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ByKate Hagan Gallup/
Tucker Carlson is a conservative televison host, political commentator, and author who has a net worth of $30 million, with a current annual salary of $6 million.
In the divisive age of cable news, one network stands out from the crowd: Fox News. Known for its litany of controversial hosts — including Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson — Fox News has continued its jarring coverage of all things politics, having firmly aligned itself with the likes of Donald Trump and the conservative right. As it does every year, Ad Fontes Media released its 2022 Media Bias Chart, firmly solidifying Fox News as a hyper-partisan right media outlet that relied on "opinion or high variation in reliability."
Since joining the Fox News network in 2009, Carlson has become synonymous with eyebrow-raising opinions, with New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore telling NPR that the narratives he pushes on a regular basis were once "caged in a dark corner of American life" — now, they are out in the open.
"This may be the most racist show in the history of cable news," Confessore stated, explaining his reporting tactics to NPR's Dave Davies. "What you see on Fox in the last few years, but especially on Carlson's show, is rage inflation. You see an effort to just dial it up to 11 every night. And the point is, keep people tuned in."
So how did Carlson become such a talking point — and one of the highest earners on cable news today?
What Tucker Carlson's early life was like
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While we may not know much about how Tucker Carlson came to adopt the language of conspiracy theorists on his show, we do know what his early life looked like. As noted by Britannica, Tucker was born to his parents — Richard Warner Carlson and Lisa McNear Lombardi Carlson — and had a younger brother. At just 6 years old, Tucker experienced a pretty life-altering episode when his mom left, eventually making a life in France and never seeing her sons again. Once he was on his own, Richard, a media executive, moved his two sons to La Jolla, California and got back into the dating scene. Four years later, he tied the knot with Patricia Swanson — and if the name rings a bell, it's because her family owned the Swanson food company, known for pushing TV dinners into the American ether.
Given that the TV food industry is worth $9 billion today, as noted by Adweek, it doesn't come as a huge shock to learn that private boarding school was a big part of Tucker's childhood. By the time secondary school rolled around, both Tucker and his brother, Buckley Carlson, were sent to St. George's School in Rhode Island, per Britannica. Tucker would eventually send his own daughter there (and the tuition is just as mind-boggling as you'd think).
Carlson first earned his money as a journalist and fact checker
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While Tucker Carlson enjoyed a childhood in California and an education at a prestigious, private boarding school, he wasn't handed a wad of cash as soon as he hit adulthood. As noted by Columbia Journalism Review, Carlson graduated from Trinity College in 1992, married Susan Andrews (who happened to be his high school girlfriend), and got a job in journalism. It wasn't his first career choice — he was hoping to join the CIA, but he didn't get far in the job application process.
"You should consider journalism," Carlson's father told him of the news industry as a profession. "They'll take anybody."
In his early career, Carlson did what he needed to do to make a buck and support his growing family. He got a job as a fact-checker with Policy Review, telling the Columbia Journalism Review that he got the job because "the standards [were] so low." Telling the outlet that he had no other options at the time — as he had children to support — Carlson continued to work, and even took freelance gigs on the side.
"I think this is true of almost everybody, unless you happen to inherit a bunch of dough at a young age," Carlson said of the hustle he showed in his early days in the news industry.
He made his first big news splash in 1999
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So how did Tucker Carlson go from low-budget (and even lower standards) fact checker to one of the biggest names on Fox News? In 1999, his piece for Talk Magazine made quite a splash, putting his name in the mix with some pretty dirt-stirring journalists reporting on then-presidential candidate George W. Bush. As noted by Slate, Carlson asked Bush — who was the governor of Texas at the time — about convicted murderer Karla Faye Tucker, who was facing the death penalty. As she had found God during her prison sentence, the word "clemency" was floating around quite a bit — naturally, Carlson asked the candidate about her.
As Timenoted, Bush "mimicked" Tucker's "final plea for her life." "'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me,'" Carlson wrote at the time, portraying the Republican candidate in an increasingly negative light.
