By Nia Molinari
I spent four years at college preparatory boarding school, and I don’t regret it. The education was fabulous, both academically and socially. I learned how to effectively navigate privileged assholes with precision, although I did not realize at the time that this was an actual skill. In retrospect, I should have used it more.
After leaving boarding school, I valiantly rebelled against my upbringing and never looked back, nearly to my demise. I never thought about my adolescence much unless something triggered a memory. And I didn’t care about politics. I thought it was all pointless. I occasionally voted in presidential elections, but was otherwise politically nihilistic.
That all changed on June 16, 2015, when that vulgar, thirsty, attention-whore freak of nature came down the escalator of his gaudy Tower of Babylon and announced he was running for President of the United States. As a former professional stripper employed by lesser mobsters, I knew what Donald Trump was. And I was terrified.
I began to read about politics: Historical. Contemporary. Domestic. International. I was obsessed with figuring out how this could have happened. I’ve now spent the last six years reading non-stop about shit I never cared about, and should have. After all, these men, these plutocratic, predatory, self-entitled sociopaths in country club clothes, have been manipulating and destroying the world my entire life. Perhaps my innate revulsion is due to my prep school upbringing, and this is why I chose to politically bury my head in the sand for so long.
One man in particular seems to be holding the privileged-prick MAGAphone at the moment—the everlasting gobstopper of gluttonous hypocrisy, one Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson.
Like Brett Kavanaugh, Tucker reminds me of the majority of the guys I went to high school with. I imagine them sitting at the country club bar in pressed khakis and slip-on penny loafers, no socks, emanating a sickening reek of Polo by Ralph Lauren. One of them is lewdly talking about the waitress’s tits, and the other is bragging about his favorite stripper’s new boob job (which he paid for), while their wives and kids have Sunday brunch across the room.
Hypotheticals aside, there’s plenty of information about Tucker out there from people who are much more politically savvy than I am. Hell, I’m still learning. This is a great overview. In March of this year, John Oliver had his own spectacular Tucker take. People wonder if he’s always been this way, and Rachel Maddow claims yep, that’s who he is: “I think the thing he gets a knock for that he doesn’t deserve is the idea that he’s evolved and changed in some radical new direction. Tucker has always been that guy. He is legitimately that guy. He is not faking it.” Maddow got her start at MSNBC on Tucker’s show, so she knows what she’s talking about.
My instinct wasn’t far off. I discovered that Tucker and I have a number of things in common: We were both raised as staunch Republicans, had a parent that bailed on us in early childhood, and then a step-parent who came from old money. We were kicked out of our first boarding school, subsequently graduated from a different prestigious boarding school, and we both have an affinity for Hunter S. Thompson.
There are plenty of Tucker grievances to write about: His daily pontification of flagrant utter disinformation bullshit, his vituperative, mass-cultural-gaslighting word salad about current events, his pretentiously smug mug and psychotic laugh, and, this week, his brazen attempt to distort and whitewash the events of January 6.
But what really bewilders me, what I really want to know, is not how but why this trust-fund troglodyte emerged from Plato’s cave of establishment yuppie scum to become the poster child of Fox News apocalyptic propaganda and incendiary white nationalism. Why Tucker Carlson, of all people—a guy who, however ugly his beliefs, is generally regarded as a decent guy to work with and work for?
He didn’t desperately need the money, and although he covered Washington, apparently his actual involvement in politics has always been, well... spotty. Seriously, how in the hell does a prep-school brat who liked to drop acid and go to Grateful Dead concerts become the main mouthpiece for overthrowing our democracy into a dystopian Christo-fascist theocratic autocracy? Talk about a walking oxymoron. As Tucker would put it, “What exactly is going on here?”
