Dick Carlson

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Dick Carlson
United States Ambassador to Mauritius and United States Ambassador to Seychelles
In office
October 1, 1991 – July 5, 1992
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byJames B. Moran
Succeeded byMack F. Mattingly
Director of United States Information Agency
In office
March 1, 1985 – November 10, 1986
PresidentRonald Reagan
Personal details
Richard Boynton

(1941-02-10) February 10, 1941 (age 78)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political partyRepublican
Lisa McNear Lombardi (div.)
Patricia Swanson (m. 1979)
Children2 (including Tucker)
Alma materUniversity of Mississippi
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy

Richard Warner Carlson (born Richard Boynton; February 2, 1941) is an American former journalist, who was director of the Voice of America during the last six years of the Cold War. At the same time, he led Radio Marti broadcasting to Cuba, and was director of the U.S. Information Agency and the USIA Documentary Film Service.[1] Carlson has been a newspaper and wire service reporter, a magazine writer, a TV and radio correspondent, a documentary filmmaker, and is the father of conservative pundit Tucker Carlson.

Early life[edit]

Carlson was born the son of college student Richard Boynton and Dorothy Anderson, 18 and 15 years old, respectively.[2] He was born with rickets and mildly bent legs, as Anderson had starved herself to keep the pregnancy a secret.[3]

Six weeks after he was born, Carlson was given to an orphanage in Boston, The Home for Little Wanderers.[3] The home ran a classified ad about him in the local papers, under the headline: "Home Wanted for Foundling." Florence Moberger, a housewife in Malden, was the only person to respond.[3]

Florence Moberger and her husband Carl had three children –– Bill, 15, George, 10, and Carol, 7 –– and wanted more, but were unable to get pregnant again.[3][4] Carl and Florence agreed to foster Carlson until a family wanted to adopt him.

Carlson lived with the Mobergers for over two years and stated that he developed a deep bond with the family. During that time, Carlson claimed many prospective parents came to visit him, including his birth mother, Anderson, posing as her own sister.[3]

His birth father, Boynton, asked Anderson to help him kidnap Carlson and run away to get married. The night Anderson refused his offer, Boynton committed suicide two blocks from her house.[3][5]

In 1943, Carlson was adopted by a wool broker and his wife –– the Carlson family.[5][6] Carlson's adopted father died when he was twelve.[5]

Carlson joined the Marine Corp when he was 17 and was trained as a medical corpsman.[5] Carlson also purchased his first tuxedo at 17, stating he did so because he began "developing a taste for the high society. He once described himself as "ebullient...like Nelson Rockefeller."[5]

Carlson attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School and the University of Mississippi through an ROTC program, holding odd jobs in between the breaks.[5] He was discharged in 1962 and did not graduate.[5] He then moved to Los Angeles.


Gonzo journalism[edit]

When Carlson was 22, he got a job working as a "copy boy" for night city editor, Glenn Binford, at the LA Times.[5] There, he met and befriended Carl Lance Brisson, the son of actress, Rosalind Russell.[5]

In 1963, Carlson became a reporter for United Press International.[5] On his two days off, he wrote for Hearst movie columnist, Louella Parsons, in her Beverly Hills office. He also wrote for UPI’s Foreign Film Bureau writing fan magazine stories under editor, Henry Gris, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Two years later, Carlson and Brisson went to San Francisco to try to establish themselves, working as freelance gonzo television reporters, producing news features to sell for local and national distribution.[5] They made less than $100 per week, until they were hired full-time by KGO-TV in San Francisco.[5]

Carlson and Brisson became best known for a magazine article in Look Magazine, in which they linked Mayor Joseph Alioto to organized crime and, subsequently, ending his career.[5] Alioto later filed $12 million libel lawsuit against the magazine.[5] A federal judge found the article to be "false and defamatory" and "made with actual malice and disregard for the truth."[5] Legal technicalities prevented Carlson and Brisson from being held as defendants in the trial. The judge awarded $350,000 to Alioto, and the legal costs helped bring about the demise of Look Magazine.[5] Carlson stood by the story, claiming several of their sources refused to testify or died.[5]

Investigative journalism[edit]

