Pro-Israel Conservatives Are Done With Tucker Carlson

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

“Tucker Carlson, please come back soon.”

That was the message Newsweek senior editor-at-large Josh Hammer delivered shortly after Carlson’s shocking ouster from Fox News, speaking for much of the American conservative movement at the time.

“Hopefully, Carlson will retain something approximating his exceptional level of cultural and political influence in whatever role he next serves, because his witness to truth and civilizational sanity has never been more necessary,” the conservative pundit added in his April 2023 column.

Nearly a year later, Hammer’s tone towards the former primetime cable-news star has noticeably shifted.

“Turns out Tucker needed Fox more than Fox needed Tucker. Very sad,” he tweeted this week.

So, what changed? Long story short: Gaza.

While the seeds of the pro-Israel right’s split from Carlson were planted months ago, the situation came to a head earlier this week when the former Fox News star conducted a 40-minute online interview with Reverend Munther Isaac, a Palestinian Christian pastor from the West Bank. Throughout the cordial conversation, Carlson asked how the Israeli government had treated Christians since the launch of the war in Gaza, claiming that “a consistent but almost never noted theme of American foreign policy is that it is always the Christians who suffer.”

Even before watching the interview, Carlson’s decision to platform Isaac, a pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, was already a step too far for many conservative supporters of Israel. The day after Hamas’ bloody Oct. 7 attack, the reverend seemed to celebrate the militant group’s slaughter of Israeli music festival attendees.

“One of the scenes that left an impression on my mind yesterday—and there are many scenes—is the scene of the Israeli youth who were celebrating a concert in the open air [the Nova music festival] just outside the borders of Gaza, and how they escaped,” Isaac said in his Oct. 8 sermon. “What a great contradiction, between the besieged poor on the one hand, and the wealthy people celebrating as if there was nothing behind the wall. Gaza exposes the hypocrisy of the world.”

But it wasn’t just Carlson’s guest of choice that infuriated many on the right—it was his own comments that were a bridge too far.

While taking aim at evangelical leaders and “self-professed Christian” lawmakers, Carlson claimed the United States has been “sending money to oppress Christians in the Middle East.” He urged Republicans to cut off military aid to Israel. “It would be pretty easy for Republicans in the U.S. Congress to say we support the government of Israel. But if you touch a single Christian, harm a single church, prevent any Christian from practicing his religion, you’re done,” he declared. “Not a single dollar will come from the U.S. Congress for you.”

Carlson then concluded: “If you wake up in the morning and decide that your Christian faith requires you to support a foreign government, blowing up churches and killing Christians. I think you’ve lost the thread.”

Needless to say, especially since right-wing media and GOP officials have relentlessly bashed progressives over their increasingly pro-Palestinian stance, Carlson’s screed went over like a lead balloon with a certain contingency of conservatives.

“Tucker is cultivating hatred of Israel and Jews based on lies and innuendos,” Israeli-American conservative journalist Caroline Glick tweeted in response to the interview.

It also further exposed the deepening rift between traditional conservatives and the openly bigoted alt-right, threatening to tear apart an already uneasy alliance holding the right-wing coalition together.

The dam may have broken with the Isaac interview, but the leaks had been forming for months when it came to Carlson, once a unifying figure for much of the Trump-era right.

While much of the newfound animosity relates to Israel, it also boils down to Carlson’s role in a long-simmering feud between two of conservative media’s most popular figures: far-right provocateur Candace Owens and Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro.

As an Orthodox Jew who fervently backs the Israeli government, Shapiro quickly took issue with Carlson’s stance on the war in Gaza. Just days after the Hamas attacks, Carlson hosted former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who largely mimics the ex-Fox host’s isolationist foreign policy and attributed ongoing military support for Israel to “financial and corrupting influences.” Carlson, meanwhile, objected to selective moral outrage over the attacks while calling for more attention to American drug overdose deaths.

“When it comes to comparing the Holocaust-level evil we just saw in Kfar Aza with people overdosing on the streets of Philadelphia, I have some moral questions. I do,” Shapiro reacted at the time, accusing Carlson of “moral blindness” and “downplaying” the Oct. 7 attacks.

Owens, who at the time was still a Daily Wire host, also began to draw Shapiro’s ire over her criticism of Israel, much of which crossed the line into overt antisemitism. After their beef exploded out into the open last November, Carlson brought her on to dish. While taking Owens’ side in her increasingly fraught back-and-forth with the Daily Wire founder, Carlson also seemed to peddle the antisemitic “dual loyalty” trope about Shapiro. “I’m an American. Our country is being invaded right now. Over 100,000 Americans die every year of fentanyl,” he exclaimed. “Those are real tragedies. I’ve never seen anything like the emotion from any commentator around those tragedies as I’m watching about a foreign tragedy.”

