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fox news intrigue

Fox News' Tucker Carlson–Shep Smith schism is reportedly emblematic of the network's Trump impeachment bedlam

President Trump's allies are mostly sticking with him as he faces impeachment hearings over his mounting Ukraine scandal, and they are "mostly staying on message," but privately, few believe that a whistleblower's allegations about him strong-arming Ukraine's president to dig up dirt on Joe Biden "won't result in considerable damage — if not the complete unraveling of his presidency," Gabriel Sherman reports at Vanity Fair. "Trump's final bulwark is liable to be his first one: Fox News," but "even before the whistleblower's revelations, Fox was having something of a Trump identity crisis, and that bulwark has been wavering."

Even Trump confidante and Fox News host Sean Hannity "seems to be having doubts," Sherman writes, adding that Hannity told friends Thursday morning that the whistleblower's complaint is "really bad," according to a person briefed on the conversation. Mostly, the conservative night-time opinion hosts are stalwartly defending Trump, but a long-simmering feud between the straight-news side and the opinion side of Fox News broke into the open this week as Tucker Carlson and Shepard Smith traded barbs on-air, as Carlson recounted Wednesday night. "Unlike maybe some day-side hosts, I'm not very partisan," Carlson insisted.

That feud got so unruly that Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace "communicated to Smith this morning to stop attacking Carlson," Sherman says, citing a source who added: "They said if he does it again, he's off the air." Meanwhile, Fox News chief Lachlan Murdoch is flummoxed on how to cover impeachment and "already thinking about how to position the network for a post-Trump future," Sherman reports, citing four sources. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan is reportedly using his new board seat to urge Murdoch to ditch Trump while more Trump-friendly sources argue that Fox can't stop "defending our viewers from the people who hate them." Read more at Vanity Fair.