Tucker Carlson has one of the most watched shows on cable television, and in this long-form piece from Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver breaks down exactly how that happened and why it's dangerous that Fox News is expanding his presence and putting all their eggs in that basket. Much like Jon Stewart famously appeared on Carlson's CNN show Crossfire and told them they were "hurting America," Oliver systematically explained why Carlson is still hurting America today.
The fact that Carlson has been floated as a potential presidential candidate was particularly alarming because, as Oliver says, "of all the things that Tucker is — a conspiracy theroist, a misogynist, Islamophobe, a troll — one of the most dangerous is that he is the most prominent vessel in America for white supramacist talking points."
After pointing out that self-proclaimed white supremacists have openly said that they watch Carlson's show twice to try to learn how to make their points more effectively, Oliver joked that he does the same thing while watching The Drew Barrymore Show, "to figure out how she can possibly successfully pull off a segment in which a child makes a Shirley Temple while Stanley Tucci quietly drinks the entire glass of wine on a screen in the background. I don't know how you work your magic, Drew, but I want to learn. You are advancing this form."
Oliver's team then broke down Carlson's career, including his accidental involvement with television back in the 1990s, when Dan Rather's show reportedly called the magazine where he worked to get someone to talk about the O.J. Simpson trial, and he was the only one there who wasn't out to lunch at the time. Oliver suggested that "might be the single whitest origin story I have ever heard. 'Hey, you! Yeah, you with the skin and face! We've got an extra career lying around! Are you interested?"
Oliver ultimarely landed on what he called "the most 2003 clip of all time," which was Carlson interviewing Britney Spears and implying that she doesn't really like Pepsi, depsite doing commercials for them. "Look, I cannot stress this enough: leave Britney alone! Don't do 'gotcha' journalism about her Pepsi consumption. Not only has she been through a lot, she's a stone cold legend. She's the definitional diva of the 2000s and I guarantee you, there is not a human being on earth who doesn't perk up when that violin hook from 'Toxic' comes on... put some motherf**king respect on her name, Tucker, and of course, #FreeBritney."
Oliver summed up Carlson's show as "a walking yacht club scrunching his face up for an hour every night and saying to a conservative audience 'they' are coming for 'you' in modulating tones," and stressed that while it's tempting to ignore him, "it's important to remember that what Tucker is saying is f**king outrageous... and what Tucker Carlson's show sells... is the idea that this country is fundamentally colorblind, that anyone who mentions race is just trying to start trouble, that historic oppression is no longer relevant, and that, in fact, you, his viewers, are the ones currently being oppressed, and if he can sell his audience on his white identity politics, if he can persuade them that the big existential threat to America right now is diversity, it sort of doesn't matter if he says aloud what his preferred solutions to that might be."
It remains to be seen whether or not this challenge to Carlson will have the same effect that Stewart's did, but Carlson seems almost certain to respond.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs Sundays at 11:00 PM ET on HBO.
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Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.