In 1971, Carlson was hired by KABC-TV in Los Angeles.[5] Working with producer, Pete Noyes, Carlson won several awards, including a Peabody Award for an exposé they produced about car promotion fraud.[5]

In 1975, Noyes took a job at KFMB-TV in San Diego, and asked Carlson to join him as a combination news anchorman and investigative reporter. However, Carlson walked away from the job after 18 months, tiring of news, calling it a "kid's game" that was "insipid, sophomoric and superficial" and laced with "a lot of arrogance and hypocrisy."[5] He admitted to being part of that hypocrisy, by slighting a piece he did that outed a local tennis player, Dr. Renée Richards, as a transsexual woman:[5]

"There are so many other things I think are important and interesting but the media can be counted on to do handstands over that kind of scandal and sexual sensation."[5]


In 1977, Carlson joined the San Diego Federal Savings and Loan, (later, Great American First Savings), a savings and loan headed by former cabinet member and close friend of Ronald Reagan, Gordon Luce, as its Public Affairs Director.[7] Within three years, he became the Vice President of Finance.[2]

Great American First Savings was mired in controversy due to the banks political connections. For example, in 1984, the bank received negative press for allowing Edwin Meese, advisor to Ronald Reagan, to be 15 months delinquent on his mortgage.[7] That same year, bank officers were accused of receiving federal jobs in exchange for being favorable toward Meese. Luce stated that he saw the loans to Meese as the "natural evolution" of mixing business, politics and friendship.[7]

In 1981, the investigative television magazine 60 Minutes had Mike Wallace interview Carlson about controversial home foreclosures executed by the bank, in which the bank had been accused of duping low-income Californians.[5] Carlson hired a camera crew to videotape the interview and, when the 60 Minutes cameras were not rolling during a commercial break, caught Wallace making a racist joke about blacks and Hispanics:

"'You bet your ass [the contracts are] hard to read'...if you're reading them over watermelon or tacos."[8][9]

Wallace was forced to apologize, and Carlson left Great American in early 1983 to go into politics.

1984 Mayoral Campaign[edit]

In 1983, Carlson sought to obtain an appointment to the La Jolla Board of Supervisors; however, he was not awarded the appointment.[2]

The following year, Carlson decided to run for mayor of La Jolla in what became a contentious campaign against incumbent, Roger Hedgecock, who was under indictment for perjury and conspiracy.[2][5]

Carlson was criticized for numerous infractions throughout his campaign. For example, he was criticized for speaking of his candidacy in terms of political strategy, without mentioning a vision or plans for the city.[5] He was criticized for being "long on generalities and platitudes, but short on specifics."[7] He was criticized as naivë for saying that the city wasn't run by the mayor, but by the city manager.[2] He was further criticized for pledging not to spend his own money on the campaign, but going on to spend nearly $225,000 of his own money, and by "gay-baiting" –– falsely claiming that Hedgecock was supported by the gay community in an effort to turn voters away from Hedgecock.[7] Carlson also had a comic, at one of his major fundraisers, told a series of racist jokes for which Carlson later apologized.[7]

Carlson's campaign came under scrutiny for its close ties to Great American First Savings, which had direct ties to the White House. Thirty employees donated over $4,000, each, to his campaign, while only one employee donated to Hedgecock.[7] When pressed on the connection, and on other campaign issues, Carlson began to skipping candidate forums, and members of the press deemed it increasingly difficult to get ahold of him, with Carlson often not responding to the press for periods of two weeks at a time.[7] Carlson also lacked more exposure because Hedgecock, calling Carlson "a minor candidate," refused to debate him.[2]

"There are two major questions in voters' minds. The first is whether Roger Hedgecock has compromised the office of mayor sufficient to the point where people feel he should be turned out. The other is whether Dick Carlson is competent and qualified to be mayor. On November 6, I think the majority of people will answer 'yes' to both questions."[7] – Dick Carlson, Oct. 21, 1984

After spending $1.2 million on the campaign, and outspending Hedgecock by a 2:1 margin, Carlson lost the election.[10]

Voice of America[edit]

In the summer of 1986, President Reagan announced his intention to nominate Carlson as an Associate Director of the United States Information Agency to succeed Ernest Eugene Pell.

