Trying to Answer the Question, ‘What Happened to Tucker Carlson?’

By Chris Ariens 

In a lengthy Columbia Journalism Review profile, writer Lyz Lenz attempts to uncover “The Mystery of Tucker Carlson.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO TUCKER CARLSON? People in media ask themselves this question with the same pearl-clutching, righteous tone they use when discussing their aunt in Connecticut who voted for Trump. The question, What happened to Tucker Carlson? is worth answering. If we can figure out how an intelligent writer and conservative can go from writing National Magazine Award–nominated articles and being hailed by some of the best editors in the business, to shouting about immigrants on Fox News, perhaps we can understand what is happening to this country, or at least to journalism, in 2018.

One of Carlson’s former editors, Tina Brown, told CJR: “Tucker is a tremendously good writer and I always thought it was a real shame that he kind of like got sucked into this TV mania thing.” Mark Warren, who edited Carlson at Esquire, says, “He is an extremely talented writer. [Tucker’s] writing was done with such energy and vitality.”


As for Carlson, he doesn’t think anything’s happened to him.

“Who thinks I’ve changed?” he demands. I didn’t want to give up any of my sources, a few of whom still count him as a friend, so I stammered out my editor’s name.

“Uh, Kyle Pope,” I said.

“Is Kyle kind of dumb?” Carlson responds.

The piece is more of a back and forth between reporter and subject, with the reporter, after 7,000 words, not getting any closer to answering the profile’s primary question:

If I can figure out what happened to Tucker Carlson, how he went from successful magazine writer to contrarian journalist to raving Fox News host, I believe I will understand what happened to my country, my life even. What happened to make a rich white man the vox populi? How did I, a mom in the Midwest who can’t afford health care, become the humorless, censoring, liberal elite? How are the winners still insisting they are losers? What happened to this whole mess of a world? So I listen and listen. But I get no answers. Most of the quotes I get don’t make any sense. And I’m no closer to an answer now than when I started.