Hours after the U.S. Capitol was overrun by rioters on January 6, Fox News host Tucker Carlson brought on Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks to discuss the still-unfolding situation, introducing him as “a sincere and principled conservative.”
But Carlson didn’t mention that Banks is also his son’s boss.
That connection may matter more going forward. Banks is a rising star in the GOP who’s emerged as a key messenger on their attempts to contain the political fallout from the Capitol riot. Carlson, meanwhile, has been an outspoken booster of conspiracy theories about the January 6 insurrection, popularizing the baseless claim that the FBI may have instigated the violent attack.
Carlson, the host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and one of the most powerful figures of the modern right, has had Banks on his show four times in the past two years. And while he’s heaped praise on the lawmaker, at no point has he told his viewers that his son, Buckley, is Banks’ spokesman, letting them know about the connection to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest.
“Congressman Banks, I appreciate your bravery,” Carlson said as he concluded a March 9 segment, thanking him for questioning why the Navy had put Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist” on its recommended reading list.
During Banks’ appearance in March 2020, Carlson introduced him as “one of the few and loudest voices calling attention to the threat that China poses to the United States.” Carlson was deferential when he interviewed Banks in February 2020 as well, and in June 2020 Carlson shouted out a bill Banks was crafting that would make it a federal crime to deface memorials to the Founding Fathers and former presidents.
Banks has made clear he’s a fan of the elder Carlson’s show:
Banks is a rising star in the House GOP, landing the much-coveted role of chairman of the Republican Study Committee at the beginning of this Congress.
And Buckley Carlson’s profile has risen with Banks’. He was hired in 2019 as an entry-level communications assistant, soon graduating from college. His previous work experience included a stint as an intern in President Trump’s White House. Six months later, he was promoted to Banks’ press secretary. At the beginning of this year, Carlson got promoted to communications director for Banks’ congressional office and deputy communications director for the Republican Study Committee.
Banks’ public profile took a big jump in the past week when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy named him as the lead Republican on the House select committee to investigate the January 6 riots, only to have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boot him and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan from the committee.
Banks and Jordan both voted against certifying President Biden’s wins in two states, supported a lawsuit aimed at overturning Biden’s victory, and have been outspoken in defending Trump in recent months.
McCarthy responded to Pelosi’s rejection of two of his committee picks by pledging to boycott the committee altogether, and promising the GOP would do its own investigation into the riot and its causes. It seems that Banks will be involved: He spoke at a House Republicans’ Tuesday press event before the committee’s first meeting, and made his rounds on Fox News later in the day to push the GOP’s views.
“It’s clear at this point that Nancy Pelosi has cherry-picked the members to serve on this committee. She’s pre-written a narrative. Only members who will stick to her talking points are allowed to serve on this committee,” Banks said Tuesday, before the hearing began.
And while Banks hasn’t repeated Carlson’s claims that the capitol riot may have been a false flag operation, he’s been scathing in his claims that Democrats are exaggerating the severity of the attacks to score political points.
“Make no mistake: Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the left’s authoritarian agenda,” he said in a statement last week about the select committee, which was created by Democrats after Republicans blocked a bipartisan agreement for a bipartisan committee to investigate the attacks.
Democrats were also critical of Banks because an alleged Capitol rioter joined a congressional trip to the U.S.-Mexico border organized by the Republican Study Committee.
Buckley Carlson spoke on Banks’ behalf during that incident, calling the rioter’s presence at the border “purely incidental.”
“Chairman Banks never spoke to the individual in question, the Republican Study Committee was unaware of his identity and whereabouts on January 6, and he did not travel with our group to the border,” he said in a statement to CNN.
The actual committee held its first hearing on Tuesday, with Trump-critical Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, two Pelosi appointees, as the only Republicans who agreed to serve.
Last Wednesday, Carlson touted Banks and Jordan as the two Republicans named to the committee who “were by far the most likely to press for answers,” arguing that’s why Pelosi booted them from the select committee to investigate the attack.
“Today, Pelosi banned two Republican Members of Congress from serving on the Committee. They are Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana. What did they do wrong? Those two specifically seem most likely to ask questions about January 6 that Pelosi did not want to discuss. They pushed for openness, so she booted them,” he said in a segment introducing Jordan.
Banks has also seen his power grow since he was first elected in 2016. The hard-charging and ambitious Afghanistan War veteran became head of the Republican Study Committee, a powerful group of House Republicans, at the beginning of this congressional session. He was unsuccessful when he put out feelers about replacing Cheney when she was booted from GOP leadership earlier this year, but there’s growing buzz that he may take another stab at winning a spot in House GOP leadership if Republicans win back House control in next year’s midterm elections.
When Banks hired the younger Carlson in 2019, his chief of staff said that Banks and Tucker Carlson had never met, and that Banks didn’t realize that Tucker and Buckley were related when the hire was made.
“Jim's got a reputation as a rising, young conservative leader on the Hill. We get folks who want to come work for him,” Banks’ chief of staff David Keller told the Journal Gazette in 2019.
Both Tucker and Buckley Carlson refused to talk to VICE News on the record for this story. Fox News declined to comment. Keller didn’t respond to emailed questions.
It’s not like it’s that unusual for scions of powerful political figures to land jobs in adjacent industries—New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, are one glaring example, and the children of the Bush, Clinton and McCain families all at one point or another landed plumb TV jobs. Washington is full of people who have family connections around town, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with someone related to a media figure working in Congress.
Carlson, a second-generation journalist who recently declared “The only thing I know much about is journalism,” even as he derided modern reporters as “cringing animals who are not worthy of respect.” The profession’s normal ground rules involve letting audiences know if there’s a possible conflict of interest in a story you’re covering, like a family member who works for the person you’re interviewing.