Carlson became the director of Voice of America, a U.S. government-funded state owned[1] multimedia agency which serves as the United States federal government's official institution for non-military, external broadcasting.[11] It broadcasts 24 hours a day in nearly 50 languages to more than 130 million people around the world, with a full-time staff of 3,000 and a part-time staff of 1200.

Carlson was the longest-running director-general in its 50-year history.


In June 1991, Carlson left Voice of America after President George H. W. Bush nominated him to be the U.S. ambassador to the Seychelles.[11]


In March 1992, Carlson became the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a "private corporation funded by the American people" that produces and distributes programming for public broadcasting.[12][13]

During his tenure, the Republican Party began its official shift on public broadcasting when it added a plank to its platform condemning public media as "misguided," "ridiculous," and undeserving of government support.[14] The party's official position was that public media had a liberal bias and "the party looked forward to" the privatization of the system.[14]

Critics decried that Republicans were weaponizing public broadcasting in order to make it an election issue against candidates against candidates who supported it.[14] Carlson was against the platform change:

"The Republicans are misinformed. They are putting the blame on the wrong outfit."[14]

Carlson remained at CPB for five years.[15]

King World Public[edit]

In 1997, he became president and CEO of King World Public Television, a subsidiary of King World Productions, the syndicator of Oprah, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, among other successful TV shows, until the network was purchased, in the summer of 1999, by CBS for $2.5 billion.[16]

Foreign relations[edit]

Carlson has testified dozens of times before various U.S. Congressional committees, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Relations Committee. He has also been involved in negotiations on behalf of the U.S. government with many foreign governments, including those of China, Korea, the USSR, Germany, Costa Rica, Belize, Liberia, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Morocco and Israel.

In 1990, Carlson jointly addressed the Israeli Knesset with Malcolm Forbes, Jr. Three years later, he jointly addressed the Britain's House of Commons with Richard Branson.

In 1994, Carlson was an international observer at the first democratic elections in South Africa.

In 1997, he was an international observer at the Parliamentary Elections in Albania, overseeing polling places in the lawless region near the Greek border.

In 2003, Carlson became the vice-chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the counter-terrorism institute in Washington, D.C. and Brussels, Belgium. He held the position for eight years.[17]

From 1992 to 1997, he was also president of InterMedia, the global research consulting firm which conducts opinion surveys government agencies in over 75 foreign countries. He is currently its Chairman.[18]

Carlson was an advisor of the Institute for the Study of Terrorism & Political Violence.[17] He is also a long-time member of the European Broadcasting Union and the Asian Broadcasting Union.


Carlson co-wrote Snatching Hillary, A Satirical Novel (Tulip Hill Publishing, 2014, ISBN 0692337008) with Bill Cowan.[19]

He is the author of books: Women in San Diego's History (1977), Free and Fair: The Last Two Weeks of Apartheid (1995), and Why Dogs Talk on Christmas Eve. (2014).[citation needed]

He writes a weekly newspaper column, often about terrorism and national security, for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review[20] and the Charleston Mercury.[21] He is a former political gossip columnist writing, "The Shadow Knows", for The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C. with Bill Regardie.[22]

Personal life[edit]

In 1967, Carlson married artist, Lisa McNear (née Lombardi). They had two sons –– Tucker McNear Carlson (later, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson), born in 1969, and Buckley Peck Carlson (later, Buckley Swanson Peck Carlson).[23]

In 1976, Carlson and Lombardi divorced after the nine-year marriage reportedly "turned sour."[23][24] Carlson was granted custody of Tucker and Buckley. Tucker Carlson would later claim that his mother left the family when he was six, wanting to pursue a "bohemian" lifestyle.[25][26]

In 1979, Carlson married fellow divorcée, Patricia Caroline Swanson, an heiress to the Swanson frozen-food fortune. Swanson is the daughter of Gilbert Carl Swanson and the niece of Senator J. William Fulbright.[26][27] This was the third marriage for Swanson who legally adopted Carlson and his brother.[28][27]

Carlson was said to be an active father who had a specific outlook in raising his sons:

I want them to be self-disciplined to the degree that I think is necessary to find satisfaction...you measure a person on how far they go, on how far they've sprung. My parents, the Carlsons, they instilled a modesty in me that, at times, gets in my way...I know it's immodest of me to say it, but it's difficult sometimes when you want to beat your own drum and say what you really think.