Tucker doesn’t like to talk about his childhood, specifically about his mother, Lisa McNear, an artist from San Francisco, who abruptly left her family when he was six years old to “go live a bohemian lifestyle” in France. “Totally bizarre situation—which I never talk about, because it was actually not really part of my life at all,” Carlson told the New Yorker. He might not talk about it, but in 2011, when McNear passed away and he found out she had valuable land assets in California? He and his younger brother Buckley sued their estranged deceased mother’s estate. In her will, she left everything to her second husband, except for two dollars—one each for her two estranged sons. I find all of this bizarre, and potentially telling. When Lisa McNear bailed, it was 1975. To give up custody of two young children in a divorce is unusual enough, but to leave the country entirely? Why would she take such extreme measures? Was her husband abusive? Was she fleeing domestic violence? I have no idea, but there must be some explanation, beyond the call of bohemian life.
Tucker’s father, Dick Carlson, had been a journalist with United Press International. When his wife left him, he was working for KABC-TV Los Angeles. A divorced father with full custody of two sons aged six and four, he moved to La Cholla, in Orange County, California. Four years later he remarried into old money: Patricia Swanson, of Swanson TV dinner fame. In 1983, at age 14, Tucker was shipped off to boarding school, where he met his future wife, the daughter of the new headmaster.
In 1985, Dick moved the family to Washington, where Ronald Reagan nominated him Associate Director of the United States Information Agency, the now-defunct Cold War-era agency that one of its former senior officials called a “propaganda machine.” The following year, Dick became the head of Voice of America, the broadcast arm of the USIA. In other words, Dick Carlson’s job involved disseminating propaganda disguised as news.
Tucker graduated from St. George’s School in 1987, and with the help of his girlfriend’s daddy, was admitted to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Decades later, his illustrious alma mater was the subject of a series of articles in the Boston Globe that unveiled decades of sexual abuse at St. George’s dating as far back as the 1970s—up to and including the late 1980s, during his time there and his future father in-law’s short tenure.
Let’s pause here for a moment.
What else was happening during the mid-late 1980s and early 1990s? A whole lot of odd shit that, looking back, seems relevant. In June of 1985, for example, there was this meeting of anti-Communist rebels held at the headquarters of UNITA in Jamba, Angola. Nicknamed the “Jamboree in Jamba,” but properly known as the “Democratic International,” it was organized by a group called “Citizens for America” that was connected to Oliver North. Reagan sent his speechwriter Dana Rohrabacher to this meeting, as an emissary. Who else was there besides Ollie North and Dana Rohrabacher? Oh, nobody really, just current Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, as a military translator for the Soviet Union. Jack Abramoff, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone also had their dirty digits balls-deep in all of this shit.
June of 1987, Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” speech was broadcast around the world (by Dick Carlson’s VOA), and two months later he signed the cessation of the Fairness Doctrine (which led to the rise of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, but that is an entirely different rabbit hole of awfulness). After the Reagan Administration, Dana Rohrabacher went home to Orange County, California to run for Congress. He won a seat in 1988, with fundraising help from a recently retired and criminally indicted Ollie North. In 1990 a very young Erik Prince started an internship at Bush Sr.’s White House through his buddy Paul Behrends, which led to Erik becoming Dana Rohrabacher’s first congressional intern. Bill Barr began his first term as Attorney General under Bush Sr., and halfway around the world—with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991—a dude named Sergey Kislyov, the Soviet ambassador to the Seychelles, continued on as representative of the new Russian Federation.
Okay, back to Tucker.
Carlson left Trinity College in 1991, and married his high school sweetheart shortly after. That same summer Daddy Dick was nominated by George H. W. Bush to become U.S. Ambassador to the Seychelles. Tucker spread his wings and flew out into the working world, spending nearly a decade as a (quite talented) snarky op-ed “gonzo” print journalist who was brazenly (and ironically) all about finding the truth. He tripped into TV in 1995 on a lucky fluke: “If O.J. Simpson hadn’t murdered his wife, I probably wouldn’t be working in television,” he claims in his book.
In 1997 he dumped a Bloody Mary on Grover Norquist’s head, and maybe not so coincidentally—this was while the notoriously anti-tax crusader was a lobbyist for the Seychelles (1995-1999). The same year, Tucker wrote a scathing article about Grover for The New Republic, neglecting to mention not only his father’s gig in the Seychelles, but also the fact that in 1992 Grover met with Dick in the Seychelles along with the president of the islands at the time. During this same period, Dick was donating to Dana Rohrabacher’s congressional campaigns.
