Most people know Tucker Carlson as the host of his eponymous primetime show on Fox News or the co-founder of The Daily Caller, but the conservative commentator was practically born into the media. His father, Dick Carlson, was a reporter who became director of Voice of America and president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Carlson and his younger brother spent most of their childhood in southern California with their father and stepmother after his biological mother left the family when he was just six years old and moved to France.
The abandonment and his feelings about it are not something Carlson regularly discusses, but he opened up to Megyn about how his upbringing and his mother’s more recent passing have influenced his life.
On Growing Up in SoCal
As Megyn explained, being left by a parent “can lead to doubts about being lovable, difficulty trusting people, and, in most kids, it will lead the child to blame himself.” When asked if he was affected in this way, Carlson admitted he likely was. “I had periods in my younger life when I partied too much for real – not just have too many beers at a party, but like actually party too much,” he recalled. “I look back on that and I think I learned some stuff from those experiences, but I also wonder: Why did I behave that way?”
The Fox News host says he never talks about his mom because he never wants to be seen as “whiny” and largely interprets his childhood as a “positive thing.” Even so, her behavior left a mark. “Our mom was not a fan of us and was pretty direct about it, and that obviously hurts when you’re little,” Carlson explained. “But then I realized you can’t control it. Your mother doesn’t like you? Okay, boo-hoo. It sounds really terrible, but it’s not up to me how she feels.”
This turned into a life lesson. “I think in later life the lesson that I internalized from that was you really can’t control how other people feel, so you just kind of have to be happy with who you are,” he shared. Starting a family of his own was also a priority. “I got married at 22 and had four kids,” he said. “I just had this drive to have a really close, normal, happy family with dinners together where no one’s doing anything weird.”
The “weird” part came from what he witnessed growing up outside of Los Angeles. “I grew up in Southern California at a time when people were doing really weird stuff – like really weird even by modern standards,” he recalled. The Eagles were his next door neighbor, and Carlson calls it a “just a wild time in the country.” As an adult, he was looking to get as far away from that as possible. “I didn’t want that – I wanted a totally happy family where everyone’s close, and everyone’s named after someone else, and everyone gets together all the time,” he said. “And I’ve had that, and it’s the greatest thing in my life, and I really do not take that for granted.”
On Not Caring What People Think
Carlson learned early on that he can’t control how people feel, which also helped him pay no mind to his critics. “Criticism from people who hate me doesn’t really mean anything to me,” he told Megyn.
As he explained it, he “cares deeply” about what his wife, kids, friends, and colleagues think of him. But, beyond that, he’s not really too concerned. “The [Anti-Defamation League] or some partisan who runs it doesn’t like me? I don’t care,” he said. “I’m not giving those people emotional control over me. I’ve been through that. I’ve lived through that as a child. I’m not doing that again.”
On His Mother’s Death
When Carlson’s mother passed away a few years ago, he had not spoken to her since she left. He learned she was nearing the end of her life from a relative who called to tell him that she was in France and dying. This was something he had long dreaded because he wasn’t sure how he would feel about the news. “For years I would say to my wife, ‘I hope it doesn’t trigger some collapse or I go crazy.’”
When the time did come, however, nothing of the sort transpired. “The day it actually happened, I got this call like, ‘She’s dying… you should go visit her,’” Carlson shared. “So, I called my brother and he’s like, ‘What? No, my son’s got a soccer game.’ And I said, ‘I feel the same way. I don’t know this person.’” As he described it, he had come to terms with her departure from his life some 35 years before. “This sounds cold or whatever, but I had already
kind of made my peace with this over many decades,” he said. “I didn’t fall apart at all.”
Ultimately, as Megyn noted, this woman may have given birth to him but she was not his mom. “That’s how I felt,” Carlson concluded. “I had a mother – my dad got remarried to someone I think of as my mother who I really, really love.”
You can check out Megyn’s entire interview with Carlson by tuning in to episode 167 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.