How much would it take for you to publicly pledge allegiance to a man you privately loathe? Not just once, but night after night, in a pair of stale khaki pants? Really think about it: How much would it take for you to sell out, knowing full well your own lies convince others to live in delusion?
I posed the question in a newsletter this week upon learning that Tucker Carlson, a man who reportedly rakes in somewhere between $10 to $35 million a year, privately fumes about hating Donald Trump “passionately,” despite Carlson playing one of the most prominent MAGA diehards on television.
Now, we’d all like to believe that we’re above such moral depravity. And so, as expected, most of our readers responded with a version of “there isn’t enough money in the world.” A sampling: “There’s not enough money on this planet”; “No amount of money”; “NO AMOUNT OF MONEY”; “No price”; “There aren’t enough jewels, there isn’t enough money or real estate in the universe.”
Others seemed to take blood oaths against such an act. “I would rather be put in front of a firing squad,” one reader said. Others imagined taking the money, then using it for good: “It would take all the wealth of the world which I would then redistribute to every single soul on this earth equally.”
But I appreciated those who did name a price. “10 million per year,” Doug said in a simple one-liner.
Fair enough. But I still know myself: I’m a woman in a deeply capitalist society where childcare can cost twice as much as a mortgage, my 401K has taken some recent hits, and I love martinis. So, the next morning, upon mindlessly chattering to my husband about the Carlson texts, the conversation took an unexpected turn: Well, so how much would it take for us?
As it happened, we were on hold with His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the United Kingdom’s version of the Internal Revenue Service, in order to finally get a sizable payment returned to our account after having left the UK two years ago. Which is to say, money was on the mind. I began to do some math.
But first, some parameters. Becoming Tucker Carlson would have to guarantee some basic, typically out-of-reach luxuries. For us, the two obvious ones would be: 1) a life without work, 2) being able to afford every piece of childcare assistance available to mankind to help raise our toddler. I’m talking nannies, car seats, tutors, the best snacks, soccer coaches, daycare, summer camp. Still, even in this unthinkably lavish scenario, we felt it was important to maintain our personalities. That means no yachts or fine jewelry.
When we tried to break that down annually, we agreed that roughly $500,000 a year would probably be a sufficient starting point. (Note: It’s become apparent that I need to emphasize that this number is based on our current real salaries and childcare expenses.) But lighting your soul on fire to become someone like Carlson is no small thing; we needed to think bigger—a lot bigger. After all, the rich parents of the world are apparently still miserable and if I’m going to ditch my values, the one thing I’d like to avoid is financial anxiety. We kept going.
In this plot, we agreed that we would probably lose all of our friends. But authentic human connection is important, even when you’re Tucker Carlson. So we figured more money could at least allow us to have more children and effectively raise people forced to forge personal bonds with us. So we tripled our initial numbers: $1.2 to $1.5 million annually. Stick in a bloated martini budget and you get about $1.5 million to $1.7 million. Then there’s the security detail we’d probably need for becoming some atrocious people. I couldn’t find how much Carlson pays for the stuff but according to one report, Trump spent at least $1.3 million in the 12 months since he left office. My husband and I adjusted that down to $500,000 for our new lives as toxic shitbags.
Totaled up, that’s still paltry compared to what Carlson gets paid to lie and spew hate for a living.
It was fun to imagine. But thinking about it for a few more beats, I realized that as incredibly flawed as I am, what it takes to be Tucker Carlson is something I simply do not have: a drive of personal ambition so hot that it burns every piece of moral restraint. I don’t have a worldview that could ignore mass hatred. The shame, which would justifiably pass down to my kids, would be unbearable. I’m grateful to have friends that would rightfully divorce me.
And so I’ll stay here I think, at my kitchen table; I’m still on the phone with His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.