Fox News and Tucker Carlson, the right-wing extremist who used his prime time perch at the talk network to exert a firm grip over the Republican Party, have severed ties, the network said in a stunning announcement that rocked the media and political worlds Monday.
“We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor,” Fox News said in a short statement that did not offer an explanation for his ouster, adding only that his last show was on Friday, April 21.
Carlson, the highest-rated single host at Fox News, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The decision to part ways with Carlson was made Friday evening by Fox Corporation chief executive Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott, a person familiar with the matter said.
Carlson was informed of the decision on Monday morning, a second person familiar with the matter said.
The announcement came one week after Fox News settled a monster defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million over the network’s dissemination of election lies. The lawsuit had exposed Carlson disparaging colleagues. A lawsuit filed in March by his now-fired top booker, Abby Grossberg, also included a number of allegations of sexism on his show.
During his time as a prime time host on Fox News, Carlson ascended to become one of the most influential figures inside the GOP. Republican lawmakers groveled at his feet and former President Donald Trump granted him the first interview earlier this month after his arraignment in New York.
Carlson propelled himself to stardom in recent years by being a top promoter of conspiracy theories and radical rhetoric. Not only did he repeatedly sow doubt about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, but he also promoted conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 vaccines and elevated white nationalist talking points.
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, people inside the network told CNN. 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.
In the two years since the attack on the US Capitol, the Fox primetime host used his huge platform to amplify paper-thin theories that the attack was a false-flag operation orchestrated by the FBI and government agents because they loathed Trump, and that the criminal rioters were themselves the victims.
The baseless theory originated from a right-wing website, and Carlson catapulted it into the mainstream by repeatedly featuring it on his show. He routinely suggested that Capitol rioter and Trump supporter Ray Epps was actually an FBI provocateur who sparked the deadly riot.
In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night, Epps had this to say about Carlson’s lies: “He’s obsessed with me. He’s going to any means possible to destroy my life and our lives.”
An attorney for Epps sent a legal demand to Fox News in March demanding a retraction for “false and defamatory statements” made about his client. Carlson never apologized on-air.
Carlson’s disinformation campaign about January 6 reached its apex just a few months ago, with an assist from the newly installed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican.
The top-rated Fox host obtained and aired never-before-seen footage from Capitol security cameras, but the clips were cherry-picked and selectively edited. He said on his program that he ran the tapes by the US Capitol Police before airing the material, but they disputed his claim.
Shares of Fox Corp. (FOXA) fell 5% on the news. The stock had been up slightly before the announcement.
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.” She cited some of Carlson’s private texts to colleagues that were made public in the Dominion case, where he used the phrase “c-nt” to refer to Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, a top 2020 election denier.
Her lawsuits also describe seeing sexually suggestive posters that were visible in the workplace, facing “uncomfortable sexual questions” from Wells about her former Fox News boss Maria Bartiromo, and witnessing internal debates on which women politicians were “more f–kable.”
In a TV interview, she said the sexual harassment was so bad that she considered suicide.
Wells was well-aware of the massive impact he and Carlson had on GOP politics, according to Grossberg’s lawsuit. She quoted a November 2022 editorial meeting where Wells allegedly said they had “the power to select the 2024 GOP presidential candidate” and a January meeting where he said Carlson planned to “save the Republican Party” by resolving the epic intraparty struggle over the House speakership.
Carlson’s departure at Fox News comes after the network also severed ties with right-wing bomb thrower Dan Bongino, who had been a regular fixture on the network’s programming, in addition to hosting a weekend show.
“Folks, regretfully, last week was my last show on Fox News on the Fox News Channel,” Bongino said on Rumble, chalking up the exit to a contract dispute.
“So the show ending last week was tough. And I want you to know it’s not some big conspiracy. I promise you. There’s not, there’s no acrimony. This wasn’t some, like, WWE brawl that happened. We just couldn’t come to terms on an extension. And that’s really it.”
Fox News responded in a statement, “We thank Dan for his contributions and wish him success in his future endeavors.”