- Fox News host’s claims echo social media conspiracy theories
- Carlson an increasingly vocal backer of extremist positions
The 25,000-strong national guard contingent in Washington to secure Joe Biden’s inauguration after the Capitol attack is in fact “a political weapon”, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson baselessly claimed, deployed by the Democratic party to tell the US: “We’re in charge now.”
Carlson, a former CNN host, has become an increasingly vocal backer of extremist rightwing positions, including racist rants against immigration. His stances have triggered advertising boycotts and widespread condemnation by civil liberties groups.
His claim about the national guard deployment echoed conspiracy theories spreading on social media which claim martial law may be imminent. The MyPillow chief executive, Mike Lindell, a Trump ally, was seen at the White House last week carrying notes which appeared to advocate the imposition of such military control.
Washington has been on lockdown since the attack on the Capitol on 6 January, which Donald Trump incited and which left five people including a police officer dead. US officials have said they fear insider attacks.
But Carlson rubbished such concerns on Monday night, instead choosing to harangue “the leftward drift of our officer corps”.
“Unmistakably,” he said, “the Democratic party is using those troops to send the rest of us a message about power: ‘We’re in charge now. We run this nation, from Honolulu to our colony in the Caribbean and everywhere in between, very much including where you and your family live. Do not question us men with guns. We control the Pentagon.’ And indeed, they do.”
Carlson’s remarks play into racist tropes and conspiracy theories popular among segments of the far right that have long posited they will be the victims of a government crackdown using the military. They are likely to be seen as dangerously inflaming those sentiments.
In fact, there are official concerns about extremist rightwing threats within the national guard which surfaced on Sunday, amid fears of new insurrectionist acts in Washington and all 50 state capitals. Carlson stoked those fears.
“You’ve got to wonder what the guardsmen themselves think of all of this,” Carlson asked. “Serving in the national guard is not easy work. Guardsmen aren’t paid much. Some, you’ve got to imagine, are doing it for love of country. Now, they’ve been deployed to their country’s own capital city and they’ve been given orders to shoot their fellow Americans if necessary. That’s a lot to ask.
“Now, on top of all of that, they’ve been told that if they were born a certain way, if they’re white and male and therefore evil and dangerous, they themselves are under suspicion of being the enemy. They’re potential killers, assassins, betrayers of a nation.”
The army secretary, Ryan McCarthy, told the Associated Press guardsmen were being trained to recognise internal threats. He did not say only white male troops were being so trained or were under suspicion.
On Tuesday, the AP reported that two national guard members were being removed from the mission to secure the inauguration, after being found to have ties to “fringe right group militias”. Citing two unnamed officials, the AP said no plot against Biden had been found.
In his monologue, Carlson ploughed on.
“The Democratic party is using the military of the United States as a political weapon. But Republicans in Congress just can’t be bothered to notice that,” he said.
“You’d also think officers at the Pentagon would be outraged by this, but as far as we know, not a single one has resigned in protest of conducting background checks on people because of their race or sex or their political views.”
Background checks seek to uncover links to violent extremism or potential terror attacks. More than 100 arrests have been made over the Capitol attack, in which members of the mob were recorded chanting “Hang Mike Pence” and telling police officers they were “listening to Trump – your boss”. Some reportedly aimed to kidnap lawmakers and kill them.
Carlson sought to blame the riot on Biden and other Democrats actually in power in Congress and the states, rather than Trump and other rightwing politicians who called for supporters to march on the Capitol and sought to overturn a legitimate election result.
Carlson has been mooted as a Republican presidential nominee in 2024, a prospect which might become more real if Trump, impeached a second time over the Capitol attack, is convicted and barred from running for office.