Meet The Replacements
The Media Research Center went all in on insisting that the conspiratorial replacement theory -- peddled by Tucker Carlson and embraced by the racist perpetrator of the Buffalo massacre -- is totally true and isn't racist at all.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center was a promoter and defender of the right-wing replacement theory conspiracy well before the racist perpetrator of the mass shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store spouted it in an echo of rants by Fox News host Tucker Carlson. In an April 2021 post, Duncan Schroeder criticized CNN's Don Lemon for calling out Carson as pushing a racist theory:
Lemon is lying about Carlson making his argument about race, as Carlson explicitly stated in the segment in question that his point about Democrats wanting mass immigration has nothing to do with race but that it is instead “a voting rights question.”
Of course, just because Carlson denies it's a racist theory doesn't mean it's not racist -- he's not complaining about white people replacing white people. And taking note of already-occurring demographic changes is not the same thing as spouting a conspiracy theory.
The MRC labored hard to defend Carlson following his embrace of replacement theory. The next day, MRC executive Tim Graham spent a podcast complaining about CNN's Brian Stelter highlighting Carlson's argument, attacking guest Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League as an arm of the Democratic Party for doing so. Graham then played whataboutism: "You can't actually say the Democrats are very eager to be pro-immigrant -- and not just on behalf of the people who are immigrating now, but certainly on behalf of the people who immigrated 10 years ago. This is one of the reasons they're so hot to always say there's no widespread voter fraud because they don't want to suggest illegal immigrants are voting."
Curtis Houck then spent a post whining about Carlson being criticized by the Washington Post over it; he didn't deny Carlson's remarks were racist, but he reframed them as Carlson would, insisting they were merely "about immigration and liberals wanting to create a system in which new immigrants would become dependent upon the state and the Democratic Party for their well being."
A couple days after that, Jeffrey Lord gushed over Fox chief Lachlan Murdoch's "serious leadership in defending both Tucker Carlson and Fox News itself," insisting that Carlson was merely "pointing to the obvious. Which is to say the American left is deliberately creating and using the chaos at the US southern border as a way of re-populating the US, in this case with poor illegal immigrants who would presumably be the political pawns of the Democratic Party." Lord offered no proof that Carlson's theory was factual.
That was followed by a post from Joseph Vazquez hyping how the Coalition for Jewish Values defended Carlson and bizarrely attacked the head of the ADL for criticizing him. ConWebWatch has documented how the CJV is a hotbed of pro-Trump right-wing rabbis, so perhaps their opinion isn't worth much.
In a May 2021 post, Mark Finkelstein defended replacement theory, approving of Carlson's "statement that the Democrat party [sic] is seeking to replace the current US electorate with more Dem-friendly immigrant voters from Third World countries. Question: how hard do you think Biden-Kamala would be clamping down on the border if, say, millions of Republican-leaning Poles were trying to enter the country?" Finkelstein didn't say whether he thought the Poles should be treated the way he demands darker-skinned migrants be treated.
In October, Houck complained that MSNBC's Joy Reid accused Republicans of "'normalizing and rubbing elbows with open white nationalism, white replacement theory, some really dangerous ideologies that are designed to whip up, you know, particularly white men' to do harm," complaining that she was engaging in "the demonization and other-izing of conservatives and Republicans." After the Buffalo massacre, that complaint stopped aging well.
The MRC's resident New York Times-basher, Clay Waters, then took up the banner of defending replacement theory. He did his best to, uh, whitewash replacement theory in a Nov. 5 post complaining that a Times article accurately pointed the racist foundation of Carlson's replacement theory:
Carlson used the term "replacement theory," but it sounds less like a conspiracy theory about a globalist cabal trying to replace current U.S. voters, and more like he thinks the Democrats favor massive immigration for political reasons, believing "demography is destiny," with more young (and grateful) new voters from elsewhere. The liberal media cannot stand that accusation, but it's easy for them to accuse Fox of airing neo-Nazi theories. Then Williamson notes Carlson was praised for these remarks.
