Elon and Tucker Are Finally Consummating Their Epic Bromance
Beginning on Monday night and stretching into his Tuesday show, Fox News host Tucker Carlson will air an extensive interview with Elon Musk. It promises to be a revealing portrait of an enigmatic billionaire who has rarely made his views and opinions public.
Just kidding! Musk spews his every half-baked thought onto Twitter, the website he bought for $44 billion last year, and if you’ve been following his posts over the past year or so, you know that he and Carlson are perfectly simpatico on a broad range of issues. The sit-down is unlikely to be anything more than two pals bonding over their shared politics and pet conspiracy theories while talking shit about Democrats and mainstream media. In one teaser clip, the two giggle over Musk removing the New York Times‘ verification badge on Twitter and referring to their feed as “diarrhea.”
This bromance has been months in the making, with Musk’s appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight the inevitable result of his drift into the fever swamps of right-wing propaganda. So, how did we get here?
Musk has long described himself — and been portrayed as — a political moderate, donating to both parties, with his companies Tesla and SpaceX lobbying all sides in Washington. (He said in 2014 that he identified as “half Republican, half Democrat.”) However, he’s grown increasingly partisan under the Biden administration, saying the president has “pointedly ignored” Tesla and calling him a “damp sock puppet.” He also takes issue with Biden’s support for unions, hates Democrats’ proposals for raising taxes on billionaires, has sparred on Twitter with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ron Wyden, and opposes Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
All of this makes him a promising interview subject for Carlson, but Musk’s increasing investment in the broader culture war — partly fueled by his takeover of Twitter — has done just as much to bring the pair together. After Musk announced plans to acquire the tech company in April 2022, Carlson called it a victory for free speech, and declared that “tyrants” were “grieving” at the news. As if to lend credence to the notion that Musk had struck a major blow against Big Tech censorship (even though the deal would not close for another six months), Carlson tweeted for the first time since he’d been suspended from the platform over a transphobic tweet the previous month: “We’re back,” he wrote. In reality, Musk didn’t have the power to reinstate Carlson at the time; the anchor had simply deleted the tweet that got him banned, despite claiming he never would.
The same week, as the far right grew increasingly excited at the prospect of a less-regulated Twitter, Musk shared a cartoon purporting to show how he only appeared conservative because the “woke progressive” position had migrated so far left. Then, in May, he announced that he would vote Republican going forward, calling Democrats “the party of division & hate.” The comments drew widespread approval from right-wing politicians and influencers on the site. Answering a user who asked why he had chosen this moment to become so openly political, potentially jeopardizing his lofty goals in tech and space exploration, he wrote, “Unless it is stopped, the woke mind virus will destroy civilization and humanity will never reached [sic] Mars.”
Musk continued to pepper his account with complaints about a “woke mind virus,” criticism of preferred pronouns and transphobic memes, all of which endeared him to the far-right trolls he solicited for advice and feedback on changes to Twitter once the acquisition was completed in October. He further burnished his image within this crowd by reinstating the banned accounts of Donald Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and a host of right-wing users notorious for spreading misinformation — playing to Carlson’s narrative of a site now free from politically biased censorship. Musk even shared a conspiracy theory, amplified by the right, about the home invasion and assault that left then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, with serious injuries. The fake story trended after Musk tweeted it out.
In later November, Musk announced that he would back Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis if he were to run for president in 2024, calling him “sensible and centrist.” By December, it was difficult to distinguish some of Musk’s posts from those of prolific “anti-woke” trolls like @Catturd2 (with whom he has often engaged). One particularly incoherent tweet from that month, an attempt to pander to both anti-vaxxers and the anti-LGBTQ crowd, reads: “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.” During this period, Musk was also trumpeting the rollout of the “Twitter Files,” analyses of internal company communications by journalists that supposedly demonstrated Twitter’s previous liberal leanings, fealty to Democrats and federal authorities, and suppression of right-wing voices.
While the investigations proved none of this — and conveniently omitted evidence of Republicans requesting that Twitter censor posts — it gave new life to conspiracy theories surrounding Twitter’s removal of links to a 2020 New York Post article about Hunter Biden’s laptop, a favorite subject in conservative media. Fox News and Fox Business gave the alleged new facts wall-to-wall coverage, with Carlson using the document dump to push the wide-ranging conspiracy theory that pre-Musk Twitter was infested with U.S. intelligence agents potentially spying on private messages.
Carlson will surely advance that speculative claim with his Musk interview this week. In a preview clip, Musk tells him, “The degree to which various government agencies effectively had full access to everything that was going on at Twitter blew my mind,” then confirms that this included direct messages. Musk has never produced any evidence of this, nor did the journalists who reported on the Twitter Files.
Don’t expect any hardball questions, though. In the run-up to this television event, Musk and Carlson have grown tightly aligned. Musk, for example, has eagerly accepted Carlson’s revisionist history of the Jan. 6 insurrection, which made use of selectively edited footage from Capitol security cameras. “This is crazy. The public was misled,” Musk tweeted in response to one of the videos Carlson aired in March. He also replied “Wow” to a misleading segment in which Carlson cast doubt on the cause of death of Capitol officer Brian Sicknick, who died of two strokes a day after responding to the riot. Days later, Musk amplified the false claim that a Jan. 6 video of rioter Jacob Chansley had been “censored.”
Carlson, in turn, has been highly effusive about Musk’s reign as CEO of Twitter. He was jubilant, for example, when Musk earlier this month appended an inaccurate “state-affiliated media” label to National Public Radio’s Twitter account. “With all the momentous changes underway around the world, why would we open a show with a story about Twitter recategorizing NPR as state media?” Carlson said on his show. “Well, because it’s true. That’s the reason. Finally, thankfully, somebody in authority has told the truth about something, and that is thrilling to see on its own terms in a world defined by lies from our leaders.” After bashing the nonprofit media organization, which receives less than 1 percent of its funding from the federal government and has complete editorial independence, Carlson concluded that “Elon Musk is a hero for this alone.” (NPR, since relabeled “government-funded media” on Twitter, is now inactive there.)
And throughout all this, Musk has constantly signaled his far-right sympathies. Over just the past few days, he’s followed the anti-LGBTQ hate account “Libs of TikTok,” replied to a fake George Orwell quote about obliterating a people’s understanding of their history (“This is happening in schools today,” he warned), repeated his concerns about falling birthrates leading to civilizational collapse (a white supremacist trope) and continued to foment anti-trans panic. Musk’s own trans daughter last summer took legal steps to change her last name and sever any legal ties with him. Rather than reflect on his history of possibly alienating comments around gender identity, Musk blamed the estrangement on “neo-Marxists”.
In short, Musk is now the ideal subject of a Carlson puff piece, which will be as smug as it is congenial, despite the Fox News host’s penchant for railing against the “elites.” The real challenge would be figuring out one thing they disagree on.
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