But The Caller’s immigration coverage has sparked intense debate among local writers and editors, reflecting a struggle that will soon reshape the Republican Party itself. Submitted articles on immigration were rejected by the editor, but supporting citations were removed, recalls one former writer. Some of Caller’s staff dismissed Mr. Munro’s news articles as little more than opinion columns, with a marked bias and often questionable facts. Patel, himself an immigrant, urged editors for more balanced reporting. Still, Mr. Carlson typically defended Mr. Munro’s stories and unequivocally agreed, as did many of The Caller’s younger employees, former employees said. On the editorial group email list, a frustrating email from Jamie Weinstein, a longtime editor, culminated in a debate in which he asked whether The Caller would now Has an official editorial stance against immigration.
Callers always attract young writers with more or less traditional conservative politics. But in the years before Trump announced his candidacy, the site’s liberal atmosphere and low barriers to entry also attracted other types of people — those with short résumés and sharp views on race and American identity. “Anything that’s popular among smart young conservatives tends to be trendy in the office,” said Jim Antle, a former editor and writer at The Caller. “When the callers started, most of the bright young conservatives were liberals. In the years since, a lot of them have been populists, nationalists — which also means they sometimes Attracted by worse things than that.”
“What We Pretend”
One of the newcomers is a young Dartmouth graduate named Blake Neff, who joined The Caller in 2014. Mr. Neff grew up in South Dakota, smart but awkward, with a ruthless personality that most of his colleagues used as an excuse for ignorance. He sometimes complains that women only like men with good looks or money. On one occasion, according to two former Caller employees, he told a co-worker she needed to find her future husband by her 30s, then walked up to a whiteboard and drew the year, month and day she left. Mr. Neff, who declined to be interviewed for this article, reports on education, mostly referring to his prolific postings about far-left professors (“Professor blames white men for her menstrual problems”) and scathing student protesters (“Hispanic student at Duke University Ask for a better office, free trophies”).
Mr Carlson quickly took Mr Neff under his wing. In August 2015, the two traveled together to a Caller colleague’s Albany wedding. When they returned, Mr. Carlson was full of praise for Mr. Neff’s intelligence. He told others that he liked Mr. Neff’s writing style — especially his satire, which included an imaginary Trump speech about Jesus that Mr. Neff wrote a month after Trump ran. (“I mean, he got beat by Pontius Pilate, and if I ever saw him, he was a loser.”) Later, when Mr. Carlson got his own Fox show, he cast Mr. Neff as a Writer brings. “Anything he reads through the teleprompter, I wrote the first draft,” Mr Neff told his university’s alumni magazine.
In his spare time, he likes to post on AutoAdmit, an online forum popular with law students and one of the digital watering holes where many young people egg each other on to be outrageous and offensive. He started a thread titled “Urban Business Idea: He Didn’t Make Muffins!”, referring to a racist joke that surfaced on Reddit following the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, where he also mocked a woman Acquaintance as “Azn megashrew”, using slang for “Asian”. In 2020, after CNN revealed that Mr. Neff was the author of the posts, Mr. Carlson distanced himself, saying they had “no connection” to “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” However, Mr. Neff’s AutoAdmit post does not appear to be a closely guarded secret from The Caller. His fellow education writer, Mr. Owens, recalled bragging about his accomplishments on the site. “It strikes me that it’s just a kid and he doesn’t understand why he shouldn’t say that, but he’s going to grow up,” Mr Owens said.