Tucker Carlson co-founded The Daily Caller, became the youngest anchor in CNN history, and has hosted primetime shows on MSNBC and Fox News, and there is a very good chance none of those things would be true if not for his father, Dick Carlson.
The elder Carlson was a reporter who became director of Voice of America and president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting before serving as the U.S. ambassador to Seychelles under President George H.W. Bush.
On Friday’s show, Megyn and Carlson discussed what it was like growing up with a father who was a prominent media personality and how it shaped his own life and career.
Who Is Dick Clark?
As Megyn explained, media is in Tucker’s blood. “Before there was Tucker Carlson Tonight, there was Tucker Carlson, little boy in California with a dad who was a muckety-muck in the media industry,” she shared. “Dick Carlson was kind of a big deal.” In his book, Tucker described his dad as “smart,” “curious,” “relentlessly skeptical,” and “impossible to bullshit,” which Megyn said “sounds like the mark of a good reporter.”
Dick overcame much adversity early in life. As Tucker explained, his dad was an orphan and contracted rickets while living in an orphanage. That led to his legs not being able to bend normally even as an adult. He got in trouble with the law as a teenager, which led him to join the Marine Corps. at 17.
Throughout those trials and tribulations, he remained unphased. “Sometimes people who undergo hardship as kids become really bitter, and then there’s another group that become just relentlessly optimistic, and cheerful, and never complain about anything, and are always charging forward to a happier future,” Tucker explained. “That is very much my father.” Even so, he was no one’s fool. “He’s definitely no one to mess with,” he emphasized. “I mean at all.”
Tucker Carlson’s Relationship with His Dad
Tucker and his brother were raised by Dick after their biological mother left the family and moved to France when he was just six years old. “We were unusually close to him… and spent a huge amount of time with him,” he recalled. “My mother flaked out when I was little… in the mid-1970s, and it was pretty unusual for a father to be raising kids alone.”
Dick later remarried a “wonderful woman” who Tucker said he is “grateful to,” but that didn’t change his relationship with his dad. “It was essentially the greatest childhood ever,” he shared. “We really loved our dad… He was a very kind person but a very tough person.”
Megyn noted that Tucker was able to remain optimistic, much like his father, despite the hardships of his own childhood. Tucker said he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. “By contemporary standards, we were raised without… a ton of the normal guardrails,” he said. “But my brother and I have said a million times how thankful we are that we grew up as we did.”
How Tucker’s Dad Shaped His Career
Dick encouraged his son to pursue a career in journalism less because it mirrored his own professional journey and more because it suited his skillset. Regardless, Tucker said he learned a lot from his dad. “My father was the kind of guy who… is very intense, intellectual… a passionate reader, interested in everything,” he shared.
But there was another side to him as well. “If you push him in the shoulder… [he’d] punch out – he was that kind of guy,” Tucker said. “He’s just from a different time.” He recalled a situation when his dad cursed on air while he was an anchor at an ABC affiliate in Los Angeles. The next day, a girl at school started telling everyone his dad was crazy, which Tucker did not have time for. He said he passionately screamed back “My dad is not crazy!” in his defense.
Thinking back on that story, Tucker had a simple realization: “I really revered him,” he concluded. “And I still do.”
You can check out Megyn’s full 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.