Carlson Tucker attacked Donald Trump in private text messages and loudly criticised support for Ukraine.
Tucker Carlson, anchor of the second most-watched news programme on US cable news, has lost his job at Fox News. He found out about it – like the rest of America – on the morning of Monday 24 April, without any prior notice. This comes as a shock to the US media, which is trying to find a new model for how to function in the ‘post-Trump’ era.
With surprise (sources say Carlson was shocked to repeatedly ask the dismissing station boss “why? why?”), with no opportunity to say goodbye (a laconic message read out on Fox News: both parties “have agreed to part ways”, “the last programme was aired on Friday, 21 April”, “thank you for your service to our station”). Why? Rumours and unofficial reports have been swirling since Monday, as officially both Fox News and Tucker Carlson have remained silent.
A few text messages too far
According to the most likely version, the decision was to be made by Rupert Murdoch himself, the 92-year-old creator of the media empire that owns Fox News, along with his son Lachlan (he is the one who runs the corporation on a day-to-day basis). This came just days after the station agreed to pay a staggering $787.5 million for a settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, the company accused by Fox News of rigging the November 2020 presidential election.
And it wasn’t just the fact that Carlson’s programmes repeatedly revisited the forgery theory so eagerly promoted by former President Donald Trump. In preparation for trial, lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems led to the disclosure of Carlson’s text messages sent to colleagues and co-workers at the station. And it was a very interesting read.
Just two days before the riots on Capitol Hill on 6 January 2021. Tucker – officially on air portraying himself as one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters – wrote that “we are getting closer to the moment when we will be able to ignore Trump most evenings. Really, I’m looking forward to it”. After a while, he added that he “hates wholeheartedly” the then US president.
That’s not all. He was secure in his position – from its inception in 2017, his show was the most-watched or in the top two most popular Fox programmes. It lasted for years, despite numerous calls for a boycott. Carlson criticised his bosses in an unflattering way. “Do they realise how much credibility and trust our viewers have lost?” – he texted colleagues when the Fox News station, like other media, announced that Joe Biden had won the presidential election. He continued, “These motherf…. are destroying our credibility. We are dealing with a mix of incompetent lefties and a top leadership that has too much pride in itself to back down.”
On top of that, a whole host of other offensive and vulgar words, which would constitute strong evidence in the hands of Dominion Voting Systems’ lawyers, showing that the medium had reproduced Trump’s accusations without believing them at all. No wonder, then, that Fox News agreed to pay a fortune just to avoid a jury trial.
With Ukraine in the background
Is that enough to sack the host of the Tucker Carlson Tonight show, which attracted an average of 3.3 million viewers Monday to Friday between 8pm and 9pm, most of them in the most important demographic for advertisers between the ages of 25 and 54? It seems that there must be more. Because at the same time there are negotiations with TV channel companies about increasing licence fees. There have even been rumours of a desire to sell the station. Also, the mammoth amount of the settlement – $787.5 million – has certainly been noticed by the strategic investors of the listed News Corp. (which owns Fox News), as it means unrealised profits for them.
There is also a Ukrainian theme. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Tucker Carlson unfortunately underwent an evolution like a certain part of the American populist right that is keen on Donald Trump. He started to strongly attack Ukraine and especially US military aid in his programme. Half bad if this was a criticism on the basis of political perversity: since President Joe Biden strongly supports Ukraine, we cannot support it.
Read the full story.
By Paweł Burdzy