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Tucker Carlson's toxic environmental legacy
Carlson's show helped popularize a greenwashed form of white nationalism that falsely blames environmental problems on immigrants.
Over the six years he hosted his eponymous prime-time show on Fox News, Tucker Carlson periodically insisted he was an environmentalist.
Before getting unceremoniously canned this week, Carlson regularly told his 3 million nightly viewers about his concern for the “natural environment” and the “natural landscape,” and praised “the good-hearted people who really love the mountains.” “I care about the planet,” he said in 2018, even going so far as to tell viewers that he used to donate to the Sierra Club. “I think John Muir is really cool,” he once said.
And yet, when Carlson talked about the “environment” on his show, the discussion almost never centered on how to actually improve the overall quality of U.S. water or air. It certainly never centered on climate change, which Carlson decried as a liberal distraction from “actual” environmental issues. “Climate is not part of the environment, in my opinion,” he once said.
Instead, Carlson’s segments on the environment usually centered on the same thesis most of his non-environmental segments promoted: That Democrats are trying to control you, and replace you with immigrants. And by “you,” he means his audience—which is 92 percent white.
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The biggest difference between Carlson’s non-environmental segments and environmental segments was that, instead of blaming immigrants for crime and taxpayer plundering, he blamed them for littering and dirtying the country.
Here are some examples I found of Carlson using his Fox News show to blame environmental problems on immigration:
“How is it good for the environment of this country to import millions of poor people from the Third World?” June 29, 2018
“The truth is unregulated mass immigration has badly hurt this country's natural landscape.” December 17, 2018
“If you are pushing to increase the size of our population—and they are—what's your plan for keeping our natural environment pristine?” April 4, 2019
“Unregulated waves of people coming in destroy the land and contribute to massive amounts of pollution.” April 25, 2021
“I'm not against immigrants or anything, but too many people is bad for the environment.” July 17, 2021
“Environmental organizations [are] promoting crowding and illegal immigration, which hurts the environment.” July 30, 2021
Here are some examples I found of Carlson saying immigrants make the country polluted, dirty, and crowded:
“As I got older, I realized, you don't want to live in crowded places. Everyone's unhappy, it's horrible, and it's dirty.” November 16, 2018
“Spend a week in a crowded, dirty country, and you'll find that you don't want to live in a place like that, I think.” December 6, 2018
“Crowded countries are polluted. Every single one of them. Tell us why we should want that here?” April 4, 2019
“That's the main problem with crowded countries. They're hard to live in. They're loud and dirty and chaotic.” January 4, 2022.
“This is becoming a crowded country and crowded countries are ugly, unhappy countries.” March 17, 2021
“Crowded countries are dirty, all of them. It's obvious if you travel.” July 17, 2021
One problem with this rhetoric is that it’s flat-out wrong. “There is little actual science to bolster immigration control for ecological purposes,” Susie Cagle wrote in a 2019 piece in The Guardian. “While there is evidence that population and economic growth in total increases global emissions, recent studies show no correlation between U.S. immigrant communities and pollution.”
On the contrary, a qualitative study of immigrant populations in the U.S. found that immigrants actually use less energy, drive less, and generate less waste than native-born Americans. “The vast majority of behavioral studies demonstrate that immigrants live more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than native-born Americans, so much so that immigrant density is associated with lower carbon emissions,” reports the liberal Center for American Progress. The libertarian Cato Institute also agrees with this point. (See CAP’s full report on debunking population-based anti-immigrant “environmentalism” here).
But the bigger, far more concerning problem is that these falsehoods frequently promoted by Carlson are key tenets of eco-fascism, the racist environmental ideology that multiple mass shooters have claimed since 2019. We wrote about the rise of eco-fascist rhetoric among U.S. conservatives last week.
In that newsletter, we described two tenets of eco-fascism that are gaining popularity among Republicans: One is that that the ruling class is trying to control and “replace” white people using immigration, which was what motivated the self-proclaimed eco-fascist who killed 10 people in a Buffalo supermarket last year. Another is that immigration is a form of “environmental warfare” that harms the natural landscape, which was what motivated the self-proclaimed eco-fascist who killed 23 people in an El Paso, Texas Walmart in 2019.
Carlson clearly used his Fox News show to promote that second point, as we’ve already demonstrated. But Carlson promoted the first point even more frequently. According to a New York Times analysis of 1,150 Tucker Carlson Tonight episodes, more than 400 segments championed the idea that elites are trying to force demographic replacement through immigration.
Before Carlson’s show, greenwashed white nationalist rhetoric like this was still considered widely taboo—and for good reason. In the past, early American environmentalists used similar rhetoric to justify racist policies and advocate for eugenics.
“[The eugenicist Madison Grant], along with the influential naturalist John Muir and other early Anglo-Saxon conservationists, was critical in preserving the country’s wildlands for white enjoyment,” Cagle wrote. “Muir, who founded the Sierra Club environmental group in 1892, was disturbed by the “uncleanliness” of the Native Americans, whom he wanted removed from Yosemite.” (It’s no wonder, then, why Carlson cited his love for John Muir—and said he hates what the Sierra Club has become.)
Now, racist and xenophobic environmentalism is on the rise in the U.S. again, inspiring Fox News viewers and mass murderers alike. That’s not all thanks to Tucker Carlson, but his role will forever be a part of his legacy—one much more toxic than any piece of litter.
Environmental policy can be very complicated. You know what is not complicated? Littering. Anyone who is for littering is against the environment. Period. No littering. You are not allowed to litter here. That's my view, anyway.
- Tucker Carlson speaking on Tucker Carlson Tonight, April 25, 2021.
Catch of the Day: Gracie and Rocky are the dogs of the future! Reader Neil tells us they’re mostly solar-powered, which is why Gracie is trying to steal all of Rocky’s sunshine.
These climate-friendly pups definitely bring a ray of sunshine into our lives.
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