Tucker Carlson has a new favorite enemy: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
On Monday, for the second show in a row, the right-wing Fox host went after the top Republican in the House for his friendship with Frank Luntz, the longtime pollster for conservative politicians, corporations, and news organizations, including VICE.
Last week, Carlson said McCarthy’s friendship “gives Frank Luntz outsized influence over the Republican Party’s policy positions,” and on Monday Carlson followed up on that by saying his show was tipped off that McCarthy lives with Luntz in D.C.
“The top Republican in the House lives with a Google lobbyist? Come on,” Carlson said. “Even by the sleazy and corrupt standards of politics in Washington, that didn’t seem possible. In fact, it sounded like a joke.”
After initially denying that McCarthy lived with Luntz, a spokesperson confirmed to Fox News that during the pandemic, McCarthy has “rented a room in Washington at a fair market price from Frank.” McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News, nor did Luntz. Carlson claimed McCarthy could be paying Luntz as much as $5,000 a month to live in his home in D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood.
That one of the most influential figures in the conservative movement right now is effectively accusing the House Republican leader of being a corrupt fraud at best is just the latest example of the ongoing split between the leadership of the Republican Party and its populist base. Carlson, the highest-rated host on cable news, talks directly to that base every weeknight as he broadcasts to more than 3 million people on average.
McCarthy knows the uneasy relationship between the GOP and its base better than most. In 2015, as McCarthy was set to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House, dozens of House Republicans opposed his candidacy before McCarthy ultimately and unexpectedly dropped out of the running.
And McCarthy has attempted to shore up support on the right by cosigning Carlson’s attacks on Big Tech and so-called censorship of conservatives. McCarthy regularly used to promote Google and as late as 2017 said he wanted to “have government as innovative as Google, as customer-centric as Apple, and as quick as Amazon.”
But by 2018 he was singing a different tune, blaming the search engine for a Wikipedia entry for the California Republican Party which labeled “Nazism” as one of its ideologies.
Still, McCarthy’s own broadsides against Google specifically aren’t enough to satisfy Carlson. Nor, apparently, is the fact that McCarthy backed former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election. To indicate how deep the conservative skepticism of McCarthy runs, the New York Times reported in January—days after a mob invaded the Capitol to stop the election results—that McCarthy’s constituents in Bakersfield were slamming him for not supporting Trump hard enough, One told the Times McCarthy was a “RINO traitor,” a sentiment Carlson is tapping into by highlighting McCarthy’s ties to Luntz.
For Carlson, who has long advocated for a more adversarial relationship between Republicans and corporations he views as too “woke,” McCarthy’s friendship with Luntz—who publicly split from the Republican Party earlier this year after feuding with Trump, working for him, then feuding with him again—illustrates the coziness between Republican politicians and big business.
But McCarthy’s coziness has existed for years; now that big business is wading into social issues like voting rights, immigration, and LGBTQ rights—all things Carlson opposes—he’s finding out that’s no longer kosher.
“Kevin McCarthy's real crime is mocking his voters,” Carlson said Monday. “Voters believe Kevin McCarthy… they sent him back to Washington every two years, they send him money. And at the end of the day, he goes back to Frank Luntz’s apartment in Penn Quarter and he laughs at them.”