“Mr. Carlson’s last program was Friday April 21st,” Fox News said. “Fox News Tonight will air live at 8 PM/ET starting this evening as an interim show helmed by rotating Fox News personalities until a new host is named.”
Brian Kilmeade will host tonight’s Fox News Tonight.
Carlson’s exit comes less than a week after Fox News agreed to pay $787.5 million to Dominion Voting Systems to settle the election software company’s defamation claim. Carlson was to be among the witnesses to testify if the case had gone to trial.
A Fox News spokesperson declined comment on what triggered Carlson’s exit, but Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan were involved in the move to let Carlson go, according to a source familiar with the events. Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott made the decision on Friday night, and the host reportedly was informed of the decision this morning. Carlson’s contract was renewed in 2021, and the Wall Street Journal reported he will be paid out for the remaining term.
The abruptness of his departure surprised many in the media and at the network. Carlson’s show averaged 3.25 million viewers in March, the largest audience in cable news that month, and he signed off Friday’s broadcast by promising to return on Monday.
There also were reports that Justin Wells, senior executive producer of his show, also is out.
Harris Faulkner announced the move today on Fox News Channel, saying: “We have some news from within our Fox family. Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have mutually agreed to part ways. Tucker’s last show was this past Friday. … We want to thank Tucker Carlson for his service to the network as host and prior to that as a long-term contributor.”
Carlson was Fox News’ most watched personality, making his exit all the more surprising, but he also was its most controversial host. Even after the network faced litigation over its post-2020 election coverage, Carlson continued to suggest that the vote in the presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was not legitimate.
He drew a fervent following for his commentary, night after night, that played on grievances of the Fox News audience. Some of the biggest outcry over his show came after he aired security footage of the January 6 attack on the Capitol and, using selective clips, suggested that rioters were “sightseers.” His characterization drew condemnation not just from Democrats but Capitol Police and Senate Republicans.
Carlson had been with the network since 2009, first as a commentator and then, starting in 2016, as host of Tucker Carlson Tonight — taking over the 8 p.m. ET slot after Fox News parted ways with Bill O’Reilly. He also hosted a signature show for Fox Nation, the network’s subscription streaming service, as well as a branded series of documentaries called Tucker Carlson Originals.
But his influence extended beyond the Fox News audience to the Republican party. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to provide Carlson and his producers access to the January 6th footage, rather than a wide release to news outlets, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) went on his show to contritely take back a remark that the siege of the Capitol was a terrorist attack. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) wrote on Monday that Carlson was “the most courageous person in American media.”
Carlson’s exit quickly led to intense speculation as to the reasons.
Despite the Dominion settlement, the network is still facing a lawsuit from Abby Grossberg, a former booking producer who worked on Maria Bartiromo’s show and then for Carlson’s program. She claimed that the network coerced her in her deposition testimony for the Dominion case.
Grossberg also alleged that she was subjected to harassment by Wells and Alexander McCaskill, another producer on Tucker Carlson Tonight. Her lawsuit described a misogynistic culture among staffers of Carlson’s show and alleged, among other things, that she was greeted on her first full day by large and blown-up photographs of “Nancy Pelosi in a plunging bathing suit revealing her cleavage.” She also alleged that staffers made antisemitic and sexist jokes. The network said her lawsuit was “riddled with false allegations.” Carlson, McCaskill and Wells also are defendants in Grossberg’s New York lawsuit.
In a statement after Carlson’s exit, Grossberg said, “This is a step towards accountability for the election lies and baseless conspiracy theories spread by Fox News, something I witnessed first hand at the network, as well as for the abuse and harassment I endured while head of booking and senior producer for Tucker Carlson Tonight.“
The Dominion vs. Fox litigation primarily focused on other Fox personalities like Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs and the way that they and their guests amplified claims that the 2020 election was rigged. But as the trial date approached, a trove of internal texts and emails were made public, a number of them embarrassing to Carlson and the network. In one, Carlson lamented that a news-side reporter, Jacqui Heinrich, had fact-checked and debunked a Trump tweet about election fraud. Carlson wrote to host Sean Hannity, “please get her fired.”
