, and his coverage of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol claimed it was a “false flag” operation initiated by the federal government to effect “a purge of Republican voters.” He said the protesters who entered the Capitol building “were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.”
Pro-family groups cited none of these problems, but Gary Bauer praised Carlson’s effort to own the libs. “You could tell he was effective by the hatred and vitriol aimed at him by the radical, secular left,” Bauer said.
While Carlson was hailed as a defender of the faith for condemning attacks on Christians and Christianity, he was silent about his own faith. A 2017 article, “Tucker Carlson, Episcopalian,” may offer an explanation for his silence: his conflicted relationship with the Anglican Communion.
The article describes Carlson as a cradle Episcopalian who met his wife at an Episcopal school but remains in the church only because of his love for liturgy and “inertia,” even though he is vehemently opposed to the church’s leadership and its support for abortion and gay rights.
“They don’t care at all what God thinks of it, because they actually don’t believe in God,” he said. “I just don’t want to think too hard about my money going to these pompous, blowhard, pagan creeps who run the church!”
Carlson isn’t the first highly rated flamethrower to win the admiration of pro-family groups. Focus also has praised Rush Limbaugh, who used mockery and condescension to attack his enemies as he turned AM talk radio into a conservative force.
“Mr. Limbaugh transformed the once-sleepy sphere of talk radio into a relentless right-wing attack machine,” reported the New York Times in its obituary. Limbaugh died of cancer in 2021 and reportedly made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ before his death.
Limbaugh claimed President Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen, warned that Obamacare would usher in death panels that euthanize the elderly, and said Joe Biden was not legitimately elected president.
Batura also praised Carlson, comparing him to Billy Graham.
Limbaugh also was known for his cruelty. His show’s regular “AIDS update” segment mocked men who died from AIDS while playing the Dionne Warwick hit, “I’ll Never Love this Way Again.”
He called a woman who testified in favor of government funding for contraceptives a “slut” and said if taxpayers paid for her contraceptives, they should get to view her performing sex acts. “We want something for it; we want you to post the videos online so we can all watch,” he told his audience of millions.
Focus Vice President Paul Batura, who became a Limbaugh fan in high school, admitted Limbaugh had a “colorful, hard-charging personality” but said he had “informed, educated, entertained, empathized, commiserated and encouraged his faithful audience for over three decades.”
Batura also praised Carlson, comparing him to Billy Graham, and recommending Carlson’s bold rhetorical approach as a good model for Christian pastors to follow: Today’s pastors are called to be equally bold in helping shepherd their flocks to discern the times and figure out how to respond accordingly. It’s a miss if a Christian is hearing more about the culture from a television pundit than from their pastor.”
Steve Rabey is a freelance writer who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Does the defense of Tucker Carlson stand a prayer? | Opinion by Rodney Kennedy
Baptist Press, Fox News and America’s departure from reality | Opinion by Mark Wingfield
Tucker Carlson, ‘equal opportunity bigot’ | Opinion by Rob Sellers