In an austere, four-sentence statement, Fox News announced Monday that prime-time star Tucker Carlson is leaving the network, effective immediately.
“FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways,” the network said in a statement released by a spokesperson. “We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.”
Fox said Carlson’s last day hosting his show was Friday, April 21. Suzanne Scott and Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executives of Fox News and its parent company Fox Corp. respectively, had decided Carlson’s fate on Friday, a source with knowledge told NPR.
Yet even after Fox released its statement on Monday morning, the network was still promoting an interview between Carlson and presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy that was to have aired later that night.
Carlson had signed off of Friday’s show by wishing viewers the “best weekend” and telling them he’d be back on Monday. He did not respond to a request for comment from NPR.
The ouster of Fox’s top opinion host comes less than a week after Fox settled an epic defamation lawsuit by an election technology company for more than $787 million. Dominion Voting Systems sued over segments promoting bogus claims that election fraud cheated then-President Donald Trump of victory in 2020.
Dominion had alleged that the statements made on Carlson’s show after the 2020 election were defamatory and that the messages between Carlson and his team were proof that he and his team knew the falsehood of the claims that the counting machines Denver-based Dominion votes were used to rig the election in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.
Carlson’s last show was on April 21, the company said in a statement. “Fox News Tonight” will air live at 20:00 EST (0000 GMT) beginning tonight as an interim show run by rotating Fox News personalities until a new host is named.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, praised Fox News’ decision, saying it is “about time” and that “for far too long,” Carlson has “used his primetime show to spew antisemitic, racist, xenophobic and anti-LGBTQ hate to millions.”
Inside Fox News, some of Carlson’s internal critics rejoiced upon learning the news. There’s “a lot of relief generally, surprise they had the nerve to do it, and hope for a culture change,” one employee explained.
It’s unlikely, however, that Fox News will stray too far from the right-wing talk that its loyal audience tunes in nightly for. The network said that, for now, Carlson’s 8 p.m. time slot will be filled by rotating hosts. Shares of Fox Corp. (FOXA) fell 5% on the news. The stock had been up slightly before the announcement.
A top conspiracy theorist
Carlson was a key figure in Dominion’s mammoth defamation lawsuit against Fox News, which the parties settled last week on the brink of trial for a historic $787 million.
In some ways, Carlson played an outsized role in the litigation Only one of the 20 allegedly defamatory Fox broadcasts mentioned in the lawsuit came from Carlson’s top-rated show. But he was set to be one of Dominion’s first witnesses to testify at trial. And his private text messages, which became public as part of the suit, reverberated nationwide.
Dominion got its hands on Carlson’s group chat with fellow Fox primetime stars Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, and a trove of other messages from around the 2020 presidential election.
These communications revealed that Carlson told confidants that he “passionately” hated former President Donald Trump and that Trump’s tenure in the White House was a “disaster.” He also used misogynistic terms to criticize pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and reject her conspiracies about the 2020 election – even as those wild theories got airtime on Fox News.
Additionally, Carlson disparaged the right-wing network’s leaders in a series of text messages revealed in Dominion’s defamation case.
In a text on Nov. 5, 2020 — two days after the 2020 election — Carlson wrote his producer Alex Pfeiffer: “We worked really hard to build what we have. Those f-ckers are destroying our credibility. It enrages me.”
The pair appeared to be discussing the network’s coverage of the 2020 election, which had just recently — and correctly — called the critical state of Arizona for Joe Biden, enraging the network’s pro-Trump audience.
Carlson later added on Nov. 6 to Pfeiffer: “A combination of incompetent liberals and top leadership with too much pride to back down is what’s happening.” Fox and other outlets projected that Biden would clinch the White House one day later.
In a separate series of messages on Nov. 8, Carlson wrote: “Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience? We’re playing with fire, for real.”
The lawsuit exposed how Carlson privately held a wholly different view than his on-air persona. A Dominion spokesperson did not comment on Carlson’s departure from Fox.
Grossberg, the ex-Fox News producer who has since disavowed the network, claimed in recent lawsuits that there was rampant sexism and misogyny among Tucker Carlson’s show team. Last month, she sued Fox News, Carlson, his executive producer Justin Wells and other figures, as well as Fox’s parent corporation.
Grossberg, who joined Carlson’s team after the 2020 election, said in her lawsuit that after her first day on the job that “it became apparent how pervasive the misogyny and drive to embarrass and objectify women was among the male staff at TCT,” referring to “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
The lawsuits also claim that Grossberg alerted Wells to some of the “inappropriate and harassing conduct” that she endured while working at the show, but he “brushed aside” her concerns, according to court filings.
Fox News is aggressively fighting two lawsuits from Grossberg. A Fox spokesperson previously said the lawsuits were “riddled with false allegations against the network and our employees.”
In a lawsuit filed last month, Grossberg said Carlson “was very capable of using such disgusting language about women in the workplace.”
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