Tucker Carlson is no longer with Fox News, after both sides agreed to "part ways," the network announced on April 24. This came as a shock to many, who thought Carlson's popularity as the highest-rated cable news host and revenue generation — his show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, brought in $77.5 million in 2022 — were more than enough to keep him at Fox News for years to come.
Carlson, 53, arrived at Fox News in 2009, after co-hosting Crossfire on CNN and his own show, Tucker, on MSNBC. When Bill O'Reilly was fired in 2017 due to sexual harassment allegations, Carlson took his 8 p.m. time slot, using Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss current events through his conservative lens. During his tenure, Carlson rode out several controversies, including an advertiser boycott in 2018 after he said immigration is making the United States "dirtier" and backlash to his frequent promotion of the baseless "Great Replacement" theory.
Sending a message
Carlson not only had his contract renewed in 2021, but was also able to host and produce specials on the streaming service Fox Nation. His ratings in the 8 p.m. hour were always good — he had the second-highest number of viewers from 2017 to 2020, second to Sean Hannity, before moving into first place in 2021 — and that's why what happened with Carlson is "major," one unnamed Fox News personality told The Washington Post. "It sends a message that even the guy with the highest ratings of all, by a long shot, doesn't get to survive this disaster," referring to how the network recently settled a defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for nearly $800 million dollars over its coverage of the 2020 presidential election. In text messages released as part of that suit, Carlson denigrated former President Donald Trump in private, while championing his disproved election fraud allegations on his show.
Immediately after Carlson's departure was announced, fans and detractors started discussing his exit, with both sides critical of Fox News for different reasons. Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, denounced Carlson, tweeting that he used Tucker Carlson Tonight and Fox News to "spread misinformation and harm LGBTQ people." Bridget Todd, director of communications for the women's group Ultraviolet, described him as "one of the nation's most prolific mouthpieces for white supremacy, misinformation, and misogyny. By providing Tucker with a platform on national TV for so long, Fox News has done extensive damage to our democracy. Good riddance, Tucker Carlson."
During an appearance on The Charlie Kirk Show, Donald Trump Jr., a friend of Carlson's, called him a "once-in-a-generation type talent" who is "an actual thought leader in conservatism." He found it "mind-blowing" that Fox News decided to sever ties, while failed Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a former anchor at the Fox station in Phoenix, applauded the separation. "The best decision I ever made was leaving Fox," she tweeted. "Good for you, @TuckerCarlson. You're free & uncensored!"
The cash cow is gone
Fox News has not said who will take over the 8 p.m. time slot yet, and until a decision is made, various network personalities will host a show called Fox News Tonight. Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and a friend of Carlson's, predicted to The New York Times that Fox News will end up on the losing side of things, having "essentially canceled the single most influential conservative commentator in the country, at the same time killing a cash cow for the network." It doesn't matter what Carlson does next, Stone added, as he will have a "massive audience" wherever he goes.
Carlson so far is staying mum about his next move, but he has several former colleagues who could show him a way forward. Glenn Beck, who left Fox News in 2011, started The Blaze website, and also has a podcast and radio show. O'Reilly became a podcaster as well, plus runs an eponymous website where he posts commentary and livestreams interviews. Megyn Kelly, who after leaving Fox News in 2017 had a brief stint at NBC before landing at SiriusXM, encouraged Carlson to strike out on his own. On her April 24 podcast, Kelly said she did not have any "insider information," but felt this was "a terrible move by Fox, and it's a great thing for Tucker Carlson."
She's "not worried about Tucker at all," Kelly added. "I predict Tucker goes independent. Tucker launches a podcast or digital show and crushes it. Absolutely crushes it." It's her belief that Carlson will stay out of politics, because he has "way more influence sitting behind a microphone than he does standing on a debate stage."
Fox News' loss could be a rival's gain
The Twitter hashtag #DoneWithFox started trending on April 24, with some users claiming they will no longer watch Fox News now that Carlson is gone. Kelly said Carlson is "the only reason a lot of people still watch Fox News, with respect to my other colleagues there, I'm saying he's their favorite." Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy echoed Kelly's comments, asserting that with Carlson out, droves of Fox News viewers will no longer tune into the channel. He encouraged those angry at Fox to give his network a chance, claiming "millions" have already made the switch.
Carlson has experience starting his own media company, having co-founded the Daily Caller in 2010, but it's possible he might decide to join an already established conservative outlet. He's already been approached by two potential employers — the Russian state television channels RT and Russia-1 — and if any smaller company can get Carlson on board, "it would be like an injection of superfuel," Howard Polskin, author of the conservative news tracker TheRighting, told the Times. "He's probably the biggest individual personality and brand in conservative media."
The exact reason or reasons why Fox News and Carlson parted ways may never be known, Brian Stelter writes in Vanity Fair. "Both Fox and Carlson may be incentivized, for financial reasons, to stay semi-peaceful in public," he said. What's notable, Stelter added, is that after Fox News announced his exit, Carlson refrained from making a statement, not even a neutral one confirming his departure. Stelter said he texted Carlson for comment as well, and hadn't heard back, which struck him as out of the ordinary: "One of the biggest, baddest loudmouths in television history is suddenly silent."