The Unusual Timing of Tucker Carlson's Rant Against Robinhood

"Robinhood has made it extremely easy for me to take the income I make from my commissioned paintings and invest them into stocks," says a man named Brandon in a commercial for the suddenly infamous stock-trading app. "As an artist, Robinhood gives me my financial power back. You are in control of your financial destiny."

Perhaps it's true, though many of its users might say otherwise after Robinhood prevented them from buying GameStop and others of their favorite stocks for several hours Thursday, causing those shares to plunge in value. Robinhood also halted the purchasing of the meme cryptocurrency Dogecoin as it was doubling and tripling in value.

What's undeniable, though, was the odd timing of the TV commercial Thursday night on Fox News, as it came just seconds before Tucker Carlson went on a 20-minute rant largely about how awful Robinhood behaved while his guest, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy, called the firm "criminal" and demanded that those in charge "go to jail."

Robinhood is under huge scrutiny for its decision, and lawmakers are setting hearings to find out what happened. In his segment, Carlson opined that Robinhood caved to pressure from hedge funds that were losing billions of dollars with their short positions on the rising stocks that Robinhood targeted for restrictions.

"No one even knew that was legal. Maybe it isn't. But Robinhood did it anyways, and they did it under pressure from the hedge funds, who they really work for," Carlson said, completely blowing up the message delivered in Robinhood's paid advertisement just moments before.

Tucker Carlson
Fox News Tucker Carlson. On Thursday, the host was very critical of the Robinhood stock-trading app, which is a Fox News advertiser. Courtesy of Fox News

Carlson explained how readers of /r/WallStreetBets at Reddit conspired to buy lots of shares of GameStop and some other heavily shorted stocks in order to create a "short squeeze," whereby the large hedge funds shorting the stocks and profiting wildly when companies fail would lose their shirts. Small investors, banding together, could beat the big guys at their own game, was the theory, and it was working—until Robinhood (and other brokerages) put a temporary end to the project.

"So much for the free market you're always hearing about," Carlson said. "That turned out to be a lie. It turns out that what Wall Street really hates is outsider trading—the idea that people from outside their world might be getting rich."

"Robinhood, of course, didn't admit any of this. They can't. They're still posing instead as an outpost of inclusive, progressive values in a sea of rapacious capitalism, the irony being, of course, Robinhood is the most rapacious," he added.

Ironically, Carlson's segment also included an older ad from Robinhood that he used to belittle the company. In that one, Wall Street traders are shown while a narrator intones, "Remember when greed was good? When you had to pay for a seat at the table? We set out to change it; the way the system works. To put the power in everyone's hands."

When the ad ended, Carlson was laughing.

"It's so fun to watch that stuff after the fact," he said. "Robinhood changed the system at precisely the moment when people outside the system started benefiting from the system."

But the harshest criticism came from Carlson's guest, Portnoy.

"I was shocked by this. I personally did invest in AMC and Nokia, those were two of the stocks the Reddit guys and the WallStreetBets guys were pushing, and I believe in the power of the Internet. When I saw what Robinhood was doing—ironically Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor, even though they do the exact opposite—I was stunned. I think it's criminal. I think there has to be an investigation. I think people have to go to jail ... I've never been more convinced about market manipulation and the hedge funds controlling the game than today," he said.

Fox News had no comment on the ill-timed Robinhood commercial. Robinhood did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment.