Fox News Monday fired Tucker Carlson, its most popular prime-time host, who has become one of the most influential voices of the American right in recent years with his rambunctious, inflammatory monologues about immigrants, black civil rights activists, vaccines and national identity.
Mr. Carlson’s departure stunned those within Fox News and the greater conservative media world, where he had the power like few others to advance candidates and controversies on his 8 p.m. show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” His last program was on Friday, Fox said.
The decision to let Mr. Carlson go was made Friday night by Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, according to a person briefed on the move. Mr Carlson was briefed by Ms Scott on Monday morning, said another person who was aware of the move.
The program of Mr. Carlson became a must-watch for conservatives during the presidency of Donald J. Trump, an ideological ally and occasional confidant whose rise as a political force was fueled by the same populist, cultural war grievances that Mr. made Carlson a star.
His departure ends a meteoric and scandal-ridden rise at the conservative news and opinion channel, where he was promoted to the prime-time lineup in early 2017 following Mr Trump’s inauguration and quickly emerged as a of Fox’s biggest names.
Few other conservative commentators anywhere — on television, talk show radio, or the Internet — have had both the relationship with Trump and the ability to influence his thinking, if only fleetingly, and the power to speak directly to the concerns of the former president’s followers. .
But the power Mr. Carlson, 53, wielded outside of Fox News couldn’t exonerate him from a growing list of problems within the network related to his behavior on and off the air, some of which had hurt Mr. Murdoch and his father. said Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corporation, who co-founded the network in 1996, according to the two people who knew about the company’s decision.
The host, a polarizing and unpopular figure on the network beyond his own staff, was exposed as part of a defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems as a bully who belittled colleagues and sources, often in profanity and sexist language, and called for his firing from Fox journalists whose coverage he disliked. He has also drawn condemnation from the right and the left for his role in promoting a revisionist account of the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.
No one so high-profile has left Fox News so suddenly and unexpectedly since the network’s tumultuous period in 2016 and 2017, when Roger Ailes, its CEO, and Bill O’Reilly, Fox’s biggest primetime star, were fired. in their sexual misconduct cases.
One of the first points of contention was the 2021 documentary ‘Patriot Purge’ by Mr. Carlson, which advanced the conspiracy theory that the attack that day was a so-called false flag operation designed to discredit the former president and his political movement. Lachlan Murdoch is said to have been caught off guard by the program, which also led to two conservative Fox News contributors, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, quitting in protest.
In March, Mr. Carlson took tens of thousands of hours of footage of the attack given to him by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and used it to falsely portray the rioters as people who are Mr. Carlson innocently called those “mostly peaceful” spectators the Capitol. The broadcast was reprimanded by Senator Mitch McConnell, a friend of Rupert Murdoch, saying Mr Carlson had drawn “offensive and misleading conclusions”.
In recent weeks, however, the tumult unfolding from the sky has contributed to the ousting of Mr. Carlson. He was said to be a star witness in Dominion’s billion-dollar defamation lawsuit against Fox News until the network abruptly settled last week for $787.5 million.
And late last month, one of its former producers filed a lawsuit against Fox and Mr. Carlson, alleging that the host had a toxic workplace. The producer, Abby Grossberg, said in her complaint that she experienced an environment “where unprofessional behavior was rampant and the staff’s dislike and contempt for women permeated nearly every work day.” She also accused her former “Tucker Carlson Tonight” colleagues of making anti-Semitic remarks and often speaking rudely and contemptuously of women.
On Monday, Fox succinctly expressed its gratitude for announcing the departure of Mr. Carlson, but gave no explanation. “Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. We thank him for his service to the network as a host and for that as a contributor,” the network statement read.
Mr Carlson did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Fox News host Harris Faulkner said on the air Monday that starting that night, an in-between show, “Fox News Tonight,” would fill the 8 p.m. hour “with shifting Fox News personalities until a new host is named.”