In 1984, Carlson was in business with Karon Luce, wife of savings and loan executive –– and close friend of President Reagan –– Gordon Luce, manufacturing modular cabinets.[5]

Carlson has an honorary doctor of law degree from the California Western School of Law in San Diego.[citation needed]

Carlson and his wife live in Chevy Chase, Maryland and in a small Virginia town on the Chesapeake Bay. They have a summer home on an island in Maine.


  1. ^ "George Bush: Nomination of Richard W. Carlson To Be United States Ambassador to the Seychelles". www.Presidency.UCSB.edu. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Tony Knight (May 27, 1984). "Hoping for a runoff". Escondido, California: Times-Advocate.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dick Carlson (August 8, 1993). "MY 40-YEAR GOODBYE". Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post.
  4. ^ Sixteenth Census of the United States: Carl G Moberger, United States Census, 1940; Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts; roll m-t0627-01609, page 10A,, enumeration district 9-254.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Scott Harris (May 6, 1984). "Carlson Takes on Embattled Mayor". Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ Politics with Principle: Ten Characters with Character - By Michael J. Kerrigan
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Scott Harris (November 25, 1984). "Luce, Great American are part of Power Elite". Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ "Michigan Newsman Apologizes for Racist Remarks". Miami Herald: 13A. May 4, 1987.
  9. ^ Thomas, Cal (February 19, 1990). "In Andy Rooney Case, CBS Loses Enthusiasm for Free Speech". St. Paul Pioneer Press: 11A.
  10. ^ Associated Press (February 5, 1985). "Carlson Outspent Hedgecock as the Loser in Mayor's Race". Escondido, California: Times-Advocate.
  11. ^ a b Associated Press (June 8, 1991). "Bush raids own staff for "Voice" radio director". San Bernardino, California: San Bernardino County Sun.
  12. ^ "CPB - A Private Corporation Funded by the American People". www.CPB.org. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  13. ^ "Morning Report". Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles Times. March 27, 1992.
  14. ^ a b c d Sharon Bernstein (August 20, 1992). "Officials Decry Republican Slap at Public Broadcasting". Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ "Ambassador Carlson Chosen as CPB President". APNewsArchive.com. March 26, 1992.
  16. ^ Fabrikant, Geraldine (April 2, 1999). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; CBS to Buy King World in $2.5 Billion Deal". Retrieved January 25, 2018 – via NYTimes.com.
  17. ^ a b "Richard Carlson joins FDD". Foundation for Defense of Democracies. April 1, 2003.
  18. ^ "Former CPB president joins InterMedia". Current. July 14, 2010.
  19. ^ Bedard, Paul. "Hillary Clinton, the novel: Pushy, self-centered, and gassy". WashingtonExaminer.com. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  20. ^ Richard W. Carlson (September 27, 2014). "Obama's Bowe Bergdahl powder keg". TribLIVE.com.
  21. ^ Richard W. Carlson. "Danger Zone: Analysis from Bill Cowan of Fox News". Charleston Mercury.
  22. ^ "NAMES &". The Washington Post. April 9, 2004.
  23. ^ a b Albert Morch (February 15, 1971). "Albert Morch [Column]". The San Francisco Examiner.
  24. ^ Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services. "California Divorce Index, 1966-1984". Sacramento, California: State of California.
  25. ^ National Social Directory, National Social Register Company, 1959, page 86.
  26. ^ a b Lenz, Lyz (September 5, 2018). "The mystery of Tucker Carlson" Archived September 8, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, Columbia Journalism Review.
  27. ^ a b David Harris (September 9, 1979). "SWANSON SAGA: END OF A DREAM". New York Times.
  28. ^ "IN RE ESTATE OF VAUGHN". Leagle. June 4, 2019.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
James B. Moran
United States Ambassador to Seychelles
Succeeded by
Mack F. Mattingly