Such coverage made quite a stir among conservative journalists, Slate noted, with the likes of George Will, Richard Brookhiser, and the Manchester Union Leader's editorial staff calling out the candidate for his offensive behavior. While it certainly wasn't a good look for Bush, the interaction put Carlson on the journalism map.
Carlson took his career to the next level as a political commentator
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This might come as a huge shock to readers, but Tucker Carlson got his first big break on television with CNN. Yep, that's right — the network he now takes aim at on a regular basis once employed him for four years. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, Carlson was the co-host of the CNN program "Crossfire" with Paul Begala. The show saw some heated confrontations, but nothing quite came close to Jon Stewart's appearance in 2004. Carlson and "The Daily Show" star had a heated exchange.
"Here's what I wanted to tell you guys: Stop. Stop hurting America," Stewart said, before calling Carlson and Begala "partisan hacks" and asserting that the programming was dividing people more than it was presenting the facts. "You're on CNN. The show leading into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you?" he continued.
The interaction was so contested that Carlson announced his resignation from the show — but he claimed to have made the decision before the comedian joined him. "I resigned from 'Crossfire' in April , many months before Jon Stewart came on our show, because I didn't like the partisanship, and I thought in some ways it was kind of a pointless conversation ... each side coming out, you know, 'Here's my argument,' and no one listening to anyone else," he said at the time, per Insider. "[CNN] was a frustrating place to work."
He's made serious money from his hosting gigs on MSNBC and Fox News
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In the span of just five years, Tucker Carlson went from a relatively unknown name to a contentious figure in the news media space, ramping up his public profile and signature on-air style (fit with a bow tie) along the way. After his time at CNN came to a close, Carlson shifted gears once again, turning his attention to MSNBC, the predominantly liberal news network. As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the former CNN anchor became the host of "The Situation with Tucker Carlson," a program that brought a "rotating panel" to the screen. It may come as a surprise that it included such panelists as the left-leaning Rachel Maddow and radio host Jay Severin. The goal of the show was to address the day's top stories in a "rapid-fire, freewheeling format" that covered notonly politics, but pop culture as well.
Carlson may have been aligned with two left-leaning news networks, but he turned his attention (and political affiliation) to the right in 2009 when he joined Fox News, The New York Times noted at the time. By the time Bill O'Reilly left the network after a slew of harassment allegations, Carlson had taken over the on-air slot, launching "Tucker Carlson Tonight" and a new era for the news pundit. As noted by Celebrity Net Worth, Carlson now brings in about 3.4 million viewers a night, as well as a $6 million yearly salary.
Tucker Carlson sold his share of the website The Daily Caller in 2020
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As Tucker Carlson was defining himself as a conservative pundit on Fox News, he simultaneously co-founded a right-leaning news and opinion website called The Daily Caller, establishing the site in 2010. Still in operation today, The Daily Caller offers a news page, opinions section, five site-sanctioned shows, newsletters, and everything from entertainment to comedy and education. While Carlson was one of the main establishers of the site, he sold his stake in The Daily Caller in 2020, handing the reins to his co-founder, political pundit Neil Patel, per The New York Times. Celebrity Net Worth further detailed that the stakes were sold for "an undisclosed amount," though Carlson is worth a total of $30 million today.
"I haven't had editorial input," Carlson said of The Daily Caller, citing his primetime show on Fox News as his reason for scaling back his effort in the publication. "Neil runs it. I wasn't adding anything. So we made it official."
And Carlson may have gotten out at just the right time. Just a week later, Salon exclusively reported that The Daily Caller had violated tax laws, with the Campaign for Accountability filing a complaint against the publication shortly after Carlson called it quits. The filing demanded that The Daily Caller's tax-exempt status be revoked, as it had claimed to be a nonprofit but was not operating as one.
The TV host has published multiple books
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If a $6 million annual salary wasn't enough to keep Tucker Carlson afloat, a lucrative book deal would surely help. As listed by Thrift Book, Carlson's first penned ambition, "Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News," came out in 2003. He went on to build his network news empire, leading to a lucrative two-book contract with Simon & Schuster's conservative imprint, Threshold Editions. Carlson agreed to the deal in 2017, and while the figure was not disclosed, it was revealed that the Fox News host's advance was eight figures (meaning at least $10 million).