The impeachment marked a disgraceful turn in the career of a man who was once rumored in Republican circles to be a possible presidential candidate. When Mr. Trump was in the White House, Mr. Carlson had his ear when he wanted it. And long before he became a Covid vaccine skeptic — Mr. Carlson’s political persona often changed with the whims of his audience — he traveled to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida estate, in March 2020, to personally encourage the president to take the coronavirus more seriously. He explained to Vanity Fair that at the time, he “felt a moral obligation to be useful in any small way.”
Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Carlson helped push far-right positions on issues such as border policy and race relations into the Republican mainstream, and both enjoyed antagonizing their political opponents with bold and often untrue attacks.
Mr. Carlson warned his viewers that they were under attack from liberal elites and unchecked immigration, taking some of his central themes from the white nationalist and far-right web and updating them for a more mainstream audience. Concerned that Trump would follow through on his campaign promises — for example, to enact tough policies to deter and deport migrants and to lessen America’s involvement in foreign conflicts — he voiced his concerns on his show, which typically runs about three million viewers. a night.
When Fox launched a streaming network, Fox Nation, to generate more revenue from its most loyal fans, it was Mr. Carlson who became the new platform’s top personality, with a three-weekly talk show and periodic documentaries doubling down on his themes. untrustworthy elites and race-obsessed liberals.
At his peak at Fox, he defied the network’s senior leadership while giving the impression to colleagues that he was cozy with the Murdoch family, most notably Fox chief, Lachlan Murdoch. But in his affidavit as part of the Dominion lawsuit, Mr. Carlson that the two men weren’t particularly close. When asked how often he communicated with Lachlan Murdoch, Mr. Carlson replied: “Rarely.” He added, “It’s not weekly or even monthly.”
The Dominion case exposed Mr. Carlson as someone whose polemical pro-Trump personality didn’t always match what he said in private. When he told his viewers after the 2020 election that they were right to doubt the credibility of the vote count, he told his producers the opposite.
His private messages with members of his staff — denigrating Mr. Trump and his legal advisers in vulgar and sexist terms after the 2020 election — were made public as part of Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox. Speaking to staff, Mr. Carlson texted about Mr. Trump, “I hate him passionately.” In another, he labeled Mr. Trump — whom he often praised on his show — as “a demonic force, a destroyer.”
In the lawsuit Ms. Grossberg recently filed alleging she was forced by Fox’s attorneys to make a misleading statement in the Dominion case, she accuses Mr. Carlson of running a misogynistic and discriminatory work culture .
Ms. Grossberg said in the lawsuit, filed in March, that on her first day working for Mr. Carlson discovered that the workspace was decorated with large photographs of speaker Nancy Pelosi wearing a plunging bathing suit. .
“Mr. Carlson’s derogatory remarks about women and his contempt for those who dare to object to such misogyny is common knowledge” on the set of his show, the lawsuit said.
An attorney for Ms. Grossberg, Parisis G. Filippatos, said Monday that Ms. Grossberg had nearly 90 recordings from her time at Fox that corroborated her claims of a hostile work culture and supported the case that Fox had broadcast lies about voter fraud.
Fox has said it would contest Ms Grossberg’s claims. She was fired after filing the lawsuit in New York, and another lawsuit against the company in Delaware.
Justin Wells, the senior executive producer of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” is also no longer employed by Fox News, according to two people familiar with the network’s decision. Mr. Wells worked closely with Mr. Carlson since the start of his primetime show in 2016.
In recent years, Mr. Carlson made people believe he was untouchable. Last year, in an interview with the Semafor media outlet, he boasted that he operated virtually autonomously at Fox. ‘I don’t talk to anyone. I am late submitting my script,” Mr. Carlson said.
He’s not the first Star Fox personality to leave the network after gaining a huge following. In 2011, the network ousted Glenn Beck, the Tea Party megastar whose anti-Obama outbursts made his show one of the most popular in Fox News history. Two years later, Fox said goodbye to Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska.
Fox executives said at the time that one factor more than anything led to the departure: no one is bigger than the network.
Nicholas Confessor And Jim Ruthenberg reporting contributed.