In a Nov. 26 post, Waters groused that the Times "rounded up anecdotes from the left’s Public Enemy No. 1, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, conflating concerns over immigration with conspiratorial 'replacement theory'" in discussing the rise of right-wing racism. Then, in a May 2 post -- a couple weeks before the Buffalo shooting -- Waters again insisted that replacement theory was a legitimate, mainstream conservative concept and that "'replacement theory' twists conservatives’ justified concern that Democrats want to import immigrants into America and give them citizenship Democrats who would then dutifully pull the lever for the big-spending party who fought to get them into the country."
Whitewash and redefine
After the massacre, the MRC had no choice but to double down on replacement theory and pretend it's not racist -- or that it's only racist when liberals talk about it. When it was pointed out that top Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik had unmistakably alluded to replacement theory by warning of a "PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION" due to Democrats' alleged "plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington," Nicholas Fondacaro rushed to her defense in a May 16 post, insisting that the co-hosts on "The View" had "falsely claimed Stefanik had peddled in 'replacement theory,'" then tried to whitewash her words: "All Stefanik has said is that Democrats had hoped new immigrants who registered to vote would support them and not Republicans. She also pointed out how that hope was not working out for them and Republicans were seeing historic gains among Hispanic and African American voters." Kyle Drennen huffed in a post the same day that mentioning that the shooter's embrace of replacement theory echoed that of prominent Republicans and right-wing entertainers like Tucker Carlson was a "politicization of the attack."
Waters returned to serve up a muddy attempt to parse what it purportedly is and is not: "It's no conspiracy theory to think Democrats want more immigrants allowed into the United States and to eventually give them the vote, expecting them to vote for the party who granted them citizenship. It’s certainly not an embrace of “replacement theory" to think so.
Kevin Tober sycophantically gushed over Carlson's response to his critics on that night's Fox News show:
Fox News host Tucker Carlson had to be champing at the bit to get back on television Monday night after having to endure an entire weekend of many in the leftist media blaming him and others for the mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York on Saturday afternoon. When Carlson opened his show Tucker Carlson Tonight, to defend himself and his fellow conservatives, he did not disappoint.
Tober didn't mention that Carlson did not discuss his past enthusiasm for replacement theory during the show.
Graham used a May 17 post to join his underling in complaining that Stefanik was being criticized for her replacement theory-adjacent rantings with a blend of whitewash and whataboutism:
"Overthrow our electorate" is pretty hot talk, but it's quite similar to media outlets who heavily imply this somehow leads to "Stefanik echoed racist mass shooter."
Alex Christy complained that "CBS’s Stephen Colbert returned to The Late Show on Monday after a COVID absence to declare that half of Republicans agree with the Buffalo racist mass shooter, including Fox’s Tucker Carlson and Rep. Elise Stefanik," insisting that "opposing giving amnesty and citizenship for illegal immigrants is not Great Replacement Theory." If that was all Carlson and Stefanik had done, Christy might have a point.
Mark Finkelstein tried to play the same misdirection game Graham did by claiming replacement theory can't possibly be racist if you don't say the quiet part out loud by explicitly referencing race:
CNN wants you to believe that the Democrats are a political party . . . above politics. That in fashioning their policies, the thought that massive, record-breaking flows of immigrants across the southern border might help them politically never crosses the Democrats' minds!
Fondacaro re-expressed his issues with women by smearing the co-hosts of "The View" as a "clucking coven" as he bashed them for noting there's not much difference between the racism of the Buffalo shooter and "parents storming school board sand saying, 'we don't want the talk about race relations, we don’t want to talk about anti-racism,'" then ranted a bit about "the racism of Critical Race Theory."
It was Waters' turn to defend and whitewash Stefanik in a May 17 post:
After the despicable, racially motivated mass shooting in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York Times congressional correspondent Annie Karni kept the paper’s previous political smears against Republicans going in Tuesday’s paper against a ranking Republican in Congress: "Racist Attack Spotlights Elise Stefanik’s Echo of Replacement Theory.”
