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Tucker has left the building
On Monday morning, Tucker Carlson, the nation's most watched cable TV host, was unceremoniously sent packing by Fox News. "FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways," the network said in a terse statement. Carlson's last show was Friday, April 21.
There will be no farewell episode. His parting words from Fox News were promoting his latest documentary special, "Let them eat Bugs."
There was no shortage of speculation about why Carlson was pushed out. Theories include:
The appearance of Ray Epps on 60 Minutes on Sunday evening. For nearly two years, Tucker Carlson has pushed the baseless theory that Epps was a government agent who incited the insurrection. Epps was actually a Trump supporter who came to the U.S. Capitol on January 6 because he believed the election was stolen. Epps told 60 Minutes that Carlon was "obsessed" with him and doing everything "possible to destroy my life." In March, Epps' lawyer sent Carlson a letter demanding a “formal on-air apology for the lies.” Carlson has not apologized.
The lawsuit by Abby Grossberg, Carlson’s former head of booking. In the lawsuit, Grossberg alleges that she was "subjected to a hostile and discriminatory work environment" while on Carlson's staff. Grossberg alleges, "male producers regularly used vulgarities to describe women and frequently made antisemitic jokes." On her first day at the office, Grossberg found her "office was decorated with large doctored pictures of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wearing a plunging swimsuit." Notably, Carlson's top producer, Justin Wells, also left Fox News on Monday.
Carlson's texts about Donald Trump. The lawsuit that Dominion Voting Systems filed against Fox News settled last week for 787.5 million. But before the case was resolved, Dominion released a series of text messages from Carlson, including several that disparaged Donald Trump. "I hate [Trump] passionately," Carlson said in one missive.
We may never know why Carlson lost his job. There will be a flood of reports about Carlson's dramatic exit in the coming days. Some will be true. Others will be based on claims from interested parties trying to distort the truth. But ultimately, does it really matter?
More importantly, we know what was not a firing offense for Carlson. He spent years promoting racist, white nationalist conspiracy theories. Not only was Carlson not fired, but top Fox News executives defended his conduct.
For example, in April 2021, Carlson embraced a core tenet of white nationalism, the so-called "great replacement" conspiracy theory. The theory is that "'western' identity is under siege by massive waves of immigration from non-European/non-white countries, resulting in a replacement of white European individuals via demographics."
Carlson told millions of viewers that "the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate" with "more obedient voters from the Third World."
I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term "replacement," if you suggest the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that's what's happening, actually. Let's just say it! That's true.
If you change the population, you dilute the political power of the people who live there. So every time they import a new voter, I’d become disenfranchised as a current voter. … Everyone wants to make a racial issue out of it. Oh, White replacement — No. This is a voting rights question. I have less political power because they’re importing a brand new electorate. Why should I sit back and take that?
The theory Carlson was pushing is frequently cited as the rationale for mass murder. In 2019, for example, a gunman killed 23 people in an El Paso Walmart. The shooter wrote that the "attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion."
Tucker's rant drew a response from Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. Carlson's rhetoric was "not just a dog whistle to racists – it was a bullhorn," Greenblatt wrote in a letter to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott. "It was shocking to hear this kind of open-ended endorsement of white supremacist ideology from an anchor and commentator on your network."
In response to these concerns, Fox News did not fire Carlson or discipline him in any way. Instead, Lachlan Murdoch, the CEO of Fox News' parent company, Fox Corporation, wrote back to Greenblatt defending Carlson. Murdoch falsely claimed that Carlson "decried and rejected replacement theory." But, in fact, Carlson defended "white replacement theory." The only thing Carlson argued is that it shouldn't be called "white replacement theory" because it is "true."
Whatever the reason Fox News cut ties with Tucker Carlson, it was not a moral stance. That ship sailed long ago.
Fox News' next play
The reality of Fox News' relationship with Carlson — and the conduct they were willing to not only ignore but defend — is important. Fox News is entering a critical time renegotiating its fees with cable companies. It is likely to argue that Carlson's firing is a signal that the network is becoming more responsible and, therefore, more attractive to advertisers.
Fox News currently charges about $2.18 per subscriber, higher than any other non-sports channel. Vanity Fair reports that Fox News is trying to push that number much higher to over $3.
Fox News executives insist that sponsors have not been spooked by the Big Lie scandal, nor have the cable and satellite providers that carry the network. In the negotiations that are taking place this spring between Fox and the likes of Comcast, Fox wants to break past the three-buck mark—meaning three dollars per cable household per month, according to sources familiar with the matter. Even though the American cable universe is shrinking, [Rupert] Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch are still extracting billions of dollars.
If Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch get their price, they will increase revenues from cable subscribers by $500 million or more per year. That means millions of cable subscribers who never watch Fox News will foot the bill for Fox News' lies.