Blake Neff graduated from Dartmouth in 2013, and according to his school’s alumni magazine, “never applied to any job he’s landed.” Within four years of graduating, he was a top writer for Tucker Carlson’s nightly show on Fox News, the most watched cable news show in history. Neff’s quick ascent was due to the fact that he plugged into the right-wing media network even as an undergraduate, when he wrote for The Dartmouth Review. This storied publication, infamous for its incendiary pranks, was set up for the express purpose of cultivating right-wing journalistic talent. Just as the Review had earlier launched Dinesh D’Souza and Laura Ingraham, so it gave Neff an entry point that led to a job at The Hill, followed by work for The Daily Caller. Carlson founded the Caller in 2010 and sold his stake in it only last month. Carlson poached Neff from the paper in 2017 and brought him to Fox News.
Neff’s rapid rise in the world came to quick end on Friday when he was fired by Fox News in response to a CNN report that the writer had a double life on an online chat room where he gave vent to open racism, misogyny, and homophobia. In an extensive report by Oliver Darcy, it was revealed that Neff was a frequent poster on the site AutoAdmit, using the pseudonym CharlesXII, an allusion to an 18th century Swedish monarch Neff seems to have admired for his legendary aversion to sex and alcohol. (In 2017, when he was interviewed by a dating column at The Washington Post, Neff described alcohol as “poison” and said “most of my hobbies allow me to escape women.”)
As CharlesXII, Neff displayed a remarkable range of bigotries. Just last week, he participated in a forum entitled, “Would u let a JET BLACK congo n****er do lasik eye surgery on u for 50% off?” (The original title spelled out the offensive word.) Neff responded in the forum, “I wouldn’t get LASIK from an Asian for free, so no.” In an earlier post, Neff stated, “Black doods staying inside playing Call of Duty is probably one of the biggest factors keeping crime down.” He also made derogatory comments about gay men and repeatedly posted information about a Facebook acquaintance, whose appearance and personal life became a running target of mockery on the forum.
In firing Neff, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace tried to portray the writer as an aberration, a bad apple who had somehow wound up in an otherwise wholesome barrel. “We want to make abundantly clear that Fox News Media strongly condemns this horrific racist, misogynistic and homophobic behavior,” Scott and Wallace wrote in a memo sent to staff on Saturday. “Neff’s abhorrent conduct on this forum was never divulged to the show or the network until Friday, at which point we swiftly accepted his resignation. Make no mistake, actions such as his cannot and will not be tolerated at any time in any part of our work force.”
But Neff’s bigoted posting was no accident. Nor can it be easily separated from the work he did for Carlson. Moreover, far from being a lone wolf, Neff is clearly only one of a large cohort of white nationalists who have worked for Carlson at The Daily Caller. These writers naturally end up in Carlson’s orbit, since both the Caller and Carlson’s show promote white nationalism, albeit in terms much more euphemistic than online forums like AutoAdmit.
As CNN reports, “Sometimes, material Neff encountered on the forum found its way on to Carlson’s show…. In some cases, language Neff used on the forum ended up on the show.” Neff and CharlesXII were not a case of dueling identities like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Rather, CharlesXII was simply Neff writing in a forum where friskier language is allowed. On Fox News he expressed the same ideas, just in terms permissible to family viewing. There’s no difference in ideology, simply a difference in etiquette.
Nor is Neff the only bigot Carlson has employed. In 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center argued that “the Daily Caller has a white nationalist problem.” It reported that the website had published Jason Kessler, whose contributions to the Caller were removed after he organized the infamous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville where neo-Nazi violence led to the murder of an anti-racist activist. During the time the Caller was publishing Kessler, the site’s deputy editor was Scott Greer, who was extensively photographed keeping company with such far-right groups as the Wolves of Vinland.
The Daily Caller initially rejected criticism of Greer, but ended up severing ties with him when it turned out that he had written under a pseudonym for Radix Journal, a white nationalist publication founded by neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. According to a report in The Atlantic, “Greer expressed racist antiblack views and anti-Semitism in the Radix articles he wrote under the Michael McGregor byline, and disparaged other groups including feminists, immigrants, Christian Zionists, and the pro-life movement.”
Aside from Neff, Kessler, and Greer, at least eight other writers with white nationalist ties have written for The Daily Caller, according to a detailed survey by Media Matters. They include Jonah Bennet, who participated in a white nationalist group chat.
Having one racist in your publication might be an accident, but having a dozen (if we include Carlson himself) suggests a more sinister pattern. There is, in fact, a racist social network that has a beachhead in Carlson’s media empire.
In a 2016 e-mail, Jonah Bennet noted, “No one owns the commons of conservatism, and so it’s extremely vulnerable to outside subversion.” Even the phrase “subversion” is too exculpatory, since it suggests that the owners of The Daily Caller and Fox News don’t know what is going on. But the repeated hiring of racists of various stripes happens only because they know perfectly well that they are selling white nationalism.
According to The Washington Post, “Despite rhetoric and policies that are largely supportive of the president, Carlson has gained the appreciation of both Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch for his seeming independence from Trump, at least in comparison with Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity and Jeannine Pirro, both of whom are fervent admirers of the president.”
Fox News insiders speak of Carlson as a “hedge” in case Trump loses. Which suggests the Murdoch family thinks that Carlson’s version of white nationalism is the future of American conservatism in the post-Trump world. Neff himself may be gone, but future Neffs will dominate the right-wing media.