A version of this story appeared in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Fox News had plenty of reasons to get rid of Tucker Carlson.
- Days after agreeing to pay $787 million to settle a lawsuit for pushing false conspiracy theories related to the 2020 election, Fox has now gotten rid of one of the hosts who publicly amplified them.
- Text messages released as part of the lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems unmasked Carlson to be a hypocrite and privately part of the Donald Trump hating elite he publicly criticized when he was playing the role of anchorman on TV.
- It can’t have helped that another lawsuit, brought by a former producer, alleges a toxic workplace environment at Carlson’s show.
What happens now is arguably important not just for Fox, but for the country. The network holds great power in conservative power circles, and it either influences or amplifies the direction of the Republican Party, depending on your perspective.
Just one glaring recent example of this power is that after Carlson asked for unfettered access to Capitol Hill security footage of the January 6 insurrection, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave it to him.
That Carlson used the tapes to create a false impression of January 6, 2021, drew criticism even from notable Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, long a target of Carlson’s flippant put-downs.
By the way, text messages uncovered as part of the lawsuit also show that other Fox personalities, like Sean Hannity, were in contact with and advising White House officials in the Trump administration on January 6.
Fox, like the GOP, has evolved in its politics
From the flag-wrapped post-9/11 period to now, a rotating cast of nighttime anchors has represented different eras. Carlson, once a magazine writer in the mold of George Will, has since mainlined conspiracy theories about the Covid vaccine, embraced an almost anti-government libertarian outlook and encouraged viewers to see themselves as victims of oppression.
The cleanest take I saw after Carlson’s ouster came from CNN’s Oliver Darcy, who noted that Fox hosts come and go, and their power is linked to their platform.
“It is pretty much enshrined as a law of physics in the universe of right-wing media that whoever the Murdochs put in prime time will rate,” Darcy wrote.
Anyone remember Bill O’Reilly? While that former Fox anchor does have a show – it streams on Youtube – he certainly does not play the same role in the political conversation that he did as a Fox host until 2017. Carlson assumed O’Reilly’s time slot.
An anchor everywhere
Carlson is that rare anchor who has now been on all three major cable news networks – CNN, MSNBC and Fox. He also o