Into the next decade, Tucker climbed his way up the television news ladder: first CNN, PBS, and on to MSNBC in 2005. He persevered with trashing Grover Norquist again during the Jack Abramoff scandal in 2006, and then had a short-lived stint on Dancing with the Stars, which is the only time I have ever found him truly likeable. Throughout his early television career he had a youthful lighthearted spark about him. You could tell he really enjoyed what he was doing, even if that meant being an impish little prick for profit.
Tucker and I have one other thing in common: We both know a lot about sex workers.
Why do I say this? Well, he talks about or references sex workers all the time, but not in the way someone who is personally unfamiliar with them would. For example, in this 2006 interview with Wendy Murphy about the Duke lacrosse rape case on MSNBC’s “The Situation with Tucker Carlson,” he said:
Now, everybody, apart from maybe you, knows the truth, which is the testimony of an ordinary person is different from the testimony of someone who hires herself out to dance naked in front of and, yes, and sometimes sleeps with people, strangers, right? They’re different. It’s okay to have a bias against strippers in this case, isn‘t it?
The key here is the word sometimes. Why is this telling? Because no one would use that phrasing unless he had some familiarity with sex work. Others might assume that strippers and prostitutes are one and the same—that all strippers have sex in exchange for money. Tucker seems to understand that not all strippers are hookers, and this “tell” suggests to this ex-stripper that he has known many sex workers personally over the years. Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that he avails himself of their services; I just mean he knows enough about them to speak with some authority.
He certainly doesn’t respect them, however. He is frequently a flagrant misogynist, and a creepy sexist pig, as is his brother Buckley. If the sons are sexist assholes, then there’s a pretty good chance their father is, too—which might help explain why his mother abandoned him. Tucker’s glaring misogyny was on full display in an interview with Lauren DeLuca in 2016. This entire interview feels like an abusive spouse gaslighting his wife into submission and should be used as a PSA for women to learn about emotional abuse. (I wonder if he does that to his wife and children? I hope not. The only clip I could find of the Carlsons together was on Fox and Friends for Mother’s Day, and it reminded me of the video of Melania Trump’s speech [:30] when the Creature creeps by and squeezes her arm like a warning. Gross.)
The other reason I opine that Tucker knows a lot about sex workers is that one of his good friends, Dennis Hof, was literally a pimp. Hof was the proprietor of The Moonlite Bunny Ranch (and others) outside of Reno, Nevada. Gratuitous documentaries about life at his brothel, and eventually a series—all conveniently called “Cathouse”—aired sporadically on HBO late night from 2002-2014. (The series is no longer available on HBO, best as I can tell.)
I met Hof once, in the summer of 2005 or 6. I was performing burlesque with a friend at an adult biz convention in Los Angeles. One of those adult film star and sex toy convention things that were a big deal in the late 1990s into the mid-2000s. You know, like a comic book convention, but for porn. I was walking through the crowd and noticed Dennis (I recognized him from his show). He locked eyes with me from across the room and smiled. I broke eye contact and turned another direction. A few moments later I looked up, startled. He was standing directly in front of me. “Hi. I’m Dennis,” he said with a sheepish, predatory grin, while towering over me way too close for comfort. I made up a name. He bragged about who he was, slathering on the charm. I don’t recall the rest of the small talk, I just remember feeling like cornered prey as he put his arm around me and pulled me in without invitation, while he asked me to come to his booth and also to his brothel. I made up some excuse and quickly escaped his attempt to turn me out.
Tucker was covering Ron Paul’s presidential run in Nevada in November 2007 when he randomly decided to call his good friend, Hof. Tucker later wrote about it in an article for The New Republic. Hof and Tucker supposedly became friends “while he was at MSNBC,” according to Hof, but details are scarce. Even Sean Hannity got in on the “Cathouse” action. This video (Warning: 18+ NSFW) from Hof’s 2008 birthday party gives one a glimpse of how the professional pimp lived his life, and makes one seriously wonder how exactly he and Tucker became friends. This unlikely friendship makes more sense, however, when you pay attention to Tucker’s history of abusive misogyny, his sexist comments, and the frequent random references to sex workers in his monologues and interviews.