Kevin Tober managed not to defend replacement theory in a May 18 post; instead he was mad that MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell noted that Fox News and owner Rupert Murdoch profit mightily from its hosts pushing it, then played a redirection game: "Claiming the chairman of a major news network and the Republican Party don’t care how many Americans die from mass shootings is beyond disgusting. The premise of the entire controversy is wrong. The mass shooter behind the tragedy in Buffalo wrote in his manifesto that he thought Fox News was out to get him and specifically attacked Murdoch." Tober didn't explain how the shooter sounded so much like Carlson if he thought Fox News was out to get him.
A May 18 post by Bill D'Agostino pretended that noting that demographic changes might benefit Democrats was exactly the same thing as right-wingers portraying it as a racist conspiracy theory -- and besides, Carlson isn't saying the quiet part out loud so it can't possibly be racist:
If speaking candidly about Democrat-engineered demographic change causes mass shootings, then the media are culpable for the tragedy in Buffalo.
Kyle Drennen complained that on MSNBC, "unhinged leftist and supposed marketing expert Donny Deutsch" called out the racism of replacement theory:
He urged Democrats not to “run from this fist fight” and pleaded: “Call out Tucker Carlson, call out the politicians, and make this make them own it. This is a Republican platform. It’s the racist Republican replacement theory.”
Drennen linked to D'Agostino's post as apparently the definitive statement on what the MRC narrative is on replacement theory, as did Nicholas Fondacaro in again bashing "The View" co-hosts for talking about it:
As NewsBusters research analyst Bill D’Agostino reported, Democrats have viewed immigration policy as a means to achieve their policy agenda and it’s something we know liberals and the media have been vocal in touting for years. But it has since found its way to the Ministry of Truth for deletion.
Chief MRC replacement theory defender Clay Waters was at it again in another May 18 post:
If “replacement theory” requires an unnamed cabal, it’s interesting that Republicans specifically blame not some “cabal” but Democrats. Also, Republican concern is less about culture per se than voting power: The fear is that Democrats are indeed trying to change the demographics of the country by importing new Democrat voters from Latin America, thus possibly changing the electorate in their favor (though with the recent trend in Hispanic voting patterns toward Republicans, who knows?) Many also favor voting rights for illegal immigrants. No “replacement theory” necessary.
Curtis Houck similarly huffed in his attack du jour:
CBS Mornings kept up its race-baiting campaign Wednesday in reaction to the act of terrorism against the black community of Buffalo, New York with a segment about the great replacement theory that tied Fox News and “many conservative politicians” to the racist alleged gunman and included the fear that black men might now be gunned down at random if they live in the Midwest.
Jeffrey Lord played historical whataboutism in his May 21 column, pretending that the Democratic Party of 100 years ago -- no, really, he cited a century-old New York Times editorial that criticized allowing blacks to vote and the party's platform from 1840 -- is exactly the same as the party of today:
So what do we have here in the wake of the Buffalo shooting?
Lord seems not to have noticed that it's no longer 1840 and that the parties have changed places on racial issues.
Tim Graham whataboutism
Of special note is how Graham played with the issue. Graham's May 18 column served up a whitewashed definition, then -- as is Graham's style -- played whataboutism over it:
In the wake of the horrible Buffalo supermarket shooting, liberal journalists lunged at the opportunity to blame the mass murder on conservative and Republican messengers.
Graham used his May 16 podcast to try and mislead about what replacement theory is, writing in the promotion for it, rehashing what his subordinates had already written:
The New York Times and The Washington Post admitted they couldn't prove the Buffalo shooter had even watched or enjoyed Tucker's show, but they aggressively smeared the ten deaths on him anyway. "Measuring the extent of Mr. Carlson’s influence in spreading replacement theory may be impossible," admitted the Times. "But controversies around the host’s use of 'replacement' rhetoric appear to have at least helped drive public curiosity about the idea.
Actually, Tim, pointing out demographic changes and claiming they're part of an evil conspiracy are two completely different things.
