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Politics & Policy

How Tucker Carlson’s SF mother became a stand-in for everything he despises

Tucker Carlson
Tucker Carlson | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For as much as Tucker Carlson loves to talk, there’s one topic he won’t address—his mother. 

Carlson was born to Lisa McNear Lombardi in San Francisco in May 1969, and his mother left the family when he was just 6 years old. The artist and heiress eventually settled in France and never saw her two sons again. 

The controversial political commentator, who recently parted ways with Fox, does not like to revisit this chapter of his family’s history. 

“Totally bizarre situation—which I never talk about,” Carlson said, according to the New Yorker

Yet absence can create its own type of presence. In addition, Carlson’s middle name comes from his mother’s side. 

Tucker McNear Carlson was born at Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, and the “McNear” comes from his maternal side—George McNear, known as the “Grain King” because of his enormous grain import business and brother to John McNear, a partner in the wheat business and founder of Petaluma (the namesake for the downtown park in the city). 

Tucker Carlson
Tucker Carlson | TM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Even further back on his maternal side is another “king”—Henry Miller, who was known as the “Cattle King” because of the some 3 million acres of rangeland he owned in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. 

“He was able to ride from Mexico to the state of Washington while sleeping each night on his own property,” reads the obituary for his great-granddaughter, Mary Nickel James, who was Tucker Carlson’s grandmother. 

While the good feelings might have not flowed through the generations, the money certainly did, and Carlson benefitted from a stately childhood thanks to his mother’s wealth (later it would be thanks to his adoptive stepmother, Patricia Swanson, heir to the frozen food empire). 

Lombardi, Carlson’s mother, took up with famous artists such as David Hockney and created contemporary art sculptures that were exhibited in galleries across Los Angeles. She eventually lost custody of her two sons after her husband, Richard Carlson, alleged she was not a competent mother because of marijuana, cocaine and alcohol abuse, according to the New York Times

Acquaintances remembered her as a hippie and a bohemian, someone who was withdrawn and not at all suited for motherhood, according to Business Insider

After her death from cancer in 2011, it appeared that Lombardi had disinherited her two sons, though after the case went to appellate court, the brothers were eventually allowed to keep their shares. 

“She didn’t raise us; she was horrible,” Carlson said on the podcast The Adam Carolla Show. “Then she dies and causes us all these problems because it’s just perfect—she’s a bitch from the grave.” 

In some ways, Carlson’s mother represents everything he despises: San Francisco, counterculture, drug abuse. Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that he doesn’t much want to talk about her—unless it’s in negative terms.