Two years after this photo was taken at a Ron Paul event, Brooke Phillips, a brothel worker and star of “Cathouse,” was murdered in Oklahoma City. She was pregnant at the time of her death; the father was unknown. Her young life tragically ended in graphic violence, but the shows and political games must go on. “Cathouse” continued to air new specials on HBO, and in 2009, Tucker moved on to his new home at Fox News. In 2010, Tucker started The Daily Caller. His site ran hit pieces about Dem candidates and prostitutes, while he was chumming around with Hof like the hypocrite he is.
Remember Sergey Kislyov, the Soviet ambassador to the Seychelles back when Dick was there? Well, he became the Russian ambassador to Czech Republic in Prague in 2010. The following year during the 2011 Republican primaries, Tucker and his old foil Grover Norquist kissed and made up, co-hosting an RNC chair debate. Hof, his girls, and Tucker backed Ron Paul once again in 2012, albeit separately in public.
It is around this time frame that Tucker seemed to lose the lighter side of his on-air personality. His eyes became colder, and his vibe became angrier. That idealistic young gonzo reporter he once was seemed to be fading away. Was there some kind of Faustian bargain he made that caused this? Did Daddy Dick call upon him for “a favor” he couldn’t refuse? Was the change triggered by the death of his estranged mother in 2011? We don’t know, and probably never will, but something was shifting—darkening.
In February 2016, Kislyov was unexpectedly replaced as the Russian ambassador to the Czech Republic. No one seemed to be paying much attention in April 2016 when Dana Rohrabacher and Paul Behrends snuck off to meet with “a close confidant” of Vladimir Putin during a congressional delegation to Russia. Or when Erik Prince set up a meeting in Trump Tower with shady fuckers in August 2016. Or that September, when the president of the Seychelles abruptly resigned for unknown reasons.
On November 8, 2016, the Creature shocked the world by winning the presidential election; Tucker’s new show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” premiered on the Fox News airwaves the following week. Two months after that, in January 2017, Erik Prince resurfaced in the Seychelles for a meeting with a brother of MBZ of the UAE, pedophile George Nader, and Kirill Dmitriev, who was representing Putin. (What the hell is going on with the Seychelles? I guarantee you they weren’t just selling seashells down by the sea shore, that’s for damn sure!)
While his former colleague Rachel Maddow taught us about Russian oligarchs, Tucker and the other soulless Murdoch mouthpieces at Fox News vehemently defended them, along with everything else Trump. The Mueller report brought information but no relief. Michael Cohen was interrogated about a trip to Prague in 2016, as was Erik Prince (pg 87) who was also questioned about his 2017 jaunt to the Seychelles. Cohen pled guilty to numerous crimes, but Erik Prince sauntered away. The midterms came along in 2018 to give us hope, and my social-phobic ass canvassed in Orange County, California, for the first time in my life to get rid of Dana Rohrabacher. Dana lost his seat, even with his buddy Erik Prince’s help.
Do you know who won his election during those same 2018 midterms? Dennis Hof— and this was even more remarkable, because he was dead!
After the “Cathouse” shows ended in 2014, Hof decided to dive into politics. In 2016, he ran for the 36th District seat in the Nevada Assembly, the lower house of the state legislature, as a Libertarian, and lost. Then he jumped on the MAGA wagon as a Republican in December 2016. He announced his candidacy to run for the seat again in August 2017. Hof had some shit to say about Stormy Daniels, as Tucker attacked her lawyer Michael Avenatti on the regular, calling him the “Creepy Porn Lawyer.” In April of 2018 Roger Stone started pimping for the pimp, and in June 2018 Hof won the GOP primary. The publicity surrounding his run was gaining momentum with interviews in Rolling Stone and GQ. Grover Norquist met with Hof that August about tax reform (They already knew each other, originally in a “green room at Fox News”, but we don’t know when).