"I have long admired the Threshold list and am proud to be published alongside so many of my favorite authors," Carlson stated in 2017, as noted by the Los Angeles Times. Threshold was responsible for publishing books by Donald Trump and Dick Cheney, to name a few.
Carlson kept to the deal and released two books: "Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution" in 2019, and "The Long Slide: Thirty Years in American Journalism" in 2021. His 2019 work became a New York Times No. 1 Best Seller, proving to be a "funny political commentary" on both the Democrats and Republicans holding office. Carlson's 2021 work was far more on the serious side, providing readers with "new commentary and insight" into his three decades in the news industry.
Tucker Carlson been involved in lawsuits
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It seems only fitting that a high-profile figure like Tucker Carlson would be involved in eyebrow-raising lawsuits, and the Fox News anchor's legal comings and goings are a doozy. PerCase Text, Tucker was involved in the Bickel v. Carlson case, as he and his brother, Buckley Carlson, took their mother's estate to court after she died. As it turns out, the biological mother who was never really a part of their lives left $1 to her sons — and the brothers were having none of it.
"She was more like a hippie, arty kind of person. I couldn't ever imagine her being a mother," Joan Quinn, who works for Interview Magazine, told Insider of Tucker's mom, artist Lisa McNear Lombardi. "She was very nervous all the time. She was never satisfied with what was going on, in terms of being a person, of being with people. She was ill-content."
Lombardi died in 2011 after battling cancer, and as the specifications in her will were enacted, Tucker and Buckley sought legal means to a more lucrative end. As noted by Celebrity Net Worth, the lawsuit is still ongoing.
"She had come from a lot of money and that reflected on her personality," noted Molly Barnes, who worked with Lombardi. "She wasn't a snob in any way, but she had the manners of a private school girl." Clearly, there's a large sum of money at stake for the Fox News host.
He has purchased a few homes over the years
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With such a massive annual salary, an eight-figure book advance, and an influence that's hard to come by, it's no wonder that Tucker Carlson has gone all in on the house-buying business. As noted by theWashingtonian, Carlson and his wife once owned a $4 million home in the Kent neighborhood of Washington, D.C., described as a "serene and tranquil" area on the northwestern side of the city. The home in question featured six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a heated pool, an in-law suite, and six fireplaces. The couple decided to sell that home in 2011 and bought a different house in the Kent area, a $2 million property that boasted one more bedroom. The Washingtonian detailed that the new house — while less expensive — had seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, a two-car garage, and an au pair suite.
Don't think Carlson and his family are tied solely to Washington, D.C., though. Dirt: Real Estate Delivered noted that the Fox News host sold his Kent property for $3.95 million in the aftermath of a rather large real estate purchase in Florida. As it turns out, Carlson dropped $2.9 million on a five-bedroom, six-and-a-half bathroom house on the Gulf Coast, which is only accessible by a private road. We don't doubt that walkie-talkies are needed to communicate in the 7,400-square-foot home.
Tucker Carlson has certain family expenses
With his high profile and impressive income, it's no wonder that Tucker Carlson has influence in political and academic circles. As aforementioned, he attended St. George's School in Rhode Island — a prestigious boarding school that costs a pretty penny. It doesn't come as a huge shock, then, to learn that his daughter Hopie Carlson also attended the institution.
As noted by The Washington Independent, Hopie — one of Tucker's four children — gained a reputation for her impressive athleticism, particularly in swimming. Hopefully, the school boasts an immaculate pool and amazing coaching staff, because it costs $69,650 per yearto attend (that's if the student is living on the premises). For a regular school year, or a "day student," the cost is $48,365 a year. No matter what, that price tag is more than what most colleges charge per year, let alone high school.
Tucker's worth doesn't just extend to his finances, but to his influence as well. It just so happens that his son, Buckley W. Carlson, became a White House intern during Donald Trump's administration, as noted by Legistorm. From there, Buckley joined Representative Jim Banks' communications team, and now serves as the Indiana politician's communications director.