“We’re back,” he tweeted an hour before his Monday night show. In doing so, the March 22 tweet referencing Levine appears to have been deleted.
Carlson, whose show falsely suggested in a chyron that the world’s richest man had “unshackled” the previously suspended Fox host by purchasing Twitter, said Musk’s purchase could be a “pivot point” for conservatives who have made unsubstantiated accusations that tech companies are censoring their speech.
“The reason that today’s sale of Twitter is big news — the reason it could turn out to be a pivot point in our history — is that Elon Musk does not agree with the rest of the billionaires in the tech business,” Carlson said, quoting a tweet from Musk earlier in the day about free speech.
Carlson wasn’t the only Fox personality who said they were coming back to Twitter because of Musk. He was joined by Fox News host Mark Levin, who also announced he returned to the platform “thanks to new ownership.” Others such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), whose personal account was permanently suspended earlier this year for spreading pandemic misinformation, predicted she would have her account restored when Musk takes over.
“Prepare for blue check mark full scale meltdown after @elonmusk seals the deal and I should get my personal Twitter account restored,” she tweeted.
The reaction from conservatives comes as Musk is expected to command a highly influential social media site that serves as a platform for political leaders, a sounding board for experts across industries and an information hub for millions of everyday users. Ownership of Twitter gives Musk, who said he sees the platform as essential to the functioning of democracy, power over hugely consequential societal and political issues, perhaps most significantly the ban on former president Donald Trump that the site enacted in response to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Even as conservatives said it was “a great week to free @realdonaldtrump” and called for Musk to reinstate him, the former president told Fox News on Monday that he did not plan to rejoin Twitter. Whether Musk will rescind Trump’s ban in the name of unfettered free speech remains unclear. For now, Trump said he will be posting to Truth Social, a Twitter clone that has staked its existence on the exclusive use of his online brand.
“I want everybody to come over to TRUTH — conservatives, liberals, whatever,” Trump said. “The response on TRUTH is much better than being on Twitter.”
Musk is about to take over a platform whose users largely identify as Democrats or liberals. Recent data found that 67 percent of Twitter users lean Democratic, compared with 30 percent who lean Republican, CNN reported.
Carlson was locked out of his account of more than 5 million followers last month after he tweeted that it was “true” to describe Levine, a transgender woman, as being a man. The Fox News host agreed with the conservative accounts for the Babylon Bee and activist Charlie Kirk, which were both suspended for calling her “man.” The Babylon Bee went so far as to call Levine its “Man of the Year” for 2022.
“But wait. Both of these tweets are true,” Carlson wrote, according to screenshots of the since-deleted tweet.
While the chyron on his Monday night show suggested that Musk “restored” free speech and Carlson’s account, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed to The Washington Post that Carlson was suspended for “violating the Twitter Rules on hateful conduct.” Such rules include the “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” according to Twitter.
“The account owner was required to delete the violative Tweet and spend 12 hours in read-only mode before regaining full access to their account,” the spokesperson said.
It’s unclear when the tweet referencing Levine was deleted from Carlson’s timeline. A Fox News spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday.
On his show Monday, Carlson referenced Musk’s tweet about how the billionaire hopes “that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.” Carlson then went on to repeat the often-used argument from conservatives that big tech was allegedly stifling their free speech.
“Unlike the leaders of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, Elon Musk believes in free speech. He thinks everyone should be allowed to talk, including people who disagree with him,” Carlson said. “Now that sounds like an entirely American sentiment, but in this atmosphere that is a revolutionary posture.”
As conservatives on social media echoed Carlson’s support of Musk’s Twitter takeover, liberal critics were quick to point out that the Fox host’s return to the platform came after the Levine tweet was taken down.
“Tucker Carlson’s social media team is implying that this has something to do with Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter but actually it’s that they just deleted the tweet for which they were suspended, which misgendered Admiral Rachel Levine,” tweeted Ari Drennen, the LGBTQ coordinator for the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America.
But Carlson, who did not address the status of his Twitter account on his show, argued that Musk taking over the platform was “the left’s worst nightmare.”
“After today you will be able to post your dissent in a place where other people might have a reasonable chance of seeing it,” he said. “In other words: You will have a chance to change other people’s minds.”
Josh Dawsey, Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg contributed to this report.