Rachel Maddow on Monday offered some context for Tucker Carlson’s stunning split with Fox News, depicting it as just the latest instance of conservative media figures who dominate that right-wing ecosystem yet struggle to generate broader appeal. In Carlson’s case, Maddow said, you could sum up the entire situation by looking at his ill-fated promotion of testicle tanning.
The MSNBC host first compared Carlson’s rise and fall to that of 1930s priest Father Coughlin, whose radio presence ended after he made antisemitic remarks regarding Nazi Germany. Maddow then drew a more recent parallel to radio host Rush Limbaugh and his brief foray into television, including his few weeks as an ESPN commentator.
Former Fox News host Glenn Beck, who in 2010 held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial to promote his 100-year plan to “save the country,” was the next example. And then there was Carlson’s predecessor, Bill O’Reilly, who was fired in 2017 amid costly sexual harassment allegations and has since made occasional appearances on NewsNation and Newsmax while hosting a radio show.
“Now there’s this guy—their latest, biggest thing,” Maddow said while a Tucker Carlson Tonight clip aired on screen. “And he’s out today as well. He’s been fired.”
Maddow did not refer to Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly or Carlson by name as a way to emphasize that the story of their tenures at and departures from Fox News was more about how they fit into the trend of conservative media—and its effects on the country.
“You see that whoever the dominant figure is… gets smaller and smaller and smaller over time,” Maddow said. “The magnitude of their dominance, their overall importance to the right-wing media ecosystem shrinks as right-wing media over time diversifies and becomes a lot of different things and something that exists on a lot of different platforms.”
Similarly, Maddow said, the influence that these figures were able to obtain within right-wing media “doesn’t tend to cross over into any other kind of major influence.”
“You don’t get your pet candidate [William] Lemke elected to anything,” she said, referring to Coughlin’s preferred third-party candidate in the 1936 presidential election who obtained less than two percent of the vote that year. “You don’t get to call football games on TV for the NFL. You don’t lead hundred-year-long Messianic religious revivals. You don’t persuade Americans to start tanning their testicles en masse.”
She was referring to a segment last April, in which Carlson pitched the procedure as a potential solution to lowered testosterone levels.
From there, Maddow argued that conservative media enterprises over the past generation have been more effective at communicating with Americans than the Republican Party.
“Conservative media and the conservative movement tend to drag the actual Republican Party around like a rag doll that’s missing a limb or two. I mean, the Republican Party is comparatively very weak, very disorganized and has no idea how to talk to people,” she said.
Maddow then read in dismay several recent headlines about Republican-backed initiatives like rolling back child labor laws, defunding public libraries, stripping people of Medicaid coverage, suing over student debt relief, and refusing to pay for morning-after pills and abortions for rape victims.
“That’s…a snapshot of how things are going with the Republican Party in their effort to win over the American people to the popularity of their ideas,” Maddow concluded. “In contrast, the conservative media business and the conservative movement—they have their act together.”