How to explain Tucker Carlson’s abrupt dismissal from Fox News?
Before yesterday, much seemed secure. The star host, night after night, unleashed a politics of racism and conspiracy theories, pocketing Rupert Murdoch the kind of ratings that inoculated Carlson from consistent calls to fire him. Then, Monday morning, a terse statement officially announced the exit—but didn’t offer any explanations. In fact, it seemed to quietly hint at a sharp tension.
Unlike the other guy who got fired Monday morning and screenshotted a chaotic purple statement, Carlson hasn’t yet publicly commented on the news. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, Carlson only learned he was getting canned ten minutes before the rest of the world found out. Meanwhile, the ousted Fox host has lawyered up. (He reportedly retained Bryan Freedman, the powerhouse attorney rich people seem to call when they’re in crisis).
There’s been a flood of insider reports attempting to answer a simple question: Why was Tucker Carlson fired? Here’s what we know so far.
Former Fox News Producer Alleges Sexism and Testimony Coercion
Carlson’s ignominious exit comes roughly one month after a former Fox News producer, Abby Grossberg, filed two lawsuits accusing the organization of coercing her into giving misleading testimony in the now-settled Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit. (There are even tapes!) Grossberg has also alleged a workplace rampant with sexism. One example, cited in her lawsuit, claims the office was decorated with photos of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wearing a revealing swimsuit. Grossberg alleges Fox News employees regularly disparaged women with vulgar insults, including calling host Maria Bartiromo a “crazy bitch,” and mocked Jewish employees with antisemitic remarks. Seems pretty bad—and wholly believable.
Of course, those allegations echo previous reports alleging Carlson’s frequent use of the word “cunt,” as well as well-documented cases that revealed a workplace absolutely teeming with sexism. Notable cases have involved the former head of Fox News Roger Ailes and erstwhile star host Bill O’Reilly; both men, after years of Murdoch’s protection, were eventually pushed out.
A Potential Sale
In something of a bonus episode to this week’s Succession episode, Carlson has reportedly told people he believes he was booted because the Murdoch children are planning to eventually sell Fox News. According to Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, Carlson, who had been under the impression that his contract was getting renewed, was blindsided when told that he was getting fired and that he no longer had access to his corporate email account.
Where do we rank this guess? It’s tough to see how a rumored sale, which has long loomed over the Murdoch empire, played into the decision. After all, the 92-year-old Murdoch isn’t dead quite yet. Plenty of higher-ups likely still saw Carlson as a lucrative asset and therefore potentially helpful to any sale. It’s also worth remembering that this particular guess reportedly came from Carlson himself that blaming the kids is an easy way to avoid self-scrutiny.
WSJ reports that Fox News’ top brass was not pleased with Carlson privately insulting them after the 2020 election. Those messages, revealed as a result of the Dominion lawsuit, included Carlson lashing out at execs, whom he called “incompetent liberals” while he blamed them for Fox News’ tanking credibility. These insults feel a tad too small to have played a significant part in the decision to fire Carlson. But I guess they couldn’t have been nice to read either. Remember: Always talk shit on Signal.
Murdoch Is Leaning Into Chaos
As speculated in Monday’s newsletter, Murdoch may simply be embracing the chaos of old age. The man is 92, apparently still searching for someone to spoon-feed him after divorcing Jerry Hall, and probably isn’t inclined to spend more money on people who keep amplifying costly, highly damaging conspiracy theories that almost forced him on the witness stand.
Now, does that point to a larger transformation? A new man who feels bad for all the hateful discord his news outlets have sown? The workplaces rife with sexism and hostility he led? Of course not. After all, the next guy will surely be worse. And if it fits the larger Murdoch playbook, he’ll be just as sexist as the rest of them.
Some say Carlson may be mulling a run for president in 2024. Considering he privately admitted to hating Donald Trump “passionately,” a challenge for the GOP nomination could theoretically be possible. Then again, the New York Times reports the two men are on “friendlier terms” these days.