Tucker Carlson Is Leaving Fox News. Where Is He Going Next?

hollywood, florida november 17 tucker carlson r onstage during 2022 fox nation patriot awards at hard rock live at seminole hard rock hotel casino hollywood on november 17, 2022 in hollywood, florida photo by jason koernergetty images

Tucker Carlson Leaves Fox News. Where Is He Going Jason Koerner – Getty Images

FOX News Media released a statement on Monday announcing that the network and its biggest star, Tucker Carlson, have agreed to part ways. “We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor,” the press release continued. “Mr. Carlson’s last program was Friday April 21st.” By the looks of his final show last week, Carlson did not have any indication that he’d be out of the chair a few days later. Media reporter Brian Stelter, a longtime foe of Fox News and its primetime stars, suggests it is telling that Carlson was not offered the chance to host a final show where he could sign off on his own terms and, perhaps, give his fans an indication of where he intends to go next.

The timing of Carlson’s departure is likely instructive. Fox agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems up to $787 million last week to settle a lawsuit regarding false claims made on Fox airwaves alleging Dominion played some role in rigging the 2020 election against Donald Trump. It’s not just that the claims were demonstrably false, something Fox admitted as part of the settlement. Through the discovery process in the case, Dominion also dug up texts and emails showing Fox News stars and executives—including Tucker Carlson—knew full well the election-fraud claims were lies and allowed them to proliferate on the number-one cable news channel regardless . They told each other so and mocked Trumpworld figures, like the putative attorney Sidney Powell, for believing them. A defamation case is difficult to win in the United States, but this was about as open-and-shut as it gets.

Carlson also disparaged a number of people in and around the Fox News network in his communications, and perhaps most importantly, he slagged off Donald Trump repeatedly. He said the man who’s now once again leading the polls to become the Republican presidential nominee was a “destroyer” and a “disaster” and a “demonic force.” He said he “hates” Trump “passionately.” The departure could come down to burned bridges within Fox, or—don’t laugh—a genuine attempt from the network to respond to the substance of the Dominion case. But it’s also worth considering that the texts and emails surfaced in the Dominion case revealed Fox News got into the election conspiracy game in the first place because they feared they were losing viewers and market share to even loonier networks that were going full-throttle on the stolen-election nonsense.

Fox may have settled to avoid a larger payment to Dominion, or they might have settled to avoid having their biggest stars and most powerful executives—up to and including Rupert Murdoch—testify. But they also might have settled to avoid court proceedings that would have shone a brighter light, for longer, on the reality that many on the network are not True Believers. That, just like any failure to toe Trump’s line back in 2020, posed a risk to market share. It surely could be damaging to Fox News for their viewers to learn the network’s biggest star hates the Republican Party’s standard-bearer but pretends the opposite while on-air for their viewing pleasure. As we laid out last week, $787 million is not a hugely destructive figure in the grand scheme of Fox’s business, but the settlement is a black eye for the company that they’re hoping to keep mostly obscured from their customers. Granted, Carlson’s departure may get some Fox superfans asking questions they might not have otherwise.

Or maybe none of that really matters, and there’s some other reason for Tucker’s exit still to be revealed. What Carlson was almost certainly not dismissed for was an absolutely barbaric record as a television presenter. He’s lived many lives in media, including as a bowtie-toting Reasonable Conservative on CNN and MSNBC and as a talk-radio guest overeager to impress and as a talented writer for this very magazine, but Carlson found a new kind of influence and success on the Trump-era Fox News Channel. The man is an almost comic exaggeration of a trust-fund kid—Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson’s brother is named Buckley Carlson—who’s come to represent the very worst of the low-taxes-and-lacrosse types who matriculate through schools like Carlson’s Trinity College. He ditched concern for small government and free markets in favor of vicious anti-immigrant fervor, endless culture wars of food fights, and the now familiar MAGA embrace of foreign despots including Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orban. These strongmen, like Trump, were packaged for Fox’s aging audience as warriors on behalf of Real Americans whose lives and values ​​were under siege from shadowy forces attacking from all sides and within.

tucker carlson

Tucker Carlson has had a number of media personas.Richard Ellis – Getty Images

Carlson did take on some of Trump’s more useful rhetoric around American workers who’ve been left behind by ruthless corporate behavior and a government too often in thrall to the same interests. (He illustrated this part of his new persona well in a recent interview with Ben Shapiro, who remains a more traditional servant to the American money power.) But like Trump’s shtick, it was all a show. When it comes down to it, nobody said it was better than a Dutch historian whom Carlson was invited on in 2019 to rail against the (deservedly railed-against) congregants at Davos only to refuse to air the interview when he got owned too hard: “What the Murdoch family basically wants you to do is to scapegoat immigrants instead of talking about tax avoidance,” Walker Bregman told him, adding he’s also worked for Koch Brothers-funded institutions. “It works by you taking their dirty money, it’s as simple as that. You are a millionaire funded by billionaires, that’s what you are.”

This overgrown frat sophomore should have been fired the morning after he declared that immigrants make the United States “poor and dirtier.” But that would have been impossible: he was selling the exact product Fox News had positioned itself to sell, and he was their best salesman. Carlson often brought in upwards of 3 million viewers a night. That still pales in comparison to a broadcast news show like NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt, but it was comfortably number one on cable. Again, this surely boils down to Carlson’s background and persona. Like Trump, he parlayed his physical embodiment of privilege in our society into a new role as a fulcrum of reactionary rage among people who consider themselves Carlson and Trump’s fellow travelers—even if they don’t have the cash—and feel they are losing their grip on control of that society. His redirection of (often justified) anger away from powerful interests and towards the least powerful people available—brown immigrants and refugees—is, like Trump’s entire career in politics, a thoroughgoing disgrace to the American idea.

Where he might go next is anyone’s guess, however, but if the last few years are anything to go on, Tucker Carlson will not be transitioning into a role where he does much good for the social fabric of the United States of America. Will he start a new media operation, and will it have anything in common with his previous effort at The Daily Caller? Will he find another TV gig—and whom, outside Newsmax and the other networks even farther off the right-wing cliff than Fox News, would have him? Will he join the United Nations’ efforts to help climate refugees?

It seems just as likely that he goes directly into politics. What many in the commentariat—conservative and otherwise—have failed to grasp about Donald Trump’s appeal is the showman’s aspect. Maybe the story of Ronald DeSantis will hip a few more observers to the notion that in order to succeed in today’s Republican Party, you need to be able to put on a proper show—and do it on TV. The Florida governor is whiny and vicious like Trump, but he isn’t funny or entertaining in a way that captures public and media attention nearly so effectively. (Plus, he’s established a national brand of Guy Who Hates Disney World.) There’s only one Trump, but among the lovely folks vying for power in conservative America, few understand television as a medium as well as Tucker Carlson. If you’re enjoying the news today, you ought to fear what it might be tomorrow.

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