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Fox News Tried To Pretend Tucker Carlson Doesn’t Exist When Pitching To Advertisers

Tucker Carlson stands on a stage outside with his arms crossed, speaking into a microphone.

The upfronts are happening this week, where television networks pitch their upcoming programming slates to advertisers. One of the first networks to give its presentation was Fox—which encompasses Fox News—just about 48 hours after a white supremacist killed 10 people in Buffalo, New York in an act of domestic terrorism. The 180-page manifesto the killer wrote is full of references to a “replacement” theory that Fox News’s biggest star, Tucker Carlson, has been pushing on audiences for years, and people are rightfully drawing a direct line between Carlson and the normalizing of these white supremacist ideologies.

So how did Fox decide to sell Tucker Carlson to advertisers? They chose to pretend he didn’t even exist.

As The Hollywood Reporter described it:

All things considered, Fox News’ integration to the group upfront could have been a lot more awkward. [Fox News chief executive Suzanne] Scott focused on breaking news coverage, praising the network’s reporting on the ongoing war in Ukraine and the news desk’s decisive calls during the 2020 presidential election. The talking heads from the opinion shows played a minor role, save ascendant Greg Gutfeld. Firebrand Tucker Carlson went completely ignored, and Sean Hannity’s face only graced the theater’s four screens for a split second.

Fox’s presentation was prerecorded—which is unusual in and of itself. And according to Variety, “Fox’s presentation … assiduously sidestepped any mention of the controversies around Fox News.” In her “brief comments in a prerecorded segment,” Scott said, “We are America’s news and much more.”

From there, Variety writes, “Pete Hegseth, a host on the streaming service Fox Nation, described that streamer as expanding beyond news and opinion personalities into lifestyle programming, cooking and automotive topics. As Hegseth spoke, American flag imagery played on the giant screens — and to buttress the point, Hegseth even wore an American flag pocket square.”

This all sounds similar to the angle the network took last year, presenting itself as “center-right” feel-good reporting. That wasn’t believable in the slightest at the time, and apparently, the only way they think it might be believable now is if they trade in all of their prime-time hosts for American flags.

Meanwhile, while Fox was selling itself to advertisers, those primetime hosts they ignored have acted despicably and continued pushing the same rhetoric they always have. In the wake of the horrific shooting in Buffalo, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham have been blaming the media as well as Democrats for engaging in “race politics” and accusing them of “exploiting” the tragedy by pointing out the network’s complicity.

Media Matters’ Senior fellow Matt Gertz, who has long been covering Fox News’ extremism, summed up the event:

Fox is denying its advertisers any wiggle room whatsoever. Its biggest stars are clearly signaling that they will continue to use the same rhetoric that motivated the Buffalo shooter and an array of terrorists before him. The Fox brass, from the Murdochs on down, have no apparent qualms about what they are doing and no intention of getting them to stop. The only question for Fox’s advertisers is whether they are willing to continue their own complicit participation. 

(image: Janos Kummer/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.