I'm Paid to Watch Tucker Carlson Each Night. Don't Tell Me This Rant About Ilhan Omar Isn't Shocking | Opinion

Tucker Carlson raced to the defense of President Donald Trump and his racist tweets against "the Squad" this week, accusing the four non-white Democratic congresswomen of hating America and considering all white Americans racist. And, yet again, he reserved special vitriol for one lawmaker in particular.

"Ilhan Omar," Carlson said, "despises the United States."

This came one week after Carlson's most unhinged rant to date about the Minnesota representative, in which he labeled her "a living fire alarm" who "hates this country more than ever," and follows a decades-long career of capitalizing on fear of immigrants and people of color.

As a researcher who watches Carlson's show every night, I'm constantly being told on social media that the racism on Fox News is not shocking because it is nothing new. This sentiment is both self-defeating and untrue.

For media consumers who wish to see Fox held responsible for its recklessness, we cannot afford to be worn down by the dull repetition of racist propaganda. Instead, it is imperative to remind advertisers time and time again that we see they are paying for on-air fascism.

That Fox News' programming is unwavering in its fear-mongering tactics does not make its prominence in American political media any less of a material threat to the marginalized communities it targets. The proven lack of editorial and corporate standards at the network demonstrates that it is either unwilling or unable to correct the situation. Compounding this crisis is the feedback loop between Fox News and the White House, which has inoculated the network from facing professional consequences.

The last defense against such propaganda is a public pressure campaign to hold advertisers responsible for sponsoring Carlson's and other Fox personalities' on-air racism.

Carlson's hateful remarks should be met with outrage as consistent as his nightly show, and he ought to be under constant pressure to be taken off the air.

It's also inaccurate to say that the racism of Fox News' prime-time shows has always existed in the way it does today.

The shift can be largely attributed to the symbiosis between the network and President Donald Trump's rise to power. The relationship between Fox and Trump is no secret: For years now, Fox and others in the conservative media sphere have folded Trump's fascist talking points into mainstream political discourse and taken advantage of the situation themselves.

And no one in the media has contributed more to this effort than Carlson, whose continued presence on television could pose a dangerous incitement to violence.

He's argued that immigration makes America "poorer, dirtier, and more divided" and said it's "absolutely destroying" the country. He has professed his belief that diversity erodes the strength of "marriage [and] military units" and makes getting along with co-workers and neighbors impossible. And he claimed that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process exposed "race hatred" toward whites and referred ominously to "some kind of conflict" that would erupt as a result.

This new approach is distinct from pre-Trump cable news, and its saturation into today's media environment will have unknown consequences in the future.

I have watched Tucker Carlson Tonight every weeknight for the past two years. I also spent dozens of hours reviewing and compiling remarks he made on the Bubba the Love Sponge radio show between 2006 and 2011 in which, among other comments, he defended instances of statutory rape and referred to Iraqis as "semiliterate primative monkeys." Through my research, I've come to easily recognize his pet peeves, rhetorical patterns and coded white nationalist dog whistles.

Being so saturated in the Tucker Carlson extended universe, it's often hard for me to get personally worked up over his outrageous commentary; I'm just used to it.

Still, I found his diatribe against Omar on July 9 viscerally shocking. His tone was so full of rage, he seemed to be barely holding back a full-throated call for violence as he used a racist caricature of her public profile to justify punishing immigrants en masse.

Tucker Carlson
Fox News host Tucker Carlson discusses "Populism and the Right" during the National Review Institute's Ideas Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on March 29 in Washington, D.C Chip Somodevilla/Getty

That such vitriol is a feature, not a bug, of Carlson's career does not make his targeted racism any less upsetting, and it does not justify the apathy embodied in the sentiment that it is banal in the context of Fox's brand as a whole.

It's often random what clips from Fox will go viral—there are quite a few that have had a much wider reach than my colleagues and I anticipated, and others that we consider outrageous that draw little notice.

Social media users interested in holding right-wing media responsible for their recklessness don't see most of the racism that a Media Matters staffer like me consumes every day. But this extreme commentary is a constant on Fox News prime-time programming, and it is important and necessary that rants like Carlson's reach wider audiences—who can make the effort to politely inform advertisers what they're sponsoring.

Madeline Peltz is a research coordinator at Media Matters, where she covers Tucker Carlson and right-wing extremism in conservative media. You can follow her @peltzmadeline on Twitter.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

I'm Paid to Watch Tucker Carlson Each Night. Don't Tell Me This Rant About Ilhan Omar Isn't Shocking | Opinion | Opinion