What Tucker Carlson’s Dismissal From Fox News Means for the Network

Just days after the 2020 election, Fox host Tucker Carlson sent one of the producers a disturbing text message. He was outraged by the network’s decision to call.

The defeated president, Donald J. Trump, was eager to stir up their wrath. Carlson and his producers were discussing ideas for a new Carlson podcast that could help bring back audiences most angry about Trump’s defeat.

“He could easily ruin us if we do it the wrong way,” Carlson said in a text released when a lawsuit between Fox and voting software firm Dominion was settled. warned.

Mr. Carlson proved to be a prophet, albeit not as he predicted. His nearly six-year reign on primetime cable came to an abrupt end Monday as Fox abruptly cut ties with the host and thanked him “for his services to the network” in a terse news release. rice field.

The exact circumstances of his departure remained vague on Monday night, but the dismissal was a string of statements emanating from Fox’s post-election campaign to appease the Trump base and win back the viewers he believed in. It took place in a high-stakes, and already expensive, legal battle. that his defeat was a sham.

Carlson’s departure upended Fox’s lucrative primetime line-up and shocked a media community accustomed to his prodigious endurance. Over his years at Fox, the host had proven he could withstand controversy after controversy.

So did Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch after Mr. Carlson claimed immigration made America “poor and dirty.” He appeared to have dismissed the on-air spread of a racist conspiracy theory known as “The Great Heir,” as well as revelations that he was a prodigious broadcaster of the company’s own dirty laundry. rice field. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr. Carlson’s programs frequently promoted the Kremlin’s point of view, attacked US sanctions, blame the conflict On America’s design for expanding NATO.

The drought of premium advertisers on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” — driven away by a boycott targeting more racist and inflammatory segments — will keep him out of the network as long as viewers are stuck. Mr. Carlson, who despised cable network executives, had the impression that he was close to the Murdoch family and perhaps invincible.

Carlson’s rise as a populist pundit and media figure heralded Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. Carlson’s own turn from bow-tie libertarian to vengeful populist traces the nativist insurgency that split and reshaped the party during the Obama administration. But he thrived in step with Trump’s presidency, as the New York real estate mogul made outspoken nativism and fanatical cultural outrage a key touchstone of conservative politics.

“I hate him,” Carlson said to a colleague in January 2021. Replace “legacy” Americans with a flood of immigrants from other countries and cultures. In deliberate, hypnotic repetition, he warned viewers:

Importantly, he worked to help Fox bring Trump supporters back to the network in the wake of Trump’s defeat.

In post-broadcast broadcasts, he falsely claimed that the election was “seized from the hands of voters” and unleashed a counter-argument that suggested the vote was riddled with fraud and corruption. After Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, instigated by Trump and Fox, Trump reiterated the assault as a peaceful protest against legitimate wrongdoing. FBI

As a programming strategy, it worked. Last year, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” averaged over 3 million viewers overnight. In his heyday, and perhaps still today, Mr. Carlson was one of the most influential figures of the right.

But if Fox and its star hosts once prospered thanks to Mr. Trump, their efforts to deny or overturn the election results put both the network and the former president in legal jeopardy.

Trump has faced one investigation by a federal special counsel into his efforts to stay in power after being defeated, and another by Georgia district attorneys after the defeated president decided to win. facing investigation. Then overturn the election results.

Fox last week agreed to pay a quarter of $300 million to settle the defamation claims filed by Dominion in 2020.

Mr. Carlson and his show were featured prominently on The Dominion Case. Thousands of pages of inside text and emails released as part of the lawsuit also showed that networks embraced election fraud theories, and that their promotion by Fox News and Fox Business guests and personalities helped soften viewers’ anger. announced that it is part of a wider campaign for About Trump’s losses.

They also revealed that neither Mr. Carlson nor his fellow hosts truly believed the election was rigged, despite on-air commentary. He downplayed, accusing Fox of “destroying our credibility” by allowing Biden’s victory to be accurately reported, and downplaying them as “a combination of incompetent liberals and top leadership.” showed that I am very proud to step back.

The company is also facing a lawsuit from Carlson’s former producer, Abby Grossberg, who faced sexual harassment from other Carlson staff members and was accused by Fox’s attorneys of unproven He said he was coached to downplay the role of news executives in authorizing voter fraud allegations.Air.

Yet another election technology company, Smartmatic, accused of election fraud covered in Fox’s report, is still suing the network. In its complaint, Smartmatic said Fox knowingly leaked more than 100 false statements about its products. A day after the lawsuit was filed in 2021, Fox Business canceled a show hosted by Lou Dobbs, the leading authority on unsubstantiated theories involving election fraud.

In the wake of Carlson’s abrupt dismissal, current and former Fox employees abuzz with speculation about the true reasons for his dismissal and what he might say about the company’s plans going forward.

Few believed Mr. Carlson was being punished for his long history of inflammatory remarks on air — if so, why now? — or about previous personal criticisms of Fox executives. (Some noted that his fellow Primetime hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have similarly been scathing in their own text messages.)

A perhaps more interesting question is what Mr. Carlson will do next.

Like his most brilliant intellectual predecessor, the commentator and politician Patrick J. Buchanan, Mr. Carlson was one of the few who achieved success not only as a television entertainer but also as an institution builder. I’m a person. Tabloid The Daily Caller — and leader of the movement. More than any other figure with a mainstream platform, he has succeeded in bringing far-right ideas about immigration and culture to a wide audience.

He’s also one of the few TV talents currently canceled by all three major cable news networks. Before joining Fox, he had a long stint as co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire,” which he later headlined on MSNBC. In recent years, he has garnered the most attention as a pillar of his Fox News primetime line-up, as well as the company’s pay-streaming his network, Fox Nation, where he talks three times a week on his show and the occasional documentary. was aired.

At least one putative job offer was on the horizon within hours of his dismissal on Monday.

Russian tweets ‘Hi Tucker Carlson’ national media channel“You can always ask questions at @RT_com.”

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