In the podcast itself, Graham managed to find humor in the Buffalo shooting, chortling that "they never to the gun range for a mass shooting," then asserted that the media "saw opportunity" in the shooting by blaming Carlson. Citing reporting that the shooter said he was radicalized online, "There's no indication that [the shooter] watched Carlson's program. Yeah, who needs proof?" going on to launch a whataboutism rant:
This is the game that they play, and that is that if you merely suggest that Democrats are interested in importing their voters, you're for killing black people in a supermarket. You don't have to prove Tucker Carlson is a mass murderer whisperer, you just find echoes and emanations and numbers of associations. Buffalo McCarthyism? I mean, you couldn't call people a communist if they praised Fidel Castro to the skies, hmmm, Barbara Walters? All these people who said the kindest possible things about communist autocrats -- you know, but you can't call them a communist, probably you couldn't really say there's no proof that the liberals wanted us all in the United States of Fidel Castro BUT dot dot dot.
Graham then rushed to defend Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik for spouting similar ideas:
And it's not just the Fox News hosts. The Washington Post also had a story coming in to the new week ripping Elise Stefanik -- yeah, they tweeted this out this notion: "Stefanik echoed racist theory allegedly espoused by Buffalo suspect." Smeary smeary guilty guilty! What do we actually find? Well, Elise Stefanik ran Facebook ads that claimed this about the Democrats: “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.” All right, that's a conspiracy theory, right? They're importing voters. But somehow this leads to "Stefanik echoes racist mass shooter." This isn't journalism, this is midslinging, this is a negative campaign commercial disguised as a news story.
Graham then exhibited a surprising lack of self-unawareness by accusing others of doing what the MRC has been doing for 30-plus years:
I just don't like the energy that's out there right now. And it's the whole energy of we have to make Republicans quit, we have to shut Fox News down. Right? There's this whole lame-o thing -- if you go to the lame-o liberal sites, what are they out there saying? You know, "white supremacist shooting means you need to re-evaluate advertising on the Fox News Channel." We all know -- and this was all over conservative Twitter -- they cannot prove that this thug shooter has ever paid attenton to Tucker Carlson anywhere at any time, whereas the guy who shot at the Republicans on the softball field in Alexandria, Virginia, had professed his love for Rachel Maddow's show. Does that mean Rachel Maddow encouraged the shooting of Republicans? That was generally not the conservative spin.
So why is that Graham's spin now? Even the conservatives pushing that spin never found anything beyond a Facebook like, whereas the replacement theory promoted by Carlson closely echoes the shooter's replacement theory.
Graham then insisted that it's not really racist to point out there there's a conspiracy by Democrats to import foreign voters, no matter how racist that actually sounds:
It's somehow -- if you suggest that Democrats want to import voters to win elections, this is somehow voila, white supremacy! We all understand that the Democrats really do believe that we're gonna -- yes, we're going to be aggressively pro-immigrant, we're going to be pro-immigration. They believe in what you might call Univision theory, which is the more -- yeah, the more people we import from Central and South America, the more Democratic voters they're sending in. Somehow they're not racist when they're supporting this theory because they're saying it in a positive way. If you say it in a negative way, it's bad. So for example, in 2008 if I suggest Rachel Maddow is a lesbian -- this is a factual statement, I got my head handed to me anyway at the time because I said it in a disapproving tone. This is the way it works, apparently.
As if Graham's entire career is not built on riding grievances to, well, maybe an MRC Bulldog Award and more Mercer money.
Graham went on to huff that liberals are the real racists for accurately noting America's changing racial demographics:
The reality is we can tell you as people who have been around for 35 years the liberal media have been gleefully pushing this idea of America's white minority for decades. They've been delighting in the idea of "the browning of America," and they never thought that sounded racist or racially hostile or racially inflammatory.
Graham then claimed that immigrants might change "white Western ideas" and declared that a legitimate concern, declaring that "yes, you can make concerned who might wear a hat that says 'Make America Great Again' -- I don't have that hat -- but the idea that you're going to import immigrants to change what America stands for, what America is, yeah, if you're a Republican that might concern you."At no point did Graham provide any evidence that there is a Democratic project, overt or clandestine, to import foreign people for the express purpose of replacing white conservatives but insisted this theory is "falling apart" because immigrants are becoming Republicans.
Graham didn't really help his case here. Whataboutism is a distraction, not an argument.