Tucker and Avenatti nearly came to blows on the air in September 2018 over Stormy, with Tucker coming to her defense. The interview is so weird. Watching two power-hungry, manipulative men fight over defending an adult film actress is so freaky and absurd. In retrospect, Tucker’s friendship with pimp Dennis Hof and Avenatti’s criminality makes the whole thing even more unsettling and bizarre:
In the meantime, there was an underground problem bubbling to the surface. In 2015, buzz on the internet began humming about long-term abuse from Dennis Hof, detailed in this article and also this blog post. The feds didn’t seem to care initially, but somehow it picked up steam without much mainstream media coverage. Hof’s brothels were being accused of sexual abuse, and while Hof was meeting with Roger Stone and Grover Norquist about his election, HBO quietly pulled all of its late-night adult programming, including the “Cathouse” documentaries and episodes.
That August, Dennis posted about his yearly October week-long debauched iniquity birthday party, announcing that one must inquire for an invite. On October 6, 2018, Reuters reported on the decades of ongoing sex trafficking and other criminal abuses at Hof’s properties alleged by law enforcement. Despite the lurid nature of the story, the mainstream media more or less ignored it. Dennis responded with a tweet, claiming innocence.
On the night of his final birthday, October 14, Hof gave a long speech, mentioning his intention to run for governor of Nevada at the behest of Roger Stone. The next night, he threw another party at the Nugget casino in Pahrump, a merging of continued birthday revelry with a political-rally twist. The attendees included not only the regular Hof crowd, but Grover Norquist and Joe Arpaio. His buddy Tucker called in from his show to offer birthday greetings. This is where Dennis Hof’s final interview took place. He was found dead from a heart attack 16 hours later by his longtime best friend, the porn star Ron Jeremy, in the same suite at the Love Ranch brothel—and even the same bed—in which Lamar Odam had overdosed and nearly died three years earlier.
Hof posthumously won his seat in the 36th district seat in the Nevada assembly in November 2018. The mainstream media covered this for about a week, then moved on. A few articles surfaced of any mention, like this one in The New Yorker, or this one from a former personal assistant of Hof’s, but the stories never penetrated the bubble.
After the 2018 midterms:
“Tucker Carlson Tonight” has continued to receive top ratings.
Dana Rohrabacher moved to Maine after losing his seat in CA48 in the 2018 midterms, and then attended the J6 insurrection in full arrogant glory. He now lives 90 minutes away from Tucker Carlson’s place in Maine—two hours, on the backroads without toll fees and cameras.
In February 2019, Dennis Hof’s longtime friend and personal pilot Anthony Pastini died in a plane crash in California.
Grover Norquist and Erik Prince continue on with their own agenda, with Prince appearing frequently on Tucker’s show.
Roger Stone was pardoned by the Creature, and aided in the insurrection of J6.
Rohrabacher and Prince associate Paul Behrends died suddenly in December 2020 from a mysterious blow to the head after a fall not far from his home.
In June 2021, Ron Jeremy was arrested for decades of sexual assault.
In July 2021 Dennis Hof’s personal assistant Zack Hames passed away.
I’m not sure what all of this means. The people closest to Hof are now dead, in jail, or not talking. I have so many questions that I cannot find answers to about Tucker Carlson’s connections to all of this, how he became entangled, and why he has chosen to go to the dark side. The power his father has, his connections to powerful and dangerous people, is very real. Tucker’s recent trip to Hungary and his disgraceful promotion of Viktor Orban—Dick Carlson is a lobbyist for the autocratic Hungarian president—coincide with when his people began researching and shooting “Patriot Purge,” his crafted piece of propaganda about the insurrection that attempts to distort the events of January 6.
What I do know is that if Tucker does not come clean about all of this, he will be forever known as a scumbag propagandist that aided and abetted in destroying this country. Is that really what he wants? I thought he aspired to do something meaningful with his life, to break away from the legacy of his overbearing father. Apparently he is just another prep-school brat afraid to lose access to his trust fund.
I have more integrity in my dirty, rebellious, retired G-string than this asshole has in his entire multimillionaire bank account. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore. Tucker Carlson speaking with attendees at the 2020 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.