And late last month, with her rhetoric towards Jewish people reaching new lows, the Daily Wire finally kicked Owens to the curb. Her ouster from the ultra-successful right-wing media company, however, prompted explicitly racist and antisemitic edgelords and social-media trolls to rage about the firing by harassing Jewish conservatives with the phrase “Christ Is King.”

After Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing and others claimed that the use of the phrase was a coded antisemitic dog-whistle, much of “conservative Twitter” blew up at Boreing and his allies, prompting many influential figures to admit: “We have a problem on the right.”

A photograph of Tucker Carlson laughing.

“Tucker is cultivating hatred of Israel and Jews based on lies and innuendos,” one conservative journalist has written.

Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty

Among the ringleaders of the backlash was Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist and Holocaust denier who leads the so-called Groyper movement. (The Groypers chanted this same phrase, “Christ Is King,” at the “Million MAGA March.”) The notorious social-media bigot, who infamously had dinner with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, has become an avowed fan of Owens as she became more explicitly antisemitic. “Candace Owens has just been on a tear lately,” he said last month. “She has been in a full-fledged war against the Jews, and specifically some of these Zionist rabbis. And I’ve been watching her evolution. It’s been remarkable to witness.”

Fuentes, not so coincidentally, was elated over Carlson’s interview with Isaac and his comments about Israel and Christians. In a recent broadcast of his online show, Fuentes said, “I love it” because “just like Candace Owens, it is waking people up.”

“I think it’s much better than almost anything I’ve ever seen on his show since he left Fox News. I think it’s great stuff,” he added.

While most Americans now disapprove of the Israeli military’s actions in Gaza, as Palestinian casualties continue to mount, a large majority of Republicans still back the country’s efforts. At the same time, that support is slowly eroding, dropping seven points since November, although a robust 64 percent of the GOP still remains firmly behind Israel.

So, does this mean the pro-Israel wing of the conservative movement is ready to turn its back on Carlson? It sure seems like it.

The vitriol towards the cable news host-turned-podcaster over his comments this week was fierce and direct.

“This is who Tucker is: a click-chaser,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) declared on X. “Tucker’s MO is simple: defend America’s enemies and attack America’s allies. There isn’t an objective bone left in that washed up news host’s body. Mindless contrarianism is his guiding principle, buttressed by his childish tactic to ‘juSt aSK quEsTiOns!’”

Crenshaw’s claim that Carlson would “eventually fade into nothingness” since his “veneer of faux intellectualism is quickly falling apart” was a common theme. Besides Hammer saying Carlson needed Fox more than they needed him, others said that the network “gave Tucker guardrails” because “he needed them,” citing his shoddy research for this latest interview.

Trump’s former ambassador to Israel David Friedman also pushed back on Carlson’s claims, noting that Bethlehem has been under Palestinian rule for decades and is now “80 percent Muslim and Christians are afraid.” Columns for Tablet magazine and Jewish Insider, meanwhile, accused Carlson of “whitewashing murderers to set fire to evangelical-Jewish relations” by platforming “the high priest of antisemitic Christianity.”

“There’s no one in American life who thinks less of Christians than Tucker. He doesn’t like Jews, but he at least doesn’t think we’re stupid,” Commentary senior editor Seth Mandel tweeted. “Even Trump’s Bible selling is transparently transactional. Tucker’s entire shtick relies on his belief that Christians are gullible saps.”

Even one of Carlson’s former colleagues called him out on live television. Leland Vittert, a former Fox News anchor who now hosts for NewsNation, likened Carlson to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, and accused him of overt antisemitism.

“Tucker’s a smart guy,” Vittert said on Wednesday. “Yet, he’s taking the side of terrorists. There’s no other explanation than his unabashed hatred of Jews.” (Vittert may also have some personal beef with his former colleague. In a 2020 text made public during Dominion’s Fox News lawsuit, Carlson told his primetime cohorts: “We devote our lives to building an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland fucking Vittert wreck it.”)

Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire Cuts Ties With Candace Owens

In the end, “a lot of people still want access to Tucker’s platform, so [they] are reluctant to burn bridges,” conservative social-media personality known as AG Hamilton, an outspoken Carlson critic with more than 150,000 X followers, told The Daily Beast. However, he said, it does appear that Carlson’s recent comments have opened the door for more conservatives to feel free to openly bash the once-unimpeachable right-wing commentator.

“I think the combo of the Russia stuff (subway etc), his attacks on Shapiro, the Israel interview has given people (outside of those like me who have always seen him as an inauthentic propagandist) permission to call him out. So to answer, I do think it will lead to some people distancing themselves. I don’t think he will lose all or most of his audience, but that’s with an already decreased baseline relative to his time on FNC,” the pseudonymous writer added.

“But at the very least it will lead some pro-Israel conservatives to ask whether the other information he is presenting on other topics is accurate,” he concluded. “Which is a good step.”

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