Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Fox News leadership on Tuesday to stop amplifying the racist “great replacement” theory cited by the man accused of killing people this weekend in a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York.
“I write to urge you to immediately cease the reckless amplification of the so-called ‘Great Replacement’ theory on your network’s broadcasts,” Schumer wrote in an open letter addressed to News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Fox News has given considerable airtime to promoting the “great replacement” theory, the idea that elites are trying to replace white Americans with nonwhite people. Fox News host Tucker Carlson has given it particular attention: He promoted the conspiracy theory in more than 400 episodes, according to a recent New York Times analysis.
It’s also gone mainstream with some GOP politicians, who often wink at the theory in anti-undocumented immigrant remarks.
The conspiracy theory has had deadly consequences, as Schumer noted in his letter.
In 2018, a mass shooter who killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue blamed Jews for allowing “invaders” into the U.S. The following year, a man who’d complained about “the Hispanic invasion of Texas” killed 23 people in an El Paso Walmart.
And over the weekend, a white man shot 13 people in Buffalo. The accused shooter, Payton Gendron, is believed to have posted a 180-page racist screed citing the replacement theory.
“In a manifesto posted online, the individual responsible for this heinous murder wrote that the shoppers there came from a culture that sought to ‘ethnically replace my own people,’” Schumer wrote in his letter to Fox News.
In his first episode since the shooting in Buffalo, Carlson denied any culpability for spreading the racist theory. “The document is not recognizably left-wing or right-wing,” Carlson said Monday. “It’s not really political at all.”
In response to a query about the Schumer letter, a Fox spokesperson referred HuffPost to Carlson’s remarks on his broadcast.
“There is only one answer to rising racial tension and that is to deescalate and do what we have done and tried to do for hundreds of years, which has work toward colorblind meritocracy, and treat people as human beings created by God, rather than as faceless members of interest groups that might benefit some political party or other,” Carlson said.
There’s not much question that the idea of a migrant invasion, engineered by shadowy elites to marginalize white people, has emerged as a Republican talking point in recent years. On Monday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), called out House GOP leaders for enabling “white nationalism” in the Republican conference, in an apparent reference to replacement-themed rhetoric from lawmakers like Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).
Schumer also blasted Fox News in a Senate floor speech on Monday, saying the “great replacement” theory had previously been confined to “deranged minds” and fringe internet chat rooms, but it increasingly appears on cable news.
“In a craven quest for viewers and ratings, organizations like Fox News have spent years perfecting the craft of stoking cultural grievance and political resentment that eerily mirrors the messages found in replacement theory,” Schumer said.
Schumer’s broadsides against Fox represent something of a strategy shift, since Democrats in past years have typically responded to mass shootings by lamenting the scourge of gun violence and advocated for expanded background checks for gun buyers.
Later Tuesday, Schumer tweeted that Carlson invited him on his show to discuss the letter. Schumer said no.