“Seriously…What the f*ck?” Carlson wrote. “I’m actually shocked…It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”
In another message, Carlson wrote that he hated Trump “passionately.” In recent weeks, though, Carlson devoted a show to a friendly interview with the former president, his first TV sit-down since being indicted in New York.
The email release also revealed friction between Carlson and the news side, as well as some in management. That included criticism of Irena Briganti, the longtime head of corporate communications, and exchanges with fellow hosts Hannity and Laura Ingraham in which they lamented some of the network’s news personalities.
“We devote our lives to building an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland f—ing Vittert wreck it. Too much,” Carlson wrote in a November 2020 exchange. Wallace and Vittert both left the network.
Carlson used an expletive to bash the Fox News Decision Desk for its early call of Arizona for Joe Biden on election night, while chiding management for not backing off the projection. In another message, shown in open court last month by Dominion’s lawyers during a summary judgment hearing, Carlson referred to Trump lawyer Sidney Powell as a “c–t.”
Some of Carlson messages were redacted in court records, but their contents were known to Fox management.
Carlson’s on-air comments through the years often were designed to create a furor, only adding to his following on the right. In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League called for him to be fired over his advocacy of the great replacement theory, a conspiracy theory on the far right and among white nationalists that elites are plotting to replace whites with immigrants. The network originally said that he was merely addressing a voting rights question, and Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch defended him. Carlson, though, continued to make the replacement theory claims on his show.
Carlson’s 2021 documentary Patriot Purge also led to an outcry, as it suggested that the January 6th attack could have been a “false flag” operation. Two Fox contributors, conservative commentators Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, resigned in part due to the network’s decision to air the project on Fox Nation.
On Sunday, Ray Epps, a protester at the Capitol on January 6, appeared on 60 Minutes to describe how he has gone in hiding amid death threats. Carlson advanced a unfounded conspiracy theory that Epps was an FBI plant.
Carlson’s Fox News persona perplexed many who knew him in Washington, where he had been based, as he was much more a creature of the mainstream media establishment, having previously hosted shows on CNN and MSNBC. He could not be reached for comment, and it’s unclear if his contract would allow him to go to a rival.
Newsmax, a smaller conservative rival, quickly chimed in on Carlson’s end at Fox. Its CEO, Christopher Ruddy, said in a statement, “For a while Fox News has been moving to become establishment media and Tucker Carlson’s removal is a big milestone in that effort.”
Another outlet on the right, One America News, said that its founder, CEO Robert Herring, “would like to extend an invitation to Carlson to meet for negotiation to become a part of the OAN team.”
Newsmax and One America each are facing lawsuits from Dominion over their post-2020 election coverage, along with claims filed by another election systems company, Smartmatic.
Fox News parted ways last week with Dan Bongino, the radio host and commentator who had a weekend show and content for Fox Nation. “WTF,” Bongino tweeted, shortly after the news of Carlson’s departure.
Carlson’s exit was met with quick reaction from political figures and celebrities who have long found him toxic.
“After all Tucker’s lies and defamation, it’s about time,” Liz Cheney, the former Wyoming congresswoman and vice chair of the January 6th Committee, wrote on Twitter.
Another member of the committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), told MSNBC that Carlson’s departure was “a blessing for the country and perhaps the world.”
Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News anchor, wrote on Twitter, “Once again it’s the bravery of a woman –Abby Grossberg — who really brought Tucker Carlson down — revealing the misogynistic environment where women were referred to as c**** & much more. If it was b/c of Dominion others would also be taking the fall.”
O’Reilly told NewsNation‘s Chris Cuomo that current and potential litigation, including a possible lawsuit from Epps, played a factor in Carlson’s departure.
On The View, when Whoopi Goldberg announced his exit, the audience applauded wildly. The hosts did a sporting event wave, and Ana Navarro began singing “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.”
**By Ted Johnson