Does Tucker Carlson really think the United States should invade its northern neighbour to free it from the tyranny of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government? Canadians may not find out the answer.
A Fox News documentary focused on that question was set to be released on Monday, but it is off the schedule after the controversial host’s abrupt departure from the network last week.
A spokesperson for Fox News said “there are no further episodes of Tucker Carlson Originals running” on the Fox Nation streaming service.
Carlson, who was one of the network’s most popular hosts, occasionally targeted Canada and its federal Liberal government on his show and was a vocal supporter of last year’s “Freedom Convoy” movement.
Nearly a year after people demonstrating against COVID-19 measures took over downtown Ottawa and several border crossings, Carlson questioned why the United States hadn’t yet taken action in response to Canadian public-health restrictions — which by the time of his comments had largely ceased to exist.
“Why are we not sending an armed force north to liberate Canada from Trudeau? And I mean it,” Carlson said Jan. 26.
Moments later, Carlson laughed and added, “I’m just talking myself into a frenzy here.”
A former U.S. ambassador to Canada said in an interview that that kind of comment, combined with Carlson’s dominant presence in the media landscape, was dangerous.
“You know, some people in Canada thought this was humorous and a joke,” said Bruce Heyman, who was former president Barack Obama’s representative in Ottawa from 2014 until the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
“But it was not a joke, because of the people that he attracts and inspires,” Heyman said of Carlson’s viewers.
“I feel he was a dangerous actor.”
Joke or not, Carlson’s comment prompted condemnation north of the border, including from NDP MP Matthew Green, who sought unanimous support from his colleagues on Jan. 31 for a motion condemning the comments. He didn’t get it.
Carlson mocked the failed motion the next day, saying he thought Canadians would enjoy his comments “because they’re always flattered when you talk about them. … They don’t really know how to handle it or what it means, but it doesn’t matter — they’re excited.”
Last month, Fox released a trailer for “O Canada.”
It featured a montage of people being arrested — including People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier and prominent members of the “Freedom Convoy” movement — spliced with clips of several former U.S. presidents talking about liberating the citizens of other countries.
Bernier said he did an interview with Fox in January or February for the documentary on the subject of his arrest for violating public health orders in June 2021, when he was appearing at a variety of rallies against COVID-19 restrictions.
Carlson had interviewed Bernier on his show not long after the arrest, which took place in Manitoba.
“I was put in jail for a non-crime for 12 hours,” Bernier said in an interview Monday.
He insisted that Canadian media organizations did not cover the event adequately: “I know that a lot of Canadians didn’t know what happened to a leader of a national party fighting for freedom of choice.”
Media reports at the time quoted an RCMP spokeswoman who said Bernier was arrested for the “continuation of the offence of violating the current public health orders in Manitoba.”
Bernier said he thought Carlson was making a joke, and does not agree with the idea of the U.S. interfering in Canadian affairs. But he said that Fox was “the only platform” for him to talk about his message, because Canadian media organizations have been ignoring him.
“They asked me to speak about my experience as a national leader, and I did,” he said.
He added: “I’m not there to judge how Tucker covered the Jan. 6 event,” referring to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol Hill riots.
The New York Times reported that in the lead-up to a Dominion Voting Systems defamation trial against Fox News, executives discovered private messages in the company’s legal filings that were sent by Carlson and contained “highly offensive and crude remarks.”
The Times report said the messages were a “catalyst” in Fox’s decision to cut him loose. The lawsuit, which accused the network of making false statements about the company’s voting machines and tabulators, was settled out of court at the last minute.
Heyman said that the network and its hosts’ embrace of conspiracy theories around the results of the 2020 election were hazardous.
“Not only did Fox News, Tucker Carlson and others portray the set of circumstances around Jan. 6 in a false way, but they knew it, and they knew it in advance and they went ahead anyway,” he said.
Carlson averaged 3.03 million viewers in 2022, and his was the second-most popular program on cable television.
That reach extended into Canada, where he “emboldened any number of people” during the “Freedom Convoy,” Heyman said.
In a video posted to Twitter last week, Carlson hinted at a possible return.
“Where can you still find Americans saying true things? There aren’t many places left but there are some and that’s enough. As long as you can hear the words, there is hope. See you soon.”
—Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press