The New York Times, 2023
Journalists at The New York Times intuitively knew that Tucker Carlson’s nightly talk show on Fox News was a platform for mainstreaming white nationalism and other right-wing views that many people on both sides of the political aisle considered to be extreme. Having a theory or gut feeling about what Carlson’s estimated 3 million viewers were hearing and seeing on television every weeknight is one thing. Proving that theory is another. But that’s precisely what The Times did.
“Inside the Apocalyptic Worldview of ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’” is a meticulously executed data-driven, multimedia investigative reporting project. The Times and its reporters demonstrated how Carlson used his high-profile Fox News platform to systematically push racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic theories. The reporting set straight public misconceptions that Carlson had only recently become more extreme.
The team compiled a comprehensive database by watching or reading transcripts of 1,150 episodes that had aired from the show’s inception in November 2016 through the end of December 2021. The outcome was an extraordinary presentation of the reporting team’s findings and analysis that included video and audio clips, accentuated with illuminating graphics. The project was published online, in a linear slide-show format that engaged and motivated readers to read on.
The Times focused on Carlson’s rhetoric and technique. The reporting team carefully analyzed the amount of time and number of shows devoted to certain topics. One example was Carlson’s comments in April 2021 on the controversial topic of replacement theory – the notion that Democrats are forcing demographic change in the U.S. through immigration. While Carlson drew criticism for that particular show, The Times’ project showed that it wasn’t the first time he had talked about it. The analysis showed that Carlson had espoused replacement theory ideology in more than 400 shows.
Another finding showed that Carlson had increasingly limited appearances on the show by guests with opposing points of view. Of 7,000 guests that appeared on the show over the five-year period, 1,000 contradicted Carlson, with most of those appearing on the show in the first couple years. In later years, nearly all of Carlson’s guests amplified his point of view.
The Times also showed that his monologues grew longer over time, from being nearly nonexistent at the beginning, to Carlson speaking directly to his audience without interruption for up to 20 minutes in later episodes.
The Times published the project in April 2022. Almost exactly one year later, Fox News abruptly ended its relationship with Carlson, taking his show off the air despite its status as the highest rated program on the network.