Something happened to Tucker Carlson Monday morning that caused him to get emergency back surgery later in the week. It was, he said, according to a recording obtained by Motherboard, “one of the most traumatic things that’s ever happened to me in my whole life, ever.”
What exactly was so traumatic isn’t clear. A Fox News spokesperson said, “Tucker Carlson had emergency back surgery yesterday and did the show anyway. He thanks all those who tuned in and watched closely.” But before Wednesday night’s broadcast of his Tucker Carlson Tonight program, Carlson—who by all accounts doesn’t drink or use drugs—spoke in detail on set to his production team about what he experienced, and said that because he was treated with intravenous fentanyl and other powerful painkillers, he now understands America's opioid crisis in a deeper way.
Carlson is the most-watched news host in America, a hugely influential figure whose team, as he says on the recording, “changed American politics.” His newfound insight into the suffering opioids cause is thus of potentially immense importance. (Motherboard described the comments to the Fox News spokesperson, who did not dispute their authenticity. Carlson, they said, would “take a pass” on discussing the topic with a reporter.)
“This is just like a miracle,” a production worker told him. “I, like, truly cannot believe you’re standing right now.”
“That was one of the most intense experiences of my life,” said Carlson. “They hit me up, they told me this morning, with such a huge dose of dilaudid, which is more powerful than morphine, when I got there, that I had trouble breathing.” (Dilaudid is a powerful opioid painkiller.) “Scared the shit out of me. Didn’t have any effect at all. And then all night, I lay there, the nurse finally upped my dosage of dilaudid to the point where every eight minutes I hit it and it was like getting shot. Just like bam, feel it hit me, and it didn’t touch the pain.”
While whatever happened to him happened Monday morning, he broadcast the next three nights, including Tuesday’s Election Night, basically as normal:
Whatever the case, he slept poorly Tuesday.
“I didn’t sleep literally one second last night, and I was on so many fucking drugs,” he said. “It was just like, more drugs, more drugs.
“I didn’t know that there was untreatable pain.”
The unendurable pain, he said, ended after he was operated on—but not before he was put on multiple courses of opioids.
“They gave me fentanyl this morning, that did not cure it—they gave me intravenous fentanyl,” he said. “And they gave me all kinds of other shit. I was like, ‘Fine, go for it.’ And then it only ended when they gave me propofol, and I went out. Then I woke up and I was like, I felt totally fine. I haven’t taken a single Advil.”
What Carlson, who said he will never take opioids again if he can help it, found most interesting was what the drugs did to his spirit.
“I had this spirit of fear within me, which I don’t have,” he said. “I’m not bragging, I don’t have it. And I think you can feel it. I don’t have it, I think that’s why I’m successful, cause I’m just not afraid. I felt afraid just of like life or something. It’s interesting.
“It was super deep. And I just haven’t had those feelings since I was in a plane crash 20 years ago this month. I’ve never had those feelings. I’m always like ‘Yeah I’m gonna die, I don’t care.’ And I mean it. But last night I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ Fear—just like anxiety. People who have anxiety, that’s what I felt. And it was from those drugs. And they extinguish the spirit within you. And they make you feel like you’re running away. You’re hiding. It’s so fucking deep. I’m lying in bed filthy with dog toys on my pillow, and it doesn’t bother me. And I’m not that way. Like I am a fucking—in real life, I wash the sheets every day. I’m that guy. I shower every day.”
Carlson—who recently blamed President Joe Biden for the longstanding and deeply-rooted fentanyl crisis—came away from this look into the void with a newfound appreciation for the effects of opioids on ordinary people.
“I said this to [an associate],” Carlson said, “and he had such a deep response. He goes, ‘That’s why all the houses in Maine are unclean and have toys on the front lawn. Because the people are on fentanyl, they’re on opioids, and they’ve lost their dignity, their self-respect.’ That thing that makes you super uptight when you look at your house and you’re like, ‘Ah the shutters need painting. Fuck.’ Maybe you paint them or maybe you don’t, but it bothers you, because you have dignity. That’s gone. So you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s a half-chewed rawhide toy on my pillow? Okay! Lie there with it.’ I don’t live like that. Have you ever been to my house? We’re not crazy but we’re orderly people, cause we have self-respect.”
As a production worker expressed amazement, Carlson—who would shortly go on air to explain that the results of the Virginia gubernatorial election signaled a realignment in American politics—continued to explain his new insights into American life.
“I just thought that was the most interesting fucking thing that had ever happened to me. It wasn’t even that I survived it, it wasn’t even about me, it was about what it does to people. It was just like so fucking interesting. And it meets—it explains so much of what we see around us. Just the lack of dignity. And that weird drive you have to be like, ‘That’s not in the right order, it should be this way. You know?’ It inculcates this not caring.”
To illustrate caring, he told a story in which he said, “I don’t eat in bed, cause I’m not a fucking animal.” It ended with a dog vomiting ham on him.