Tucker Carlson Is Out at Fox News

From a Washington Post story by Jeremy Barr and Sarah Ellison headlined “Tucker Carlson is out at Fox News after Dominion lawsuit disclosures”:

In a surprise announcement, Fox News announced that its controversial yet top-rated prime-time host Tucker Carlson is leaving the network.

“Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways,” the network said. “We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.”

The apparently hasty parting — Carlson gave no indication he was leaving in his last nightly appearance Friday, and the network was still running promos for his show Monday morning — came less than a week after Fox settled a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, which had sued the network for false claims about the 2020 election. Carlson was among several on-air personalities expected to testify.

Carlson’s private messages were among hundreds of internal communications made public in the course of the lawsuit that caused angst and embarrassment for Fox and seemed to heighten the company’s legal jeopardy. Among other comments, Carlson expressed skepticism of the election-fraud claims made on-air by attorneys affiliated with Donald Trump and declared that he “passionately” hates the former president, whose rise to power had been cheered by Fox.

But it was Carlson’s comments about Fox management, as revealed in the Dominion case, that played a role in his departure from Fox.

“Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience?” Carlson wrote to a colleague in a message a day after Fox, like other media outlets, called the election for Joe Biden. It was a sentiment echoed by others at Fox in the fall of 2020, as even network officials who disbelieved Trump’s election-fraud conspiracy theories fretted that countering them strongly would alienate their conservative viewers.

In another message, Carlson referred to management with an expletive: “Those f—–s are destroying our credibility.” He later wrote: “A combination of incompetent liberals and top leadership with too much pride to back down is what’s happening.”

Carlson, who works from a remote studio in Maine, did not respond.

Notably, he was not given a chance to say goodbye to the mammoth audience he had amassed in his years as a prime time host. His executive producer, Justin Wells, is also leaving the network, according to a person familiar with the move.
Fox said that the 8 p.m. time slot, which Carlson has held since April 2017, will be filled on an interim basis by “rotating Fox News personalities until a new host is named.”

Carlson, 53, first made his name in media as a writer for the right-of-center Weekly Standard magazine, also contributing to journals like Esquire and Talk, before finding television fame as the conservative host of CNN’s left-versus-right public-affairs show “Crossfire.” He later hosted a prime-time show on liberal-leaning MSNBC and co-founded the conservative Daily Caller site.

But his rise to power as a broadcasting heavyweight began shortly after the 2016 election, when Fox launched him in a prime-time role. Within a couple years, he eclipsed 9 p.m. host Sean Hannity as the network’s most-watched host — and like Hannity, became an occasional confidant of Trump. In March 2020, he visited the then-president at Mar-a-Lago to warn him that the coronavirus needed to be taken seriously. Later, though, he sided with a growing chorus on the right when he seemed to dismiss the pandemic and derided efforts to promote vaccination.

In 2022, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” averaged 3.32 million total viewers and received the largest audience in all of cable news with the coveted 25-to-54 age demographic.

His success was particularly gratifying to the network’s billionaire founder Rupert Murdoch, seen as proof of Fox’s resilience even after the loss of marquee stars like Bill O’Reilly, whose time slot Carlson inherited after the longtime host was fired amid a sexual harassment scandal. But some top executives chafed at how much Carlson seemed to tout his relationship with Murdoch’s son and CEO Lachlan and his ability to make his own rules, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking.

Carlson became a dominating force not only in media but also in Republican politics. He delivered a bombastic keynote address at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration Friday, in which he likened gender-affirming surgery for youth as “sexual castration” of children, and abortion as “child sacrifice,” to rousing applause.

Meanwhile, his show had triggered frequent controversy for Fox. In December 2018, Carlson lost at least 26 of his advertisers after he said that immigration makes the United States “dirtier.” And in 2019, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America unearthed more than a dozen instances of Carlson making incendiary comments during guest spots on the “Bubba the Love Sponge” radio show — making light of child marriage, calling rape shield laws “totally unfair,” describing women as “extremely primitive” and using sexist vulgarities.

Carlson also faced heavy criticism in the fall of 2021 when Fox Nation, the company’s streaming arm, aired a special he hosted, “Patriot Purge,” which carried suggestions that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was a “false flag” operation perpetrated by the U.S. government. Two longtime Fox News commentators, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, quit the network in protest. But the network repeatedly stood by Carlson.

This spring, as revelations from Dominion’s trove of internal communications piled up, Carlson also came under scrutiny when a former producer, Abby Grossberg, sued Fox for sexual harassment and other alleged wrongs. In her suit she said that when she started working for Carlson, she found the office plastered with large images of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “in a plunging bathing suit revealing her cleavage. She also alleged that male colleagues on Carlson’s staff openly critiqued the looks and sex appeal of prominent female politicians as well as their own female co-workers, and that a boss asked her “uncomfortable” questions about the sex life of her former boss, Maria Bartiromo.

Grossberg and her attorneys took a measure of vindication in Carlson’s departure. “This is a step towards accountability for the election lies and baseless conspiracy theories spread by Fox News,” Grossberg said in a statement, “as well as for the abuse and harassment I endured.”

Carlson was also facing legal threats over his comments about Ray Epps, a former Marine who attended the Jan. 6 insurrection. A lawyer representing Epps sent a letter to Carlson and fox last month demanding that the host apologize for insinuations that Epps was a government agent planted at the scene to incite violence.

During an appearance on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night, Epps said that Carlson is “obsessed” with him and is “going to any means possible to destroy my life and our lives.” In a statement, Epps’s attorney said Monday that “Fox’s decision may shield them from responsibility for Carlson’s future lies, but Fox remains liable for Carlson’s past lies.”

On Monday, his Fox News colleagues were stunned by Carlson’s departure. “We’re just learning of this like everyone else, total surprise on my end,” one staffer told The Post, speaking on condition of anonymity to share private insights into the newsroom.

Another on-air personality added: “This is major. It sends a message that even the guy with the highest ratings of all, by a long shot, doesn’t get to survive this disaster.”

It fell to Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner to announce Carlson’s departure to Fox viewers on Monday.

“We have some news within our Fox family,” she said. “We want to thank Tucker Carlson for his service to the network, as a host, and prior to that, as a long-term contributor.”

Jeremy Barr covers the media industry for The Washington Post.

Sarah Ellison is a staff writer based in New York for The Washington Post. Previously, she wrote for Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, where she started as a news